Israeli orchestra to break Wagner taboo

An ISRAELI orchestra will strike an emotional chord in Germany next year when it plays a work by Richard Wagner, Hitler's favourite composer, further challenging a long-standing taboo in Israel on his music.

Israeli ensembles hardly ever play Wagner, citing the feelings of Holocaust survivors.

But with the passage of time and the dwindling numbers of elderly survivors, vehement opposition in the Jewish state to the works of the antisemitic 19th-century composer is fading, Israel Chamber Orchestra (ICO) chairwoman Erela Talmi said.

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"I think that the atmosphere has changed and those people who were at the concentration camps are either weaker or no longer with us, and those who voiced their opinion are only a few and it is hard for them to (be heard now]," she said.

The ICO is to perform in July on the fringes of the annual Beyreuth festival in Germany that celebrates Wagner's operas. It will play Wagner's Siegfrid Idyll, an orchestral piece, as well as a work by Israeli composer Zvi Avni and music by German-born Felix Mendelssohn and Austrian-born Gustav Mahler, two of the most prominent among Jewish-born composers.

Ms Talmi said the orchestra's appearance would send a poignant message: "You could not get rid of us. You could not get rid of our music."

Attempts over the years by some musicians in Israel to perform Wagner's music have caused audience members to walk out in protest and have triggered heated public debate.

Wagner is also taboo on state-owned media in Israel, which largely keep his work off the air.

Although Wagner, who wrote antisemitic texts, died half a century before Hitler came to power, the Nazi dictator was a fervent admirer and drew on the composer's writings in his own theories on racial purity and exterminating the Jews.