Friday, December 27, 2013

The Final Post: Understanding and Forgiveness for All

I began this blog a year ago with the aim of resolving the dissonance between my love of Wagner’s music with his reputation as a monster. I started the process of thinking this through years ago as I recounted in my introduction here.  I sought as much understanding as possible. I don’t mean just of Wagner and his times, but also of myself and human nature itself.  My conclusion: He reflected both the worst and the best in people – though, granted, in a much more spectacular manner than the average person. He was not a monster, which implies only negative came from him. But he was a colossus, a human being writ large, but with flaws no different in kind than those of most every human being.

This post is the culmination of my year – the 200th anniversary of his birth – of thinking pretty much every single day about Wagner. This whole blog, and this post in particular, is in many ways a values clarification exercise, and expresses my feelings not just about Wagner, but also about being human, particularly the pitfalls of our nature.

The Difficulties of Understanding Wagner

[There is] an inconsistency in my nature which, to my great regret, has existed for as long as I can remember.” – Wagner 

How do we solve a problem like Wagner? (Yes, do sing that to yourself.)

I feel I understand him better than any figure outside of my life and time, but I can’t claim my understanding is correct, as he is truly an enigma. Wagner created a dense and widely—and wildly—diverse body of work, within both his prose and music dramas, as well as his letters and diaries. Add to this the diaries of Cosima Wagner and the testimony of those who knew him well, and the amount of information about the man is formidable. Because of this reality, people can – and have – created a medley of competing and contradictory narratives.  Conversely, it is virtually impossible to create a narrative which definitively describes Wagner; he was much too contradictory and multiplicitous for that. He changed both over time and, frequently, within an evening. 

I will give just one example of the problem of trying to characterize his beliefs.

Was he a Christian, an anti-Christian, a pagan, a Buddhist, an atheist? I have read articles and books that have argued all those positions. Every single one of them has documentary evidence, and a “fair” argument has been made for each case, but only if you exclude contrary evidence. My summation of his beliefs: I think it is fairly clear that he hated the modern Christian church, though loved some of its rituals, but nonetheless believed himself a true Christian, which was a melding, in his mind, of Christian ritual tradition and Buddhist beliefs (but with no belief in a literal God). This is not a common religious viewpoint, and resists any normal categorization.

And so it was with virtually all his beliefs. Even with something as historically commonplace as his anti-Semitism, his version of this ancient prejudice was completely unique, in ways that both exculpate and condemn him.  

The contradictions in his beliefs are very hard to resolve. I have yet to read a good synthesis of them anywhere, and I am not even sure it can be done. In this blog, I have tried to focus on the overarching themes that were consistent throughout his life.

The easier synthesis is, perhaps, the contradictions within Wagner’s personality. This can be partially solved by the realization that human attributes are often two-sided. Here is a list of his positive traits: courage, optimism, passion, motivation, initiative, persistence, vision, resilience, energy, self-knowledge and talent. The flip side of those traits was his arrogance, self-absorption, fanaticism, and stubbornness. They traits do not exist independently of each other, but are melded together.

I do want to point out one particularly unfair characterization of him, which is that he was only interested in his personal fame, wealth and glory. This is clearly untrue. If he primarily wanted fame, wealth and glory, he would have used his prodigious musical talents to compromise his vision and toss off audience-pleasing operas. Yet he did not replicate his big hit, Rienzi, but turned away from it. Until very late in his life, his operas were mostly unproduced and his music unknown except for short orchestral excerpts. His motivation, passion and goals were for art and humanity, not himself. He, of course, did want acknowledgement of his talent and a good living so he could write. But there can be no doubt that personal fame was not his central concern.

His driving passion in life was, instead, to regenerate the German volk and ennoble human beings through his music dramas. He intended to create a path away from our base instincts and illusions, to become “fully human.” I believe his intentions were deeply good; he truly felt he was doing a service for mankind.

The Pitfalls of Progress: Let Us Become Wise

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.” G.B. Shaw

Hippocrates dictum for physicians was: “First, do no harm.” I have a lot of sympathy for that dictum in a larger societal context. I was an activist when I was younger, and later realized that I did do harm, though unintentionally. My passion to right the wrongs of society led to a kind of blindness and consequential “blowback.”  However, there is a dilemma with the no-harm dictum, in that there is no way to advance society (or medicine) without trying to solve the problems of the present, and unintended harm is always a possibility. One can rationalize passivity by that dictum, but one of the lessons of the Nazi era is that passivity itself can be a form of evil.

