Except for Mike Antonovitch's nay vote, LA superviors gave a thumbs up to the 2010 production of Wagner's The Ring and other performances of Wagner's music. It's rather amusing to hear Anty, one of LA's most conservative politicians, whining about a few anti-semitic hints in Wagner (eastsiders know all about Asstonsilvitch's rightist, sheriff-loving, pro-development politics). Wagner actually had a number of jewish friends and associates. Even his most virulent essays were hardly Mein Kampf. The protests of The Ring exemplify typical bad LA politics--an opportunity for any ambitious bureaucrat to obtain some PR and cred. by making some obvious PC rant on the local media outlets.
We here at Contingencies do not pretend to be great opera buffs or Wagner buffs. After an hour or so of The Ring one starts to understand Mark Twain's comments regarding Wagner's music (--it's "better than it sounds",etc.). Wagner music does sound rather schmaltzy at times (like all that Disneyesque stuff with Tannhauser, etc). At certain points in Wagner's music-stream, however, something like beauty jumps out. The Parzifal theme, for instance, resonates--no Disney schmaltz there, but the Knight in the dark forest, headed for Chapel Perilous. Intense, really (but you've got to have the ears--or soul--to hear it) . The naive PC person thinks "that's Hitler's favorite composer," and doesn't really care what it sounds like. Yet Hitler also liked Beethoven (and others). So is Ludwig Van also in the banned composer list, merely because that crazy, murderous peasant aka Der Fuhrer approved of his melodies? Nein.
Last week, Antonovich had proposed a motion urging L.A. Opera to broaden the scope of the festival as a way of achieving "balance, historical perspective and a true sampling of operatic and musical talent." In the motion, he criticized festival organizers for celebrating the work of "a racist whose anti-Semitic writings were the inspiration for Hitler and the Holocaust."
Today's board meeting brought out a number of individuals who objected to what they see as a festival that will glorify Wagner and his anti-Semitic politics. "People make festivals for people they admire," said Peter Gimpel, a lawyer and classical scholar. "I'm horrified by the Orwellian tactics of L.A. Opera. What they are doing borders on historic revisionism, which is worse than anti-Semitism."
Carie Delmar, who runs a website that has protested the festival, said that the "festival is an affront to everything this city stands for."
Those who came to speak in favor of the festival emphasized the symposiums that will be held to discuss Wagner's racism. "It's because of his anti-Semitism that a festival like this should delve into the very issues that are important," said Seth Brisk, a director of the American Jewish Committee.
In the end, supervisors Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Don Knabe voted in favor of the substitute motion, while Antonovich was the lone vote against Yaroslavsky's measure. (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was not present during the meeting.)
Following the vote, Stephen Rountree, the chief operating officer of L.A. Opera, said that he "couldn't be more pleased" with Yaroslavsky's motion. "We will continue to pursue partners for the festival and continue our efforts to achieve a level of introspection about Wagner's life," he said.
A spokesman for Antonovich said that "we were hoping L.A. Opera would be open to create a more balanced event. But we're pleased we were able to raise the issues in the minds of the people."