The Rip Post                                                                                              


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(July 29, 2009)

          "No serious musician can afford to be ignorant of Wagner’s music or his essential place in music history. Those Jews who would ban or refuse to listen to Wagner are hurting only themselves and making it more difficult for them to understand and appreciate music after Wagner, much of it written by Jews."---E. Randol Schoenberg, grandson of composer Arnold Schoenberg.

The entire worth of the work of the so-called “Founding Fathers” is, of course, nullified by the fact that they tolerated slavery. Every noble value espoused, every courageous act to establish a republic with representative democracy---all are voided by racism, and the rendering of human beings as commodity.
          Further, anyone who admires Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et al. can only be a closet racist, and must be unfailingly condemned. What’s more, all celebration of the “Founding Fathers” and the United States of America should be banned, never spoken of again, starting with July 4th. The Stars and Stripes must be replaced with something absent the stain of racism and slavery.
          Never mind the billions of people who have come from all over the world to participate in this country and its institutions for the betterment of humankind. Never mind the abolition of slavery and all the laws passed to outlaw discrimination based on race and gender. Irrelevant.
          What’s that? You don’t agree? Why, then, you must not be among those oh-beautiful-for-spacious-minds who tried to stop the music of Richard Wagner from being celebrated in a citywide festival to accompany the performance of the composer’s Der Ring des Nibelungen by L.A. Opera next year. . .
          Led by our very own churlish Alberich the Nibelung, County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Perhaps madcap "Ring" director Achim Freyer should rename the grim little dwarf character “Antonovich” in tribute. . .
          Come along, readers, as we now spin the great Freyer "Ring" Frisbee (the big turntable on which he sets almost all the operas) backward in time. . .
          As you all probably are rather well aware, old Ree-kard W. was just a wee bit peeved over Jewish culture, and irked by more monetarily successful Jewish composers, notably Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn (whom he virulently denounced, but flagrantly copied.) So upset was goofy Ree-kard that he wrote overwrought, turbid essays deriding all Jews, never mind how this might upset his Jewish friends. Yes, Wagner was one dedicated anti-Semite, intellectually (although a bit of a hypocrite about it in practice), and therefore all his astonishingly brilliant, affecting, transporting, heartbreaking, hair-raising, inspiring music should be denounced, deplored, debased, and never performed again. Or at least not given a fun little county-wide festival in Los Angeles.
          So goes the “reasoning” of the mental Fasolts and Fafnirs who tried to stop next year’s citywide 'Ring" Festival.
          Pardon me if I restate this, out of incredulity:
          An elected official in Los Angeles used the power of his office to combat the music of Wagner. In the 21st century.
          Just when you thought people could not possibly behave more inanely. . .I mean, burn any books lately, Mike? Mein Gott!




