Where One Ends and the Other Begins; That is the Question

by Suzanne Calvin

(Image courtesy of ofletters.com)

Mark Swed posted an interesting essay on the LA Times’ Culture Monster blog about the hand-wringing among some local bureaucrats over the mounting of a new Ring Cycle and an accompanying Wagner Festival scheduled to take center stage next spring in the City of Angels.

Evidently, fearing that Angelenos might spontaneously shape-shift under Richard Wagner’s pernicious influence into a bunch of swastika-waving, goose-stepping thugs, it’s being suggested -- seriously -- that the Wagner festival focus on composers OTHER THAN the obvious 800-pound-gorilla in the room.

Ultimately, Swed hits the nail on the head: Wagner’s unsavory personal views and his unfortunate historical associations (after his death) don’t need to be nervously swept under the rug — They need to be aired, viewed, dissected and much discussed.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not defending the bereted-one in the slightest.  Putting aside the truly thorny issues of his increasingly bizarre philosophies and his anti-Semitic writings, Wagner was a disloyal and manipulative jerk with a king-sized sense of entitlement and a taste for other men’s wives.  But confusing the man with his music — and particularly the uses to which his compositions were put long after his death — is a disservice to both music and history.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Suzanne Calvin, Assoc. Dir. of Marketing, The Dallas Opera

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