(Adds exchange with orchestra boss, edits)
* Protester halts discussion on Hitler's favourite composer
* Performances of Wagner unofficially banned in Israel
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM, Dec 18 A man stormed the stage at a
Jerusalem symposium on composer Richard Wagner and hurled
insults at the audience in a protest over the German maestro's
associations with the Nazis.
Ushers at Tuesday's event struggled to restrain the strongly
built protester, a man in his late 30s who gave his name as Ran
Carmi. Ignoring shouted demands to leave the stage, he sang the
Israel national anthem and yelled abuse, referring to at least
one usher as a "Nazi collaborator".
Wagner was Adolf Hitler's favourite composer and his music
is hardly ever performed in Israel, where for many it revives
memories of the Holocaust.
Yair Stern, director general of the Jerusalem Symphony
Orchestra, tried to calm the intruder, but was met with insults.
"You defile the memory of your father, who was murdered so I
could speak here today," Carmi said.
Stern's father, Avraham, was a right-wing Jewish underground
leader who was shot dead by British police officers in pre-state
Palestine in 1942 when it was under the administration of the
The small audience of some 70 people eventually abandoned
the Henry Crown Symphony Hall, leaving Carmi facing 765 empty
seats until police arrived and removed him through a side
The discussion was to mark the 200th anniversary of the
birth of Wagner, whose anti-Semitic ideology was shared by
Hitler and his National Socialist followers.
A commemorative concert was to have taken place on Wednesday
but was cancelled earlier because of bad weather. Because of the
unofficial ban on Wagner's music, it would have featured works
by composers who inspired or were influenced by him, including
Beethoven, Weber, Debussy and Chausson.
The concert was called off because it was unable to complete
rehearsals due to a heavy weekend snowstorm and poor ticket
sales, Stern said.
'ACT OF THUGGERY'
Michael Wolpe, an Israeli composer and a panellist at the
symposium, said Carmi had carried out an act of thuggery by
trying to silence a learned discussion. He likened it to
Wagner's own behaviour.
"What this thug did to us today is what Wagner did to
(Giacomo) Meyerbeer with total success, wiping out any memory of
his existence," Wolpe said.
Wagner was known to despise Meyerbeer, a Jewish-born German
contemporary who wrote a number of grand operas that are today
far less well known that Wagner's own works.
The orchestra's French conductor and music director,
Frederic Chaslin, said the discussion and the concert were not
intended as a celebration of Wagner, but a chance to air the
problematic history of the composer.
"If we ignore the fact that Wagner (was born) 200 years ago,
we ignore a big problem that is part of this society," Chaslin
Stern said the concert probably would not be rescheduled
because only a few tickets were sold.
"Had we played Wagner, I'm sure that the auditorium would
have been over-booked," he said. "I don't think we will hold
another concert of this type in the near future."
(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)