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Thread: The Best Books on Wagner, interview with Michael Tanner

  1. #46
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Just to say another rattling good read is "The Wagner Clan" by Jonathan Carr.
    Your idea of a "rattling good read" is any book that causes you to salivate gleefully over Wagner's antisemitism.

    "The Wagner Clan" is not only NOT one of the "best books about Wagner" (as per the OP), it's primarily a book about his descendents.

    It always helps to figure out what a conversation is about before entering it.

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  3. #47
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As the rest of his philosophy tended to find its way into his operas
    No, it didn't.

    it was astounding that a central plank of it didn't.
    Antisemitism was not a central plank of Wagner's philosophy. But it's obviously a central plank in your lifelong campaign to downgrade his works and annoy everyone on the forum.

    But discuss no further as we are discussing books
    You don't get to decide what gets disussed.

    and Millington's is worth a read and no more full of holes than other books about Wagner, for and against.
    How would YOU know?

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  5. #48
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As the rest of his philosophy tended to find its way into his operas it was astounding that a central plank of it didn't. But discuss no further as we are discussing books and Millington's is worth a read and no more full of holes than other books about Wagner, for and against. The Bluffer's Guide to Opera has an interesting section on Wagner and indeed many other composers as well.
    Found some trustworthy information from Wikipedia - the article actually has references if someone is more interested. (this also partially explains why I wrote "we can’t just say that every evil or unpleasant character in Wagner’s operas is his reference to jews" in my previous comment + it was a slight exaggeration):

    "Some biographers, such as Theodor Adorno and Robert Gutman have advanced the claim that Wagner's opposition to Jews was not limited to his articles, and that the operas contained such messages. In particular the characters of Mime in the Ring, Klingsor in Parsifal and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger are supposedly Jewish stereotypes, although none of them are identified as Jews in the libretto. Such claims are disputed. Wagner, over the course of his life, produced a huge amount of written material analyzing every aspect of himself, including his operas and his views on Jews (as well as many other topics); these purportedly 'Jewish' characterizations are never mentioned, nor are there any such references in Cosima Wagner's copious diaries."

    Had Wagner intended to bring his anti-semitistic views into his operas he would probably have mentioned that more clearly. We know that the Ring was influenced by Schopenhauer's philosophy, because Wagner makes a plain statement about Schopenhauer's influence in Mein Leben. There's no reference about whether or not Wagner intended Beckmesser or Mime to be Jewish stereotypes - we still arrive to the same place where we started. Wagner didn't write 'jewishness' into his libretto, but we can't prove neither positive nor negative. So, this really is a never-ending debate, because there doesn't exist any universal proof, but just the opinions and probabilities.
    Last edited by annaw; May-27-2019 at 17:15.

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  7. #49
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Found some trustworthy information from Wikipedia - the article actually has references if someone is more interested. (this also partially explains why I wrote "we can’t just say that every evil or unpleasant character in Wagner’s operas is his reference to jews" in my previous comment + it was a slight exaggeration):

    "Some biographers, such as Theodor Adorno and Robert Gutman have advanced the claim that Wagner's opposition to Jews was not limited to his articles, and that the operas contained such messages. In particular the characters of Mime in the Ring, Klingsor in Parsifal and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger are supposedly Jewish stereotypes, although none of them are identified as Jews in the libretto. Such claims are disputed. Wagner, over the course of his life, produced a huge amount of written material analyzing every aspect of himself, including his operas and his views on Jews (as well as many other topics); these purportedly 'Jewish' characterizations are never mentioned, nor are there any such references in Cosima Wagner's copious diaries."

