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Supervisor Antonovich wants Wagner dropped from opera festival [Update]

July 14, 2009 |  7:03 pm

[Updated 11:28 p.m.: Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he does not want to cancel the festival. He wants to substitute works by other composers.]

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is demanding that Los Angeles Opera discontinue the Ring Festival L.A. planned for next year, calling Richard Wagner a, “Nazi composer.”

“To specifically honor and glorify the man whose music and racist anti-Semitic writings inspired Hitler and became the de facto soundtrack for the Holocaust in a countywide festival is an affront to those who have suffered or have been impacted by the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialistic Worker Party,” Antonovich said in a statement released today.

Holocaust survivors and their families have contacted supervisors in recent weeks to express outrage at the festival. Some have threatened to picket.

Antonovich suggested the opera company, “Delete the focus on Wagner and incorporate other composers as headliners including Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Schubert, Schumann, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn and others.”

But the festival is already underway. Singers are in rehearsal, posters are printed and tickets are on sale.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who began his political career as a Jewish activist, has been an ardent supporter of the festival, appearing at the opening news conference and lauding the participation of 75 community partners.

Yaroslavsky was traveling today and unavailable for comment.

L.A. Opera attempted to address Wagner’s legacy in a note on its website.

“While Richard Wagner is considered one of the most important and influential of all composers, he is also rightly reviled as having been an anti-Semite,” the site says. “Wagner’s writings on the subject percolated into German politics and popular culture and, decades after the composer’s death, were celebrated by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. It is the Company’s belief that opera has value not only as musical and theatrical entertainment, but as a way to gain important historical insight and to explore moral issues. Ring Festival LA will specifically address the subject of Wagner’s anti-Semitism in several contexts, including seminars, panel conversations and performances.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske at L.A. Hall of Administration