I have brought a book which, although I have barely started to read it as
yet, immediately caught my attention. In particular the following passage
caught me by surprise. I have never read anything particularly involved
by Michael Tanner on Wagner but it coincides so closely with my view of
him that it is hard to believe. Note in particular to the reference to the
concept of subtext in Wagner - a subject I elaborated on considerably in my
recent posts on the subject. It was as though I was being quoted, only the
book was published in 1997.
The quotation comes from 'Wagner' by Tanner (ISBN0006862128) Pg 27:
Where are the Jews in his works and how are we to recognise them?
The chief focus until recently, for Jew-spotting has been the Ring,
since it is allegedly about the evil of possessions. That leads many
commentators to claim that Alberich is a Jew, and even more obviously
Mime. But if they are, so are the whole race of the Nibelungs, and
they are depicted as pathetically downtrodden workers, the very image
of the misery for which Jewish capitalism is responsible. Apart
from which, Alberich is not a simple villain in the Ring as casual
acquaintance with it might lead one to think. He exists in intimate
relationship with Wotan, who is referred to as 'Licht-Alberich'
(Light-Alberich). The plot of the Ring simply can't be worked out
in racial terms. And the fact that Wagner devoted many pages in his
letters to expounding its meaning and that Cosima's Diaries are full
of references to it, without the question of its Jewish 'sub-text'
ever cropping up, surely is decisive. I was little surprised to
learn that somebody at some point had suggested that every one of
Wagner's villains were Jewish! Tanner writes:
If we don't accept that [the unsavoury aspects of Wagner's personality
don't find their way into his works], we are going to lapse into the
circularity of claiming that Wagner though Jews were bad, and so the
villains in his works are Jewish; and you can tell how much he disliked
Jews from the ghastliness of the bad characters in his works. That
is the level of sophistication at which these arguments operate.
I agree that things have reached the point of absurdity where every
'Wagalaweia' is interpreted as having some secret proto-Nazi message
encoded within it. To quote Tanner 'Wagner was often subtle but he didn't
write in code.'
There seems to exist a tendency to "reaching for any weapon that comes to
hand to clobber Wagner with" (Tanner) such that he is accused of just about
every evil one could just about think of. There are books which hold him
directly responsible for everything Hitler was and ever did.
For those who read German here is an example of a writer foolish enough to
take the National Socialist interpretation of Wagner seriously but to hail
Hitler as the ultimate interpreter of Wagner - to the point that Wagner is
dubbed the Prophet of which Hitler was the alleged executioner of his
Wagners Hitler: Der Prophet und Sein Vollstrecker (Joachim Koehler) ISBN:
No composer in history ever elicits such hysterical responses other than
Wagner. Of these Hitler's response is of course the worst example amongst
those who hysterically idolise him, but a similar hysteria exists amongst
those equally hysterical enemies, who seem to do what Hitler did just
tipped on its head.