Better to be passive?

My point: Wagner tried to make the world a better place, but in so doing, he caused harm. Would it have been truly better if he hadn’t tried? Are those who do little or nothing to try to better life for other humans really in a position to judge?

So how, you may be asking, could it be right that his intentions were good when he had so many prejudices? I think there are a couple of explanations.

The first one has to do with a dark side of empathy. I am referring to having such a great empathy for those suffering that the result is to have a corresponding lack of empathy for those perceived to be the cause.  Just think of the 9/11 terrorists; they had great empathy for their people’s suffering, but none for their “enemies.” This is the sort of process that happened with Wagner. I wrote about that in in my series about his anti-Semitism here, but suffice it to say that the process that led to his vilification of the Jews started with his empathy for the masses and identification with them.

The second reason is simply that Wagner thought his beliefs were absolutely true, backward as they may seem. I will use one example parallel to Wagner’s beliefs about the Jews to make my point. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong, and they would like the people who are gay to stop being so. Therefore, many Christians support conversion therapy, counseling, and family and church pressure to gays in their midst. I believe many – probably most – of those people are trying to be moral, loving and kind people. They do not see that they are doing anything wrong in their anti-gay belief. They are trying to create the society that they consider morally correct and Godly, both for their children and for the future. 

This was the case with Wagner; he truly thought Jews, who were then universally considered a “foreign” element in Germany, were incompatible with Germans finding their way as a people. Wagner expressed the following sentiment more than once late in his life: “If I ever were to write again about the Jews, I should say I have nothing against them, it is just that they descended on us Germans too soon and we were not yet ready enough to absorb them.”1 It was that deep feeling, that Jews were making it impossible for German regeneration, that was always at the heart of his animus.

Whether it be about gays, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, or pick your group, I have tried to show in this post on stereotyping and this post on tribalism that to “other” a group, and see them in much less empathic ways then your own, is absolutely the norm in the world, and part of our human make-up. We close off emotionally to those we oppose, and are often blind to their humanity. This is just a bad part – I think the worst part – of being human, and certainly the part we need to constantly struggle against within ourselves.

Even amongst friends, these judgements are often made. I remember talking with a Jewish friend about the Holocaust. I pointed out that while Jews were certainly the primary victims, that gays were targeted too. His response was, “yeah, but theres nothing wrong with being Jewish.” Ouch! My friend was in a position analogous to Wagner’s vis-à-vis his Jewish friends: offering friendship but still thinking there was something wrong with them.

Certainly, as a lesbian who lived during the period when that viewpoint – that there was something wrong with loving someone of your own sex – was the norm, I think I know something about a universal prejudice, which is what anti-Semitism was in Wagner’s day. It’s been fascinating to experience, in fact, what has happened to my friends and colleagues as this prejudice morphed away within the “blue state” culture. Former bigots develop amnesia! They think they were always progressive about the issue, and the truth is, very few people were. I have a lot of close friends and family who meet this description – any gay person does – and I get that it was just the zeitgeist of the time, and I forgive their former selves easily and gladly. And now many of these amnesiac former homophobes are the forefront of those who accuse Christians of homophobia.

Given the current reality of immense progress of society on this issue, I believe it is far better to try to understand and have dialogue with those who still feel homosexuality is immoral. I absolutely don’t want to demonize them as Wagner demonized the Jews, and as some Christians demonize gays.  

This sort of amnesia is not just personal, but cultural, too. It’s related to the a-historicity that condemns Wagner. He is denounced based on today’s perspective, not from the context of his times his influences and the cultural milieu that existed then. Moreover, he is scapegoated while virtually everyone else from that era is let off the hook. If we want to condemn Wagner for his prejudices, and assume he was somehow a monster because of them, we must also condemn virtually everyone in history for theirs.

I wrote about the historical context of Wagner’s anti-Semitism and the broader brutality of the 19th century in these posts, so I won’t repeat those arguments. However, I would like to elaborate on one point about history. Competition for land and resources has, since time immemorial, led to absolute brutality and acts that we all believe are immoral.  We now enjoy – particularly in the West – the poisonous fruits resulting from the acts of our ancestors and our countrymen.  And we have to make peace with it. I believe we should forgive our ancestors for their brutality, but not forget the past or repeat their crimes. Instead, we need to find a way better way forward. 

