Row brews in the US over an ‘anti-semitic’ composer

Row brews in the US over an ‘anti-semitic’ composer


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2015

The Nashville Symphony is getting nervous about its upcoming performance of an opera by Roger Waters (pictured) of Pink Floyd, an outspoken anti-Zionist. Some believe his obsession with Israel makes him anti-semitic. Here’s how the Nashville orch is preparing for trouble.

You read it here first.





Dear Board Members, Musicians and Staff:


I am writing to make you aware of a developing controversy related to our upcoming performance of Roger Waters’ opera Ça Ira this Fridayevening. Last week, the local chapter of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA) ran a full-page ad in the Nashville Scene, expressing concern over public statements Waters has made regarding Israel and Palestine — some of which have been characterized as anti-Semitic. (Waters, however, maintains that he is not anti-Semitic.)


I want to assure you all that by presenting Ça Ira, we are in no way providing Roger Waters with a platform to share his views on Israel, Palestine or Judaism, nor are we either endorsing or opposing any of his personal, political or religious views. The Nashville Symphony would never program a work that is intended to espouse or incite violence, hate or intolerance toward any individual or group of people in any form. After a thorough vetting by our team, it was determined that Ça Ira adheres to those critical standards. We programmed this work based on its artistic merit, and hosting the U.S. premiere continues our commitment to delivering creative and dynamic programming to the people of Middle Tennessee.


In early December, we had a very constructive meeting about this performance with Mark Freedman, Carol Hyatt and other leaders of the Jewish Federation, in which we listened to their concerns, and discussed the work to be performed (which is actually about the French Revolution). The NCJA is, of course, not the same organization as the Jewish Federation. In response to the NCJA ad, however, we did receive a couple of calls from patrons expressing concern.


We have learned that the NCJA Nashville chapter will very likely stage a public protest Friday evening at, or near, the Schermerhorn. As a performing arts organization, part of our responsibility is to facilitate and promote a public discourse on issues surrounding artists and their work. As such, we welcome any individuals or groups who wish to let their voices be heard on this particular topic, provided their actions are peaceful and do not interfere with the performance or the enjoyment of those who are in attendance.


Should you encounter individuals engaged in a protest at any point on Friday, I ask that you please be respectful of their right to assemble and peacefully share their views, just as you would any other guest or visitor to Schermerhorn Symphony Center.


We take this matter very seriously and have made preparations to ensure that everything goes smoothly on Friday evening. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to share them with me.


Best regards,





Alan D. Valentine
President and CEO
Nashville Symphony
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
One Symphony Place
Nashville, TN 37201-2031



  • Christy says:

    Well done.

  • Anon says:

    Anti-Zionist is unequal to Anti-semitic. The author knows this very well. Yet he chooses to distort the issue in the headline. Why?
    Zionism is, as most other ideological -isms that appeared around the fin de siècle, an extremist and “völkisch” ideology. As such it shares the same core ideas with nazi ideology, only for and with different subjects.

    • Hugo Rabson says:

      Zionism is the belief that Israel has a right to continue to exist. If this is too extreme for you, perhaps you’re living in the wrong country.

      • Anon says:

        It’s probably getting OT, but no, that is not what Zionism is about. Israel’s right to exist is absolutely not debatable. But Zionism is an ideology that is racist and deepening artificial division between mankind. It’s genesis can be explained, justified and understood historically, but bottom-line it is an extremist ideology just like other “völkisch” ideologies, e.g. the crude nazi ideologies. Israel doesn’t need zionism to exist.

    • tarkus says:

      Why anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic

      • Anon says:

        That’s a very bad diatribe. It’s based from the very beginning on the fallacy and straw man, that anti-zionism equates to denying the state of Israel the right to exist, which is if course nonsense.

  • Dave says:

    The headline says that the opera is anti-Semitic. Ca Ira is about the French Revolution.

  • Jo says:

    “… statements…some of which have been characterized as anti-Semitic. (Waters, however, maintains that he is not anti-Semitic.)”.

    Of course he would maintain he is not antisemitic! He is, though. As are many who hide behind a pseudo anti-zionism to express their hate.

  • Mathieu says:

    As Dave points out, even assuming that the *composer* is antisemitic, it does not make the *opera* antisemitic as well. The opera is about the French Revolution, for chrissakes. (By the way, the French Revolution was the first time Jews were ever granted full citizenship in France, although this is quite irrelevant to the present issue). Of course, judging from the few excerpts I’ve had the misfortune to listen to, it is quite crappy music (with all due respect). But that’s hardly a valid reason to ask for its cancellation.

  • James says:

    Firstly, Zionism is absolutely not racism, and is purely about the right of Jews to have a homeland in Zion (geddit?) ie.Israel. Secondly, the reason that there is so much controversy around Roger Waters is that he has done things that might be interpreted as anti-Semitic (I would, and I’m very careful about such things). In a concert in Belgium in 2013 he brought out a blow-up pig emblazoned with the star of David. That’s pretty clear to me. It doesn’t mean his opera is anti-Semitic, or should be cancelled – but it’s quite legitimate to wonder if it might be. We shall see…

    • Anon says:

      Zionism is about transcendending a primarily religious and cultural identity (being Jewish) into a constructed ethnical identity. In such it is “völkisch”, possibly racist, comparable to what Nazi ideology was inventing around a German identity based on mostly constructed “aryan” heritage.

  • McRawker says:

    I am jewish and I have a homeland — It is called America. I have been watching this conflict since I was a little kid and there is no moral justification for how the Jews are treating the Palestinians. And yes I have been to Israel. People who actually see it first hand are always appalled but lets just play a little game — Count how many Palestinian children end up in front of the barrel of a Israeli snipers gun over the next three months. Or the last three months for that matter — The Israeli’s have a systematic policy of killing and arresting Palestinian children to demoralize the Palestinians. It has worked really well hasn’t it? It is just gum drops and lollipops over there.

    One day people will look back and wonder why we had so much trouble dealing with this very simple moral questions re how the Palestinians are treated. And it is even more shameful that after what the Jews went through that they have no problem doing it to another group of people.

  • Eli Bensky says:

    There should be a limit of how many times one can comment on an article. Once should be enough

  • Dave T says:

    Israel does not target “Palestinian children in front of the barrel of a …snipers gun,” nor has a “systematic policy of killing Palestinian children.” That’s Palestinian propaganda which has been shown, time and again, to be unreliable or entirely invented.
    In contrast, you are probably confusing Israel with Hamas fighters who lob their rockets– quite deliberately– at playgrounds and kindergartens. That’s systematic and they’ve been doing it for years.