Israeli Orchestra Break Wagner Embrago

An Israeli orchestra is set to break a cultural boycott by playing works by Richard Wagner this month. The announcement was made by the Israeli Wagner Society.

The event will mark the first time Wagner’s works have been played in Israel since the state's formation in 1948. The Eretz Yisrael Symphony Israel orchestra – later the Israel Philharmonic – stopped performing the composer’s music in 1938 in the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms. Attempts to play Wagner – an anti-Semite who was also Hitler’s favourite composer - have always been countered by fierce opposition. 

In order to circumvent criticism that state-funded orchestras should not try to impose Wagner’s music on the public, the Israel Wagner Society has assembled a special orchestra that will perform the music at a private event. 

The concert will form part of a day of discussion and music designed to explore "the interesting and intriguing connection between the seer of the state, the conductor Arturo Toscanini and Wagner's music” and is scheduled to take place on June 18 at the Smolarz Auditotium of Tel Aviv University. 

Speaking of the decision to play Wagner, the society’s founder Jonathan Livny said: "A hundred musicians have been hired especially for this evening to perform - musicians who together constitute an orchestra in itself. Each has been engaged via a personal contract for this concert only." 

He added: “Whoever wants to buy a ticket can buy one, and whoever doesn't, won't." The orchestra will play selections from Der Ring des Nibelungen and The Valkyrie among others.