Our ability to do horrific things not only for survival but just for improvement of our lives is a part of our DNA. We also – thanks to evolution – have the capacity for cooperation and empathy. Which part has the upper hand is on-going little war within us all. Should we be selfish, thinking only of what will help ourselves and our close family and friends (or country), or be generous and actually give up things that we want in order to help the greater good and people we don’t even know? Every single day of our lives, we make a decision about that, either consciously or unconsciously. We need to choose wisely.

During the 19th century when all manner of horrific things were happening, Wagner was not picking up a gun or sword, but just trying to make the world a better place through art. He was critiquing the ills of  “civilization” in his time, and arguing for art, love, compassion and community in its stead. He persevered even during stretches of horrible health, mental exhaustion, and poverty. Though he had his flaws and prejudices, I think in the grand scheme of things, it is proper and right to celebrate him for his life and artistic legacy.

This does not mean, however, that this should come without acknowledgement of his harmful flaws and the costs of those.  I will turn to that now.

Utopian Poison

[Wagner] was earnest, and that is, and was, the cause of his greatness – Ferdinand Praeger in his remembrance of Wagner

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal – Oscar Wilde

Wagner was the most sincere of men, with an absolute conviction that he saw the grand truths of all humankind. The downside to his sincerity was, of course, that he was a “true believer,” with no doubt in the rightness of his beliefs. To me, such a person is a potential danger to the degree they try to impose their “truth” on others or society at large. Obviously, this is particularly so in the sphere of politics. If a “true believer” – whether religious, political or utopian – gains power, history has shown that mass murders are likely to follow.

Wagner, of course, didn’t tried to impose his beliefs through politics after the failed revolution of 1848. Instead he tried to spark the revolution through much more benign means: an artistic movement. While I certainly sympathize with his belief that society was (and is) corrupted by money, his program for a cure – art leading the way to German social regeneration – was in la-la land.  While his views about art were influential, very few thought it was going to create a revolution in all of society, as he did.  What was harmful in his view – a long-acting poison, in fact – was that he had targeted the cultural enemy of his utopia, the Jews.

He lived in a bubble of his own making, where only those who served his vision and needs were allowed in and dissent wasn’t an option. He consciously engendered a cult around him and his works, and it was within this cult that the poison flowed through the generations.

For years, though, the Wagner cult seemed relatively harmless, and much wonderful art emerged from its influence throughout the Western world, and it remained so in most parts of the world. (See these posts of his influence on our culture here.) However, at Bayreuth, he had left – without a will or a conscious plan to do so – Cosima in charge, and an anti-Semitic editor at the helm of his journal, the Bayreuther Blätter. I have already written about the disaster of Bayreuth here, so I don’t want to repeat it, but Wagner had absolutely no blood or personal connection with the two people who forged the direct link to Hitler Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Winifred Wagner though Cosima Wagner did. His blame is, rather, that he let loose the poison through engendering his Utopian cult, and his anti-Semitism was then ripe for melding with Hitler’s own horrific version.

Humiliation, Meanness and Revenge

Wagner’s life was one of frequent humiliation. He would throw himself into endeavors with a sincerity and intensity that left him vulnerable to mocking and scorn, which came his way throughout his life. While he developed an ever thicker skin to protect himself from people who doubted and derided him, he also developed a mean streak and a lust for revenge. As I wrote here, it is not his prejudices per se that I think deserve particular condemnation; it is the way he acted on those prejudices that does.

And though I hate those aspects of Wagner’s character, I believe they are built into our genetic make-up. In his book The Ethics of Memory, Avishai Margalit makes the case that we have what he calls “moral emotions,” which motivate human ethical and moral conduct. He cites humiliation as being a model case, saying: “The memory of humiliation is the bleeding scar of reliving it …. Humiliation, I believe, is not just another experience in our life, like, say, an embarrassment. It is a formative experience. It forms the way we view ourselves as humiliated persons.” 

In this review of the book, Jonathan Lear summarizes an essential point about humiliation, using an example of the Islamist terrorist’s feelings of humiliation:

In contrast to guilt [another moral emotion], memories of humiliation make people feel entitled to discharge aggression in destructive acts. On the surface, the terrorist will think it is because of his people’s humiliation that he is justified in this acts; just under the surface, the situation is the reverse: because he enjoys destructive hatred, he has become attached to his sense of humiliation. He is trapped in a peculiar kind of motivated irrationality. Consciously and sincerely, he hates his sense of humiliation; unconsciously, he is holding onto it with all his might.

