Yuval Sharon’s first error at Bayreuth

The Israeli-American director is discussing ambivalence in a DW interview:

It may sound diplomatic, but honestly, I feel wonderful here. That difficult history was of course a terrible tragedy, and it affected my family as well. But it’s clear that people here are coming to terms with that history and probing ever deeper into it. That wonderful exhibition Silenced Voices just below the Festspielhaus for example, right next to the bust of Wagner. It portrays Jewish artists and theater personnel who once worked at the Bayreuth Festival and describes their fates. Every day I go by there and look at another one. I feel so honored to be able to stand on their shoulders and work here as an independent stage director without it being a major issue. My religion and heritage are irrelevant to my work anyway. It only comes up in conversation.

That’s not quite right.

When I was in Bayreuth, I was strongly assured by Festival staff that the Silenced Voices exhibition was put up by the town hall, and that the Wagners and the Festival had nothing to do with it.


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    • I second each of the three comments above. BTW: I am listening to the live transmission of opening night via Bayern Klassik online as I type this, and what I hear sounds quite fabulous. The Third act comes up in about 30 minutes, and once that one is over, I am curious to hear the audience’s response when the production team Yuval Sharon, Neo Rauch & Rosa Loy and Reinhard Traub take their curtain call. Piotr Beczala, this opening night’s Lohengrin, spoke appreciatively about the production in his (previously recorded) interview which was broadcast during intermission between Acts 2 and 3.

  • The way it was translated makes it seem as if the Wagner heirs spearheaded and were fully behind the memorial. Were they or were they not?

    • The Deutsche Welle interview is in English. DW employs native speakers of many languages. I don’t think translation was a factor.

  • Norman, let the past be the past and move on please. Sometimes it seems as if everything you do, see, say, or experience has to be refracted through your religious faith before you can pass your judgment upon it. Yes, Wieland and Wolfgang dealt with their moral culpability poorly. They are both long gone, and the current administration is not the least anti-Semitic. Just let it be, lean back, and enjoy the music.

    • Never forget and never take the attitude of ” let the past be the past”, lest it happens again. And don’t forget that the most rabid, pathological anti- semite wrote the music and the words. Since when do we forgive and forget killing of 6 million people?!

      • There is absolutely no evidence to support a view that Richard Wagner himself would have condoned the extermination of the Jews. There is also no evidence to support a view that Siegfried, Wolfgang, Wieland, or any other blood relative of Richard would have supported the Holocaust. Yes, Richard was anti-Semitic like many Europeans at the time. Meanwhile, in America blacks were enslaved and millions – if not an outright majority – of Westerners held horribly racist views. These people were products of their time and we can be thankful that humanity has progressed tremendously (on balance) since those dark days.

        Of course we shall never forget, but there seems to be an increasing inclination to look at Wagner through Hitler’s eyes. That is simply not fair, especially as there is no demonstrable trace of anti-Semitism in his music.

        • And in America, the attempted genocide of Native Americans. In Australia, of the Aboriginal People. In South Africa, of the Bushmen, part of the days ‘bag’ on hunting trips for the Boer colonists. Since when do we forget their slaughter? In truth, most people never remembered and are little aware now, if at all. So why is Ms. Melody getting worked up because a town has created a memorial to Jewish people who worked at Bayreuth? She herself, I must think, has a long road to travel before she has a full grasp of the extent of genocide on this planet, and also before she gets her priorities right when it comes to righteous anger.

          • I salute the creation of the memorial,
            My response was a reaction to a suggestion to let the past be the past.
            I am well aware of atrocities committed in other parts of the world, but this is not the subject here. As to lack of evidence of Wagner,’s rabid anti-Semitism, read his letters and articles before you defend him. The evidence in fact is overwhelming.

        • And Ms. Melody, where in my comments have I defended Wagner?? I have indeed read his tracts and they are appalling. I am not, indeed, a Wagnerite in any sense. All I said re his writings was that Helen Kamonier should check on when Hitler read those writings and in what context before she attributes to them the source of Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Refrain, please, from attributing to me opinions I did not express. Read in less haste and more closely.

        • Ex Professor Holloway, with all due respect if you are so interested in Hitler’s reading schedule and you have such a library in your home, look it up and use your own resources dammit.

          • First, Ms Kamioner, I am not an “Ex Professor”. At my rank, you keep your title. Secondly, you have done a fine job of getting this matter precisely backwards. My intent was not to have you answer a question for me. I suggested that YOU should do some research re the chronology, just as you might also look into the relative effect on Hitler of Wagner’s writings vs. other influences. You are quite right that I can, and indeed have, read in this area myself. But I am not your research assistant, madam. If you want to know more about the questions involved, use some elbow grease and do some serious reading. Newspaper articles, encyclopaedias and googling do not cut the mustard, as more than a few students have discovered. When I wrote, “You might want to check on when Hitler first read…”, I did indeed mean ‘you’. I already know. As you live in the Greater New York area, fine libraries are not far away.

    • All hail Norman Lebrecht!!! Fearless and honest to a tee. FYI Mr. von S. I am the past and to forgive and forget is not likely for another thousand years. Not when I am alone on this earth with no relatives, all who perished in the gas vans enroute to “relocation” in Chelmno and those whose remains were cremated in Auschwitz. Forgiveness is not likely for me especially when I see, hear and read about BDS, Pegida, Afd, etc.As far as the case Wagner is concerned, there is no denying his feelings toward Jews and how his pure hatred influenced Hitler himself. That being said, relax and enjoy the music.

      • You might want to check on when Hitler first read Wagner on Jews, and whether that was read in isolation or whether it was just part of pile of crap he read. On the other hand, as you are clearly the mistress of the Final Opinion, Full Stop, I’d welcome your solution to the Brexit mess and a few other wee problems globally.

        • I regard the Jewish race as the born enemy of pure humanity and everything that is noble in it.

          Richard Wagner

          • I know what Wagner wrote, Ms. Kamonier. What I questioned was when Hitler read what he wrote and in what context, i.e., whether Hitler’s maniacal anti-Semitism was caused by reading Wagner, as you state.

          • That should be seen from the perspective of a German who thought that ‘the Germans’ had become weak and degenerated, and in a time when many of the general media, the banks, the big industries were run by people of Jewish descent. RW was attacking the negative effects of the first wave of industrialization which threatened culture and what RW thought was the German spirit (rooted in humanism and early romanticism), and clothed it in racist terms, alas.

  • Leonard Bernstein: “I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees”.
    Long Live The Paradox In Music!

  • I see nothing in the interview where he says or implies that the festival put up the Silenced Voices exhibit.

  • Premiere just ended: ovations for Piotr Beczala and cast colleagues, including Waltraud Meier, who returned after 18 years absence from The Green Hill. Also enthusiastic affirmation for production team, with only a few boos. Please note: I hear this online, have no visuals, but from what I hear it sounds like this production got a very good reception.

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