La Scala remembers the day it sacked its Jews

La Scala remembers the day it sacked its Jews


norman lebrecht

June 12, 2018

Next week’s La Scala revival of Deborah Warner’s 2014 Fidelio will be dedicated to the memories of Vittore Veneziani and Erich Kleiber.  It will mark the 80th anniversary of the  1938 Leggi Razziali, the Mussolini racial laws that excluded Jews from public life.

Veneziani was La Scala’s chorus master. He was not allowed back into the building until Toscanini returned in 1946.

Kleiber,  who was due to conduct Fidelio in March 1939 cancelled his engagement in solidarity. His telegram read: I just learned that  the doors of La Scala will be closed to your Jewish fellow citizens. Music is made for everyone, like the sun and air. When this fountain of consolation, so necessary in these hard times, is denied to any human being – and merely because he belongs to a different religion and race – I cannot collaborate either as a Christian and as an artist.



  • Sue says:

    What a legend Erich Kleiber was and also Carlos, of course.

    • JoBe says:

      You just had to mention Carlos, just to be sure nobody forgot that you speak of him 24/7. For what it is worth, I think of his father as a greater artist and possibly also a greater man.

      • john says:

        Did you know Carlos??? He was an extraordinary musician, and had a great personality. He was not the easiest person to get along with, however he had strong values to which he remained loyal. It was never about the fee, he strived for the perfect performance, which is impossible to achieve.

        • JoBe says:

          Carlos has absolutely nothing to do with that story. We owe the man Erich Kleiber the respect that is due to him, and this starts with stopping to mention his son, Carlos, at every silly opportunity, thus diminishing the merits of the father. And it’s rather ridiculous and contra-productive to shout “Carlos had the longest” at absolutely each moment!
          By the way, as much as Carlos’s recordings of “Der Freischütz” has been praised, I still prefer Furtwängler’s.

      • Bruce says:

        Engaging with this kind of thing only helps the conversation go in the direction they want. (Notice that approx 3/4 of the comments on this post so far are about Carlos)


        • David R Osborne says:

          Strangely enough, I’m going to defend Sue here. It clearly wasn’t
          her intention (if you read her original comment) to make this about what it has become. We don’t dishonour Erich, by honouring Carlos. Nor vice-versa.

          • Bruce says:

            I’m not so sure Sue didn’t want that :). I just meant that, by engaging on that point, which Sue was happy to defend, Jobe (inadvertently) helped the conversation to go in that direction.

    • Pierre says:

      Carlos was a fine musician, that’s for sure. But I don’t consider any of his recordings as ‘definitive’. For each of them (except perhaps for Rosenkavalier but still…), I can come up with a list of 8 to 10 recordings by other conductors which easily surpass Kleiber’s ones.

  • jansumi says:

    “Like the sun and the air, this fountain of consolation…”

    How wonderful is that.

  • JoBe says:

    Sue – Carlos Kleiber was born in 1930. He may have been a legend, but this story is about the great deeds of his father, in 1938 (when Carlos was still child). Will you be able one day to honour the work and the morality of Erich Kleiber without putting him in that stupid Leopold Mozart position? Try to think of the two as JS Bach and CPE Bach instead.

    • Sue says:

      I don’t need lessons thank you. Erich was treated poorly when he returned to Europe. Many considered him to have abandoned his country and not suffered as he did. Almost certainly Erich died by his own hand. Courage is costly.

      • Sue says:

        Typo….suffered as they did.

      • Novagerio says:

        Now you mentioned it, Carlos himself has once stated that his father died by his own hand, on January 27th 1956, the very day of the Mozart Bicentenary (!)

        Carlos has more than once recalled that his father was ‘found bleeding in his bathtub’, almost like Frankie Pentangelli in the Godfather II.

        The reasons may be many; the lack of appreciation at home (Erich was viennese, not german!), and perhaps the strong desillusion that he didn’t get the job as Music Director of the rebuilt Vienna State Opera (1955) – the job went to Karl Böhm.

        A similar incident happened thousands of miles away only two years earlier: Clemens Krauss died of a heart attack in a train compartment in Mexico City, according to some Vienna Philharmonic members due to the very same desillusion concerning the same job.

  • David R Osborne says:

    Breathtakingly beautiful and powerful words that describe perfectly the role that music has the potential to play in the world. Sadly right now we are a long way from that ideal.

    Make no mistake, this message is the absolute antithesis of Adorno’s “poetry after Auschwitz”…