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Richard Wagner's Anti Semitism (Wagner:1813 1883) Essay

1141 words - 5 pages

Dr. Douglass Seaton states in his textbook that Richard Wagner (1813-1883) " many artists of the time, became involved in the political uprisings that swept through Europe, and his revolutionary activities made him persona non grata in Germany." While this is true, what Dr. Seaton fails to mention in the short blurb about Wagner is his extreme hatred for Jewish people. It was not necessarily only the radical ideas that caused him to fall from favor for many people; it was also his extreme anti-semitism. This paper will explore the many instances of Wagner's anti-semetic feelings, both within his life, letters, and music.Wagner often attributed any ill will toward him as being a part of an organized Jewish opposition. This was not a completely baseless accusation, as most of the presses that were giving him bad press were owned and controlled by Jews. It did not seem to matter what was really causing bad press or hard feelings; it was always the Jews. After being hissed at the Tannhauser in Paris in 1861, he attributed it to "... not the French, but the German Jews." In a letter to Otto Wesendonck on April 5, 1885, he stated that he did not find it worth the effort to pick up the paper to read the critism of his music by the critics of the British Press. He felt that anyone with any opinion of their own and really understands anything would not mingle with "...this gang of Jews." So it becomes apparent that Wagner was never able to take any critism because he wrote it off as being all from Jews, and he did not feel that Jews were even good enough to be considered real Germans.Wagner also opposed several Jewish musicians. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) was a great German composer, but partly because of his Jewish beliefs, Wagner could never consider him really worthy of praise. He felt as though followers of Mendelssohn were somehow betraying the "true" German spirit. However, he did not always feel this way about Mendelssohn. As a budding composer, Wagner adored Mendelssohn, and even sent his first symphony to Mendelssohn. It was lost, which is probably part of the reason why Wagner built up dislike for the composer. He never did establish a real relationship with Mendelssohn. However, he did not have such hard feelings for him until after his death. He also had these hatred feelings toward composer Giacomo (Jacob) Meyerbeer (1791-1864). These feelings were more unfounded than the feelings for Mendelssohn. Again, he was not always so disenchanted with Meyerbeer. He too helped Wagner in more ways than one. Some of his attempts to bring Wagner more publicity failed, which at the time Wagner did not attribute to the fact that he was a Jew. He used this fact to hate Meyerbeer later. Interestingly, there was one Jew that he liked in some ways when he was changing into racist later in life. The conductor of the orchestra in Munich, Herman Levi, was indeed the son of a Rabbi. There are suggestions that Wagner insisted on having Levi...

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