    Had Wagner intended to bring his anti-semitistic views into his operas he would probably have mentioned that more clearly. We know that the Ring was influenced by Schopenhauer's philosophy, because Wagner makes a plain statement about Schopenhauer's influence in Mein Leben. There's no reference about whether or not Wagner intended Beckmesser or Mime to be Jewish stereotypes - we still arrive to the same place where we started. Wagner didn't write 'jewishness' into his libretto, but we can't prove neither positive nor negative. So, this really is a never-ending debate, because there doesn't exist any universal proof, but just the opinions and probabilities.
    Exactly. It's really not even worth speculating about this. If antisemitism were really a crucial part of Wagner's "philosophy" (as DavidA claims it was), and if he had considered it something he needed to express in his art, he would have talked and written about it. Of all artists, Wagner was the least shy or secretive about what he thought or intended. His theoretical writings, correspondence and recorded conversations are staggeringly voluminous, and there isn't a word about "Jewish" caricatures in the operas. There is, however, a remark about how much he loved his villains.

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  9. #50
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Found some trustworthy information from Wikipedia - the article actually has references if someone is more interested. (this also partially explains why I wrote "we can’t just say that every evil or unpleasant character in Wagner’s operas is his reference to jews" in my previous comment + it was a slight exaggeration):

    "Some biographers, such as Theodor Adorno and Robert Gutman have advanced the claim that Wagner's opposition to Jews was not limited to his articles, and that the operas contained such messages. In particular the characters of Mime in the Ring, Klingsor in Parsifal and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger are supposedly Jewish stereotypes, although none of them are identified as Jews in the libretto. Such claims are disputed. Wagner, over the course of his life, produced a huge amount of written material analyzing every aspect of himself, including his operas and his views on Jews (as well as many other topics); these purportedly 'Jewish' characterizations are never mentioned, nor are there any such references in Cosima Wagner's copious diaries."

    Had Wagner intended to bring his anti-semitistic views into his operas he would probably have mentioned that more clearly. We know that the Ring was influenced by Schopenhauer's philosophy, because Wagner makes a plain statement about Schopenhauer's influence in Mein Leben. There's no reference about whether or not Wagner intended Beckmesser or Mime to be Jewish stereotypes - we still arrive to the same place where we started. Wagner didn't write 'jewishness' into his libretto, but we can't prove neither positive nor negative. So, this really is a never-ending debate, because there doesn't exist any universal proof, but just the opinions and probabilities.
    Absolutely. There is no absolute proof and so we have to go by opinion which appears to be pretty evenly split between those who think that great works of art cannot be so sullied and those who accept the view that the man and his art cannot be so easily separated. You cannot necessarily argue from silence. I mean, I don't think Mozart wrote racist or anti-feminist views in his letters but they are there in the Flute. You simply cannot deny that. But whichever side of the divide you fall it is OPINION!
    I have mine, and I think Millington makes a good case for his. You mention Klingsor. Interesting that Howard Goodall (always provocative) mentions in his 'Story of Music' that until the 1930s Klingsor 'was typically portrayed in Parsifal productions as of Arabic or Jewish origin.' His section on Wagner is an entertaining read, as is indeed the whole book.
    Of course, another couple of books we should mention is Wolfgang Wagner's autobiography (ACTS - I have read it - very opinionated, of course) and the book by the great grandson Gottfried Wagner, 'Twilight of the Wagners'. Actually reading about Wagner and his awful family rivals any soap opera! Even if you don't like the operas reading about the family is very entertaining!
    Last edited by DavidA; May-27-2019 at 18:19.

  10. #51
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post

    PS I have mine!
    I think we've got that !

    My personal opinion also remains the same - the odds that Wagner somehow forgot to mention that "Oh, guys, Mime is actually a Jewish stereotype. Keep this in mind when playing his part." seems very small, but as I already said myself, it's still all about what one wants to believe (although the probabilities also play a role, or logic, whatever you want to call it).
    Last edited by annaw; May-27-2019 at 18:21.

  11. #52
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    When I first listened to the Ring, I didn't know about Wagner's antisemitism and it never entered my mind that Mime might be a Jewish stereotype. That's the main thing that matters to me, there are so many much more important themes in Wagner's operas than the question whether Mime was allegorically a Jew or not and as Wagner himself didn't give us the answer, I don't want to let myself be bothered by it too much.
    Last edited by annaw; May-27-2019 at 19:08.