In this New York Times article, the science writer Benedict Carey points to a number of studies that show that taking revenge is biologically rooted – functioning in the brain in a way similar to appetite – and serves a social function to curb unwanted behavior. He quotes psychologist Michael McCullough: “The best way to understand revenge is not as some disease or moral failing or crime but a a deeply human and functional behavior.”

Basically, then, the argument is that the living memory of humiliation taps a deep need to settle the score, to get revenge. I think this pretty well accords with Wagner’s biography, and what went wrong with him. Every biographer who has studied his life points to the three-year period in Paris, when he was poor and felt continually humiliated, as the turning point of his life. His humiliation was particularly attached to the Jewish composer Meyerbeer, but also to the Jewish lenders and publishers who he felt exploited him in his need. Thus, Judaism in Music was his revenge. Very ugly, but very human. Later, he felt the sting of negative assault on his music and plans, and through his paranoia (see here), always saw Jews behind these continual humiliations, thus his anti-Semitism – and desire for revenge – continued throughout the rest of his life, though in fits and starts.

The Upside of His Downside

As I wrote about here and here, Wagner was a deeply sensitive and emotional man, and he exhibited the full range of human emotions, both good and bad. He could be, and often was, deeply empathic, generous and kind. He could also be vengeful, mean and arrogant. All that was reflected in his life and art. At the same time he was extraordinarily volatile and intense. It was as if all his emotions were amplified from the norm and poured out of him like lava from a volcano — sometimes in great eruptions, other times in bubbling spurts, sometimes in a regular flow.

Wagner was very aware of his negative traits, and apologized frequently for them in his letters –and presumably – in person. But he was also aware that he could use his amplified emotions in a unique way: to write these emotions into his music dramas to express “the fully human,” for better and worse. Bryan Magee, in his book Aspects of Wagner, says of his music: “The most important things in life, namely its psycho-emotional fundamentals as inwardly experienced are articulated here [in his music], as they never can be in words, or on the state, or in any other outward terms.  That is, Wagner gets to the very essence of humanity in his music: the emotions that drive us as human beings.

Wagner was the perfect vessel for writing about humankind; his very flaws make him so. He was both light and dark, and had a deep psychological understanding of human aspirations, and the negative and positive that flow from it. 

Phillip Hensler, in this talk says a similar thing:

One of the things he gained from not being a very nice person was he understood what lay behind people behaving badly... There is no doubt he understands very well why an Alberich would behave like that, why a Meme would behave like that. He has a great deal of sympathy and understanding for the very worst of his characters. They remain very convincing... His nature might have been very bad for his friends, his family, his patrons, but it is very good for posterity.

Most Wagner critics give him full credit for anything they perceive in his music that might be considered negative in some way, such as the alleged bombastic or anti-Semitic qualities of some of his music. But, quite unfairly, they give him no credit for all that is beautiful, loving, uplifting and redemptive in his music – which describes the vast majority of his work. Instead, this music (and the drama that is entwined with the music) is somehow seen as an accidental result of his genius, not because he actually felt, and lived, those feelings of empathy and love that dominate his music. This, of course, is nonsense, and they can’t have it both ways. Clearly, his music reflected his feelings; they came from his heart, both the good and the bad.

The Apologist Accusation

With Wagner – almost singularly among artists and even most political figures – any defense of him is called an apology. Any good things he did, and there were many, are called self-serving. His admirable traits are dismissed or ignored. Given the fact that his critics have created this monster, it is certainly easy to see why they are puzzled at the wonder and beauty of his music. The question is often asked, “How could such a horrible man make such beautiful, sensitive music?” The answer is simply that he wasn’t a horrible man, though he certainly had horrible aspects of his character.

Just to give some needed perspective, think of one of the most famous egoists of our time, Bill Clinton. We all know he has deep flaws, many that he shares with Wagner in fact. Yet, we see him in his complexity because we know he meant well, wanted to do good. His ego got in his way many times, and almost rendered him a completely tragic character. But his force of will, his refusal to back down, ultimately triumphed. We see him in his full humanity. At least, I do. Wagner has been given such a bum rap in this day and age that we no longer can understand him like we do Clinton. I’ve tried to give a more nuanced view of Wagner throughout this blog, and I hope I have succeeded.

As far as I am concerned, those who damn Wagner are replicating him at his worse. He was intolerant, so they must match him, becoming an imitation of him at his worst. They irrationally blame him, as he irrationally blamed Jews, for the ills that they suffered. They write incendiary, illogical and unfair attacks upon him, as he wrote about the Jews. On some level, of course, it is his just desserts. But it doesn’t hurt him at all as he is dead; their revenge instead strikes at people like me, who love his music.  As I reject the meanness of Wagner, I reject it as much in his critics. This is not the way to move forward.

