Tel Aviv University cancels Wagner concert after angry protests
University claims intention to perform works by the composer were concealed by the organizers of the concert.
Tel Aviv University announced Monday that it would not permit a scheduled Wagner concert to take place on its campus, after it had evoked angry protests.
In a letter to Attorney Yonathan Livni, who had submitted the request to hire the campus' Smolarz Auditorium for the event on June 18, the university denied the request, accusing him of deliberately concealing the intention to perform Richard Wagner's works. The university also claimed that Livni did not mention the name of the organization he represented.
Livni, the founder of the Israel Wagner Society, asked the university last week to hold a concert, conducted by Asher Fisch, in the auditorium, making no mention of planning to perform Richard Wagner's works, the university spokesman said.
"You deliberately concealed this basic fact from us...We received angry protests calling to call off the controversial event...[which] would deeply offend the Israeli public in general and Holocaust survivors in particular," he said.
Wagner, who espoused anti-Semitic views during his lifetime, was also Adolf Hitler's favorite composer. Attempts to perform Wagner in Israel over the past 30 years have always generated heated controversy.
Uri Chanoch, deputy chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Center, which represents 52 organizations from countries around the globe, wrote to the president of Tel Aviv University, Yosef Klafter, calling for a ban on the concert. He said that it was not permissible for Wagner's music, which was heard in Nazi concentration camps, to be performed on a Tel Aviv University stage.
"This is emotional torture for Holocaust survivors and the wider public in the state of Israel," he wrote.
Copies of the letter were sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.
"Wagner provided inspiration for the Nazis, and there is a direct link between him and the Holocaust," Chanoch told Haaretz. "The fact that Wagner's music will be played in public, he said, and the fact that the concert was being advertised, are hurtful and damaging."
"I am 85," he said, "And at an age such as this the memory of the distant past is even brighter than the memory of things which happened yesterday."
Livni told Haaretz last month that a hundred musicians have been hired especially for the event.
"These are musicians who together constitute an orchestra in itself, and each musician had been engaged via a personal contract only for the concert."
He added that only private funding was used to stage the event. In this fashion, the Wagner Society is circumventing the argument that state-supported orchestras dare not try to impose Wagner's music on their subscribers and the public.
"This way there isn't anyone to struggle against - whoever wants to buy a ticket can buy one, and whoever doesn't, won't," said Livni, who noted that several Holocaust survivors are members of the Wagner Society.
Last month, the Israeli Opera asked a U.K.-based Israeli choreographer to remove an excerpt of a Richard Wagner opera from the soundtrack of her show, which was showcased in Tel Aviv.