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  13. #53
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Absolutely. There is no absolute proof and so we have to go by opinion which appears to be pretty evenly split between those who think that great works of art cannot be so sullied and those who accept the view that the man and his art cannot be so easily separated. You cannot necessarily argue from silence. I mean, I don't think Mozart wrote racist or anti-feminist views in his letters but they are there in the Flute. Whichever side of the divide you fall it is OPINION!
    I have mine, and I think Millington makes a good case for his.
    You may "go by opinion" - which means nothing more than the opinions you happen to like - but I go by evidence. Where evidence of an offense is lacking, integrity demands that one make no accusation. And how do you know that "opinion" is "evenly split"? Split between whom? Those who know what they're talking about and those, like you and Millington, who make stuff up and present it as evidence?

    The racist and sexist elements in Zauberflote are actually right in the text. We don't need to know Mozart's private views about blacks and women. It's the operas of Wagner we're talking about, not his private views.
    Last edited by Woodduck; May-27-2019 at 18:18.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You may "go by opinion" - which means nothing more than the opinions you happen to like - but I go by evidence. Where evidence of an offense is lacking, integrity demands that one make no accusation. And how do you know that "opinion" is "evenly split"? Split between whom? Those who know what they're talking about and those, like you and Millington, who make stuff up and present it as evidence?

    The racist and sexist elements in Zauberflote are actually right in the text. We don't need to know Mozart's private views about blacks and women. It's the operas of Wagner we're talking about, not his private views.
    Precisely. This is not about your opinion vs. mine. Millington makes a claim, and the burden of proof is on him to provide evidence to support his arguments.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OperaChic View Post
    Precisely. This is not about your opinion vs. mine. Millington makes a claim, and the burden of proof is on him to provide evidence to support his arguments.
    Given Wagner's writings I would have through the burden of proof lies in the other direction. Any law court might think the same. But it is pretty pointless going on with this as we have already said that it is a matter of opinion whether you can separate the man from his works.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-27-2019 at 18:43.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Given Wagner's writings I would have through the burden of proof lies in the other direction. Any law court might think the same. But it is pretty pointless going on with this as we have already said that it is a matter of opinion whether you can separate the man from his works.
    Oy vey. No, the burden of proof does not lie in the other direction, because the claim is not about whether there is antisemitism in Wagner's writings. Any court of law could easily make the distinction that you seem incapable of understanding.
    Last edited by OperaChic; May-27-2019 at 18:53.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Even the most absurd fantasy or thought crime can be justified as "opinion."

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    Quote Originally Posted by OperaChic View Post
    Oy vey. No, the burden of proof does not lie in the other direction, because the claim is not about whether there is antisemitism in Wagner's writings. Any court of law could easily make the distinction that you seem incapable of understanding.
    Nope sorry, you are confusing a criminal court with a civil court. However I cannot see why you are banging on about this as I have already stated more than once it is a matter of opinion and this thread is about books about Wagner.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Nope sorry, you are confusing a criminal court with a civil court. However I cannot see why you are banging on about this as I have already stated more than once it is a matter of opinion and this thread is about books about Wagner.
    Nope sorry, in civil court the burden of proof is still on the plaintiff. Who is making the claims here? Millngton. Is he making a case for antisemitism in the operas, or in the writings? The operas. Hence, the burden is on him to prove his case, even by a preponderance of the evidence. He offers no evidence, only conjecture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ^^^ Where, in the music of the prelude, is there any suggestion of an open mouth? How is that even possible?

    You're looking at the opera too literally. Kundry isn't a single individual. Messenger, slave, temptress, mother reincarnated, wanderer, sinner seeking salvation... In the male world of the Grail knights, she is every role that woman is forced into by man when he has renounced the "feminine" part of his soul - she IS that feminine part, disowned by man - and her agony is her enslavement to man's ego-illusions. I think she's the most amazing creation in opera.
    (Leaving the image of the woman's mouth to later.)

    The character Kundry has been punished because she laughed at Jesus on/on his way to the cross. Is this not true?


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