          Oh, but Antonovich should not be mocked. That’s too easy a sport. No, he must not be ridiculed for actually having introduced a (soundly defeated, thank Wotan) motion to change the “Ring” Festival into an inclusive celebration of various other composers instead---all because, as he wrote, Wagner was a “racist whose anti-Semitic writings were the inspiration for Hitler and the Holocaust," and his music a "de facto soundtrack for the Holocaust." Never mind that “various composers” did not write “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” Never mind that this is the first L.A. performance of the “Ring” in history. Never mind that Wagner died in 1883, six years before Hitler was born. Never mind that there was plenty of Germanic irritation with Jews to inspire Adolf before and after Wagner's daffy essays.
          No, let’s not mock Mike.
          Let’s just kick his ass out of office.
          I mean it: get rid of this joker. He deserves no less. Either that, or make him an honorary member of the Taliban, which has outlawed music. Or, more appropriately, make him an honorary Nazi. After all, Hitler’s brigade pretty well set the standard for censoring “degenerate” art and music, and Mike’s recent behavior is squarely in that tradition.
          Yes, it’s true that there are many asses that need to be kicked out of office right away, beginning with Menor Villaraigosa’s wandering little rumdadum, which is so popular with the chicas (it's in Iceland this week!). But I’m going to shock readers here and elevate Antonovich to the top of the local ass-kicking heap. And not merely because of the cretin-level fascism of his attempted censorship. . .
          But because he obviously let himself be put up to this by a heavy hitter.
          For sale: County Supervisor.
          Just who, I want to know, was the Loge whispering in Antonovich’s ear? I think it’s a very important question.
          You can imagine the conversation. . .
          “Y’know, Mr. Supervisor, uh. . .this Wagner thing, well, it really should be stopped. I think it’s the responsibility of my elected representative to oppose this anti-Semitic atrocity, and I can’t imagine that you would disagree, sir.”
          Or that’s the last donation/support you get from me or my many, many powerful friends in the ‘hood, Mikele.
          This is the salient matter here: who was behind this ploy? Who pulled the chump goyim’s strings? It’s a serious issue that an investigative reporter should be probing. But of course, that presumes the almost foregone conclusion that the person who put the anti-Wagner bug in Mike’s ear was Jewish, and, well, it’s a short hop from such investigative journalism to charges of anti-Semitism. These days, if you sneeze in front of a synagogue, it’s a short hop to charges of anti-Semitism.
          But that should not stop someone from digging into this thing and blowing the shofar, er, whistle. You think this is a trifling affair? A peccadillo? Let’s look at it objectively: an extremist with money and/or influence has manipulated an elected official to try to enact law to censor art in Los Angeles.
          Law to censor art. That ain’t chopped liver.
          In the end, you have to wonder which is more reprehensible: Antonovich’s irresponsibility in abusing the power of his office, his cowardice in the face of a probable implied threat, or his sheer stupidity. Did Mike know, for instance, that among the composers he (well, his puppetmaster) suggested for replacing Wagner were the two that Wagner most claimed to revile, Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn? See, Mike, this was somebody’s cheesey idea of payback.
           Even the relentlessly politically correct L.A. Times music critic, Mark Swed, has taken sides against the Supe. In his splendidly argued piece, "Mike Antonovich Vs. Wagner," Swed writes "I recommend Supervisor Antonovich perhaps educate himself about Wagner's operas. The downfall of Wotan is an object lesson for any politician who takes an indefensible position." Of course, Swed arguably bears some blame in this whole puerile business, having written the following wildly inflammatory and irresponsible passage in his Apr. 5, 2009 review of L.A. Opera's "Die Walkure:"
          "Wagner’s world is highly provocative, shockingly banal, morally offensive, emotionally transcendental, astonishingly wise and, when wrong-headed, dangerously so. Accept it all on face value, and you may want to keep company with Hitler." (The Rip Post addressed this ludicrous statement here.)  
           But let us return, for a moment, to the Founding Fathers analogy. That’s actually a terrible comparison, because what Wagner did is not in the same galaxy as buying, selling, and enslaving human beings. The Founding Fathers really did participate in the physical and spiritual degradation of men, women, children, and were complicit in mayhem, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, and who-knows-what. Wagner? He. . .wrote.
          And what he wrote is often laughable. Imagine, for instance, calling the elegant symphonies and beguiling ballets of Mendelssohn, “vulgar.” Well, Wagner's titanic ego regarded almost any music that was not Wagner’s as vulgar, so perhaps that’s no surprise (and not terribly convincing, given his early championing of Mendelssohn’s “St. Paul” oratorio, traces of which show up in “Lohengrin” and “Parsifal.”). Wagner’s poisonous anti-Jew rants would likely be regarded today as nothing but a sad, if not wacky, artifact of an era before the term, “anti-Semitism” existed, an era when such attitudes were fodder for parlor discussion and classism, were it not for. . .you guessed it. . .
          That petite genocidal maniac with bad flatulence and greasy hair. Hitler sang the “glories” of Aryan supremacy 40 or 50 years after Wagner was dead, Herr Supervisor! Of course, Adolf just loved Wagner’s anti-Jew essays, and Wagner’s music, and Wagner’s descendants loved Hitler, so as far as a lot of Jews are concerned, the fat lady has sung. Such an attitude is understandable, and such persons are free to never willingly listen to a Wagnerian note (although composer Arnold Schoenberg's grandson eloquently argues against this in a superb Jewish Journal piece.) To attempt to impose such will on the community, though, is no triumph of the human spirit. It is, really, as megalomaniacal as Wagner himself. Here, for illustration, are some of the downright operatic comments from people who had the temerity to testify in support of Antonovich’s motion, as reported by Mike Rudio of (the comments were strangely omitted from the L.A. Times coverage of the same meeting, which featured a denunciation of L.A. Opera (!) by lawyer Peter Gimpel):
          "One man claimed that the festival would indeed encourage tourists- like David Duke, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Louis Farrakhan, who would then successfully petition the City for a permit to hold a march down Fairfax to the tune of ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ while waving Nazi flags. Another claimed Wagner's anti-Semitic beliefs were explicit in his works. More than one claimed ‘the man and his music are the same and cannot be separated.’
          “Another said the front rows for (the final opera) ‘Gotterdammerung,’ would be filled with White Supremacists wearing Nazi armbands (at $2200 a seat I doubt that very much). It went on for about fifteen minutes, and even the now infamous Carrie Delmar showed up to spew more misinformation and lies, including the idea that Wagner was the ‘defacto soundtrack’ to the Holocaust and a Nazi supporter. How could that be, when Nazis didn't even exist when Wagner was composing the Ring?”

