Bryan Magee wrote:I sometimes think there are two Wagners in our culture, almost unrecognizably different from one another: the Wagner possessed by those who know his work, and the Wagner imagined by those who know him only by name and reputation.
Well, there's plenty of controversy over just how far Wagner's anti-Semitism extended beyond the pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik,
as well as whether it is indeed racist, or sympathetic, since fundamentally it is only expressing a desire for integration. It's unlikely that he was anything accused of him, since he maintained such a high number of Jewish friends that he would have made a Nazi 50 years later be ashamed to have known him.
On the topic of Jubus, ironically enough, the "Buddhist-esque" Parsifal was conducted on it's opening night by Hermann Levi, a long time Jewish friend of Wagner. Jubus in general, I would also assume, are the type of people who are pretty much as far from what Wagner was describing in his essay as possible. Regardless, many of the most prolific Wagner composers, such as James Levine, today, are Jewish, and plenty of people are able to appreciate Wagner by actually listening to his music and reading what he wrote, understanding it in context, and not being turned off initially by his reputation - I for instance, while not Jewish, have some distant Jewish heritage, and initially was turned off by his reputation until I actually set aside my doubts and read and listened about him.
So why is Wagner viewed in the way you describe? 1. Because he's German, and members of the Cult of Churchill (most Anglophones) view all Germans as somewhat suspicious, 2. Because he (like Beethoven and Mozart) was used to assert German identity by the Nazi regime, 3. Because after WWII in 1947-50 Theodore Adorno wrote a number of popular essays on Wagner and Nietzsche to argue that they express fascist traits and the "authoritarian personality" that led to Nazis, a psuedo-psychological theory that Zimbardo has thoroughly refuted:
As to the question of whether Wagner would have been controversial today for his views, as he wasn't really in his own day, just replace sentiments expressed in regards to Judaism in the pamphlet with sentiments in regards to Americanism. Stephen Fry and Philip Hensher make this analogy in the following video, at about 1:40:00:
Hensher: There's so much to talk about with Wagner, the fact that we argue about him is just a sign of his intrinsic vastness. For instance, Wagner wasn't the only anti-Semite of the 19th Century, Schumann wrote appallingly of them through his life, he wrote, "Jews are always like that, don't pay any attention." Chopan was absolutely beastly about his Jewish publishers. We don't really care about their anti-Semitism.
Lebrecht: None of them said that the Jews should be excluded from the arts.
Fry:If I wrote an essay today, talking about the pernicious influence of American culture on the world, on the Coca-colaization of everything, and Starbucks, that makes everything uniform and homogeneous, that crushes down individual identities of nations, people would say "Oh he's very anti-American, Stephen." That wouldn't mean anything but if 50 years after I died, literally 50 years after I died, there came a leader of a people who rounded up there 10 years later all Americans that he could and gassed them, then people would look back on my essay on Anti-Americanism and say "That Stephen Fry, he was one of those Anti-Americans." It has a very different meaning, Anti-Semitism, cultural Anti-Semitism, of the 19th century, if you look through the black tunnel of the post-Shoah world.
That'll be my comment on the issue, which is really out dated and coming to be understood as it is: nonsense. It's not the topic of discussion, and I'd like to know your actual thoughts on it if you have read the article.