Richard Wagner's Anti-Semitism (Wagner:1813-1883)

Essay by NEthinggoesUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, October 2002

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Dr. Douglass Seaton states in his textbook that Richard Wagner (1813-1883) " many artists of the time, became involved in the political uprisings that swept through Europe, and his revolutionary activities made him persona non grata in Germany." While this is true, what Dr. Seaton fails to mention in the short blurb about Wagner is his extreme hatred for Jewish people. It was not necessarily only the radical ideas that caused him to fall from favor for many people; it was also his extreme anti-semitism. This paper will explore the many instances of Wagner's anti-semetic feelings, both within his life, letters, and music.

Wagner often attributed any ill will toward him as being a part of an organized Jewish opposition. This was not a completely baseless accusation, as most of the presses that were giving him bad press were owned and controlled by Jews. It did not seem to matter what was really causing bad press or hard feelings; it was always the Jews.

After being hissed at the Tannhauser in Paris in 1861, he attributed it to "... not the French, but the German Jews." In a letter to Otto Wesendonck on April 5, 1885, he stated that he did not find it worth the effort to pick up the paper to read the critism of his music by the critics of the British Press. He felt that anyone with any opinion of their own and really understands anything would not mingle with "...this gang of Jews." So it becomes apparent that Wagner was never able to take any critism because he wrote it off as being all from Jews, and he did not feel that Jews were even good enough to be considered real Germans.

Wagner also opposed several Jewish musicians. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) was a...