          While no one knows what Wagner would have made of Hitler, one looks to the unearthly, almost deranged beauty of Wagner’s operas, and finds plots that extol. . .love. Time after time. Yes, there are probable caricatures of Jews, notably the “Ring’s” Alberich and in Die Meistersinger, but caricatures of Jews (and most racial/ethnic/cultural groups) are not exactly scarce in literature and theater, from Shakespeare to the Catskills, from “Seinfeld” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Love the episode where Larry David is whistling Wagner outside a theater, only to be confronted by a stranger who yells that David must therefore be a "self-hating Jew!")
          More important, though, the lessons of the four “Ring” operas do not exactly support Teutonic superiority, or fascism. The race of gods, it should be remembered, is undone by the double and triple-dealing of its king, Wotan, whose authoritarianism is undercut by his own folly, deceit, greed, and tangled emotions. A possible moral of the operas (written by Wagner), if there is one:
          Authoritarianism and notions of race/class superiority don't pay!
          Then we have the would-be Aryan hero of the saga, Siegfried---he who “knows no fear," and not too much else, for that matter. Siggy is tripped up by his colossally naive, stumblebum, if not brain-damaged behavior. (Small wonder he is the offspring of a brother and sister!) He’s a well-intentioned doofus, more a Spike Jones “sewper-dewper Superman” than a Nietzshcian one.
          What’s more, the “Ring” operas, Mr. Sewper-Dupervisor, venerate those who defy authority, who defy fascist regimes, who “do what’s right” in the name of love and loyalty, damn the consequences. I speak, of course, of the “Ring’s” central character and heroine, Brunhilde, whose courage and sacrifice proves the gods’---and Valhalla’s---demise. Soundtrack for the Holocaust?
          One wonders how Adolf missed these points, really. Or perhaps not. Does  Antonovich know that Hitler also revered the music of, um, Beethoven? Right, especially the 9th symphony and its message of universal brotherhood, “Alle Menschen werden Bruder.” Adolf had it performed for the hierarchy of the Nazi party as a little, you know, inspiration. Perhaps Mike’s next motion should be to ban the fiendish 9th---also part of the “de facto soundtrack of the Holocaust.” And let's not even get into the other Hitler-approved composer, poor Wagner-worshipping Anton Bruckner.
          Now, one can dig around in this Wagner/anti-Semite can of snakes to one’s heart's content, or breakage, but there is one aspect of Antonovich’s absurdity that is unambiguously ugly. When the supervisor’s enlightened colleague, Zev Yaroslovsky, called Mad Mike’s little motion a grave insult to L.A. Opera, he wasn’t just whistlin’ Rienzi. I refer to this “minor detail:”
          L.A. Opera Music Director James Conlon has made it his cause, and L.A. Opera’s continuing project, to premiere a number of operas suppressed by Hitler---or thought lost forever---because their composers were Jews. . .
          Who, in some cases, died in Hitler’s death camps.
          That’s correct. L.A. Opera has of late championed the works of Jewish composers whose careers, or in some cases, lives, were destroyed by Nazis. Conlon’s “Recovered Voices” project has in the past two years premiered, among other works, “Der Zerbrochene Krug” (“The Broken Jug”), by Viktor Ullmann, who died at Auschwitz, and “Die Vogel,” by Walter Braunfels, whose work was declared “degenerate,” and who died in exile in 1954. Works by Braunfels, Ernst Krenek, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Zemlinksy, and others repressed by Hitler and the Holocaust are being revived by L.A. Opera, and the L.A. Philharmonic (plus other orchestras) under Conlon’s guidance. It's an extraordinary undertaking.
          Did Antonovich know this? If he did, how could he have allowed himself to be so used, so exploited, by person or persons driven by such hatred, ignorance. . .insanity? Mike’s motion was not just an insult to L.A. Opera, as Yaroslavsky said. It was an insult to the Jewish community of Los Angeles, if not all Jews---and certainly to any thinking person who loves music. To bring such unwarranted controversy---to in effect taint L.A. Opera with the suggestion of anti-Semitism, which is exactly what Antonovich implicitly did---is absolutely despicable.
          Add to this the fact that L.A. Opera is, as is nearly every major opera company, fighting for its life---while at the same time bringing about the incredibly ambitious (if artistically disastrous, in my view), monumentally expensive, first-ever “Ring” production in L.A. history---and it is beyond forgiveness. 
          Let us hope that Antonovich’s spineless, repugnant actions prove his Gotterdamerung as a County Supervisor.

