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Haifa Symphony Orchestra said planning to break Israel taboo, play Wagner concert

Israel has a longstanding unofficial boycott of the antisemitic composer, who was a favorite of Hitler and whose music was played in Nazi concentration camps

In this July 16, 2008 file picture the Richard Wagner bust by German sculptor Arno Breker stands in a park near the festival opera house in Bayreuth, southern Germany. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz,file)
In this July 16, 2008 file picture the Richard Wagner bust by German sculptor Arno Breker stands in a park near the festival opera house in Bayreuth, southern Germany. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz,file)

The Haifa Symphony Orchestra is planning to break a decades-long boycott of the antisemitic composer Richard Wagner and perform one of his symphonies, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

While there is no law in Israel banning the German composer’s works from being played, orchestras and venues refrain from doing so because of the public outcry and disturbances accompanying past attempts.

Wagner, whose grandiose and nationalistic 19th-century literary and musical work is infused with antisemitism, misogyny, and proto-Nazi ideas of racial purity, was Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer and his music was played in Nazi concentration camps.

The forerunner to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra stopped performing his music in 1938 following Kristallnacht.

The concert, scheduled for September, is the initiative of  Israeli-German composer David Miller.

Miller, whose father’s family was killed in the Holocaust, told Channel 12 that it was time to break the taboo in Israel.

Israeli-German composer David Miller, who plans to play Wagner in Israel (Screencapture/Channel 12)

“For many people, this is a sensitive issue,” he said. “But I do think that the time has come to start playing his works, it is part of Western culture.”

Miller said that Israeli orchestras had no problem playing other antisemitic composers, singling out Richard Strauss, Franz Liszt and Carl Orff.

“I know that a lot of people will not like it, but there is nothing they can do,” he said.

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