Wagner's Jewish Followers

Hating Wagner is a debilitating Jewish habit. So is loving him.

Richard Wagner in Paris in 1861. He was there for the premiere of his opera Tannhäuser. Wikipedia.

Richard Wagner in Paris in 1861. He was there for the premiere of his opera Tannhäuser. Wikipedia.

Response
Jan. 22 2015
About the author

James Loeffler, associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and scholar-in-residence at Pro Musica Hebraica, is currently the Robert A. Savitt fellow at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. His “The Death of Jewish Culture” was the featured monthly essay in Mosaic for May 2014.


In the 1993 film Manhattan Murder Mystery, Woody Allen remarks: “I can’t listen to too much Wagner, ya know? I start to get the urge to conquer Poland.” This quip comes to mind on reading Nathan Shields’s probing essay, “Wagner and the Jews.” We can love Wagner’s music or detest it, but we cannot evade its link to politics. Nor can we escape the intensity of its emotional impact on modern listeners. That is because, as Shields lucidly demonstrates, Wagner’s colossal new cultural vision encompassed the totality of human emotion and experience. This was not accidental. For Wagner sought to conscript all of art’s manifold powers into a vast drama of human redemption. And, as Shields shows, Wagner’s redemptive design actually needed, in some fundamental way, modern anti-Semitism to realize itself.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, History & Ideas, Jewish music, Music, Richard Wagner