Moving Forward: Forgiveness

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, 
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven 
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d; 

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes –Shakespeare

When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free. – Catherine Ponder


Yes, I believe the way forward is through forgiveness. And I don’t mean that just for Wagner, though I certainly include him. I mean it for humanity. I am a huge believer in forgiveness as a way of life. The act of forgiving and being forgiven is an amazing, liberating feeling.
Often the place to start is with yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself for the things for which you are most ashamed, you will find it very hard to atone for the wrongs you have done, and ask for forgiveness for those transgressions, and move on. Beyond that, you will find it very hard to forgive others.  Conversely, you must forgive others if you expect to be forgiven yourself.
In my life, I have done a number of things that I now regret – politically, socially, morally. I have spent a lot of time thinking about why and how I took those paths, and most importantly, how to move forward and not repeat them. I succeed many times; I don’t others. I continue to try. In this quest to improve as a human being, Wagner has helped me immensely in this process.  His music dramas are – again to quote Bryan Magee – “of the deepest psychological penetration, inexhaustible in [their] insight into the human condition.” The insight comes, though, primarily through emotion, and as I have made clear elsewhere, the insight has led me to ever more compassion for humanity. 

No transgression can ever be resolved without forgiveness. Wagner did real harm. Some of it was intentional, some not. He needs to be forgiven for both. Wagner cannot ask for forgiveness. But fans of his music can, and I do ask for that. I ask not just for him, but also for the good of those who continue to resent him and want revenge upon him. I carry around in my wallet something Carrie Fisher said (attributed to others as well) that I think is wise: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The poison of resentment pulls anyone who is trapped by it into a the dark place that has no beauty or light. Removing the venom through forgiveness is the only way out of that trap.

I believe that, above all else, his works redeem him.

There are those, of course, who don’t feel this at all (and perhaps a lot of this is because they don’t even know his works.) This is particularly true in Israel, where Wagner is now more myth than real, and the enmity is particularly strong, but often devoid of either fairness or perspective.

I think one of the key reasons for the continued enmity of many Jews – particularly in Israel – to Wagner is the feeling that the ancestors of Wagner haven’t ever really apologized for the legacy of Wagner via the catastrophe of Bayreuth, in which Hitler and Wagners heirs became completely intertwined. The good news is that the people now in control of Bayreuth, his great-granddaughters Katerina and Eva, are finally making moves to correct this reality and own up to the past. 

My feeling, though, is that to truly make amends, Bayreuth must redress the harm caused by Wagner and Bayreuth. There is no better place to start than with the man who was most victimized by Richard Wagner: Giacomo Meyerbeer, whose works vanished from the opera stage in the wake of Wagner’s mean-spirited attack upon him. (Edited addition: As I said here, French grand opera was dying for other reasons, but I believe that Wagner's attacks – along with his subsequent massive influence on the direction of opera – were the final blow. It was indirect, and not any sort of  campaign against Meyerbeer.  See comment section below.) If Bayreuth truly wants to make amends, this is where to start: revive the work of Meyerbeer. If this happens, the door to forgiveness will be opened.


A Final Note to Lovers of Wagner’s Music

I call on all lovers of Wagner’s music to do so guilt-free and without animus to Wagner. His deeply powerful music is a window not only to his soul, but to humanity itself. If Wagner hadn’t been the man he was, had the life he had, felt the things he did, he wouldn’t have created the music we love.

One of Wagner’s great gifts is that he created characters of complexity and depth. No one is simply evil or simply good. His villains are all abused in one way or another so that we have an understanding why they act the way they do. His heroes are all deeply flawed, containing the same human impulses that do continual harm in our own lives: cruelty, greed, arrogance, and the lust for power, prestige and revenge. It is incumbent upon us to give the same consideration to Wagner himself: to understand him as a complex man, not as a caricature.

Certainly, we should acknowledge his flaws and grave mistakes, as I have done in this post and throughout the blog. But if you enjoy the fruits of his labor, which emerged from his deepest feelings and came at a real cost in his life, and at the same time condemn him for his flawed humanity, I believe that is both hypocritical and unjust.

To repeat, how do you solve a problem like Wagner?  The same exact way we can solve many of our world's most intractable problems – through understanding, compassion and, most importantly, forgiveness.