Further reading:
THE MONSTER, by Deems Taylor
Why Wagner's Music Deserves a Second Chance, by E. Randal Schoenberg
Mike Antonovich Vs. Wagner, by Mark Swed
L.A. 'Ring' Circus, by Tim Rutten
New Wagner Staging Would Make Hitler "Turn in Grave"
Barenboim Conducts Wagner in Israel
Reviews and commentaries of L.A. Opera's controversial staging of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

Val-hell-a  (Feb. 25, 2009)
Rense reviews "Das Rheingold," the first in the series of four operas.
The Lonely Booer  (Apr. 8, 2009)
Rense reviews "Die Walkure," the second in the "Ring" cycle. Also, Rense reacts to L.A.Times music critic Mark Swed noting the presence of a "lonely booer" letting loose at the sight of director Achim Freyer. The "lonely booer" was. . .Rense.
A Boo For Swed (Apr. 8, 2009)
Rense comments in sidebar on Swed's assertion that listening to Wagner might make you "want to keep company with Hitler."
The Lonely Booer 2  (May 1, 2009)
L.A. Times music critic Mark Swed boos back at Rense, and Rense responds.
Southland Uber Alles  (July 29, 2009)
Rense comments on L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's motion to quash a citywide "Ring" Festival on the basis that Wagner was an anti-Semite.
Siggy Stardust (Oct. 5, 2009)
Rense Reviews L.A. Opera's "Siegfried."
Rense Rebuts L.A. Times's Mark Swed on "Siegfried" (Oct. 5, 2009)
Rense counters Swed's cheerleading for absurd Achim Freyer production.

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