Wagner antisemite

By Jean-Jacques Nattiez

Christian Bourgeois Editeur, 05-11-2015, 708 p.

Can the greatness of one of the most remarkable musicians of the Western world excuse some positions among the worse that can be ? And moreover : can it justify that we ignore them ?

Their manifestations go unfortunately beyond any doubt : in his essay « Jewishness in music » (1850) or other writings of which we will find new translations, as well as an unreleased in French. But can we say that the librettos and even the music of his operas are antisemite ? Wagner’s antisemitism is a controversed subject in specialized literature, and we will find here an outcome which is critical and controversial, using biographical study, history in general, history of antisemitism, history of music, musicology, semiology, psychoanalysis and aesthetics.

And how can we explain it ? Because he would have himself been a Jew ? Many of his contemporaries thought so, seeing the wide collection of cartoons mocking the composer in this book. In a tight study, it is important to ask uneasy questions : must we forbid the execution or performance of Wagner’s operas ? Must we close Bayreuth ?

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