End Notes

This whole blog is basically a rough draft, which I am planning to edit, rework, and put out in the future, perhaps as as different blog, perhaps as an e-book.  I am not sure.  But it will stay in this form for a while while I enjoy my 2014.  That said, I will be going back in and fixing things in this blog, creating cross-links, etc., over time.

Also, I want to thank my wife Leslie for her continual support and help with my blog.  I doubt if I would have done it without her encouragement and prodding (not during this year, but to start it). She has edited all the posts so, believe me, mistakes were minimized.  She now gets to return her focus totally to her own writing, where I plan to be as helpful to her as she has been to me (if possible).  Read about her plans at her blog here.

Bye, for now.  

Me and my Wagner heads.  It's an accidental collection.  Photo by Leslie Karst

1 As quoted in Brener, Wagner and the Jews, 244

7 comments:

  1. Yay! Congratulations for making it to the end! So very proud of you for persevering throughout the entire year, as I know how much hard work it was. Bu what an amazing accomplishment! You da Wagner bomb, babe! xoxo

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  2. Congratulations on these articles. I am delighted to note that we see eye to eye on many issues concerning Wagner. However, I have to beg to differ when you say that Wagner banished Meyerbeer from the stage. Indirectly, perhaps, but not directly. Meyerbeer had his detractors when Wagner was still a Meyerbeer wannabe. Schumann was a relentless foe, Berlioz covertly suggested from time to time that Meyerbeer bribes opera directors to stage him and critics to write well about his works(a rumor that was ripe in Paris in late 1830s), and, supremely ironically given the turn of events, Mendelssohn also had a low opinion on Meyerbeer.

    "Jewishness in music" in it's first publication had a low circulation and was published under an assumed name(though Meyerbeer was no doubt aware of it as well as of the real identity of the author) and Meyerbeer popularity lasted until well after the second publication, in fact well after Wagner had died. Wagner attacked Meyerbeer only in one other prose work "Opera and drama", this time without ethno-religious slurs. On Meyerbeer's Wikipedia page, evidence given for what they call was "Waner's vitriolic campaign" is scant: the aforementioned essays, a couple of letters(publicized well after relevant events), Cosima's diaries(never meant for publication) and a sentence from G.B.Shaw. This simply doesn't amount to an organized campaign. The advent of Wagner-mania in Paris since 1890s is, again, an indirect pushing out of Meyerbeer, not a result of any organized effort.

    And even if Wagner did organize some sort of campaign against Meyerbeer, there was a huge anti-Wagner movement in music in his lifetime, which would have liked nothing better then to spite him by promoting Meyerbeer. None of it happened thoouh. Even then, his attacks on Meyerbeer were believed to be of little relevance even by Wagner's detractors.

    If you have more evidence that supports this thesis, I would be happy to consider it, of course, but from what I know until now this story of Wagner supressing Meyerbeer to me is little more then yet another malicious myth about Wagner.

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  4. I am sad to see your last post on this subject. But thank you for the time you have taken and some highly interesting articles. Not all of which I have read and thus have something to look forward to.

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  5. (reposted to edit for typos) I am sorry if I seemed to imply there was an organized campaign. I do not think that at all. I will fix that. Wagner did nothing to suppress Meyerbeer, nor did Wagnerians. As I said in my post on Wagner's influence on music: "In France, Wagner was the final nail in the coffin for French grand opera, which was already in the pine box for other reasons." But that nail was just because Wagner's influence on opera was so vast. As I pointed out, from Wagner forward, opera changed completely, reflecting Wagner's broad critiques of it, not just his specific critique of Meyerbeer. The second publication of Judaism in Music in 1869 is the only one that had impact, as you point out (and I had in my blog), there was little circulation of the first. But it did have much impact after the last publication. I believe that Wagner's scathing critique of his music was thought to be true and people, therefore, didn't even consider reviving him over the years. I may be wrong on this, and I don't have evidence of it. But when the leading opera composer of the day attacks another composer in such scathing terms, that is bound to hit its mark to some degree. I don't know how that could NOT be true. Anyway, my point is that he is morally culpable for those attacks, even if my assumption is false. It is for that reason, I think that Bayreuth should make amends. I will make sure it is clear that it is an assumption based on indirect evidence.

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  6. Hi again. I thought you might be interested that I've started a blog whose main purpose will be defending Wagner from false and outrageous charges. If you'd like to see it, here it is:

    http://indefenseofrichardwagner.wordpress.com/

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  7. I forgot to write that I gave you credit for inspiring me to do it. :-)

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