Factbox: Wagner still controversial in Israel

(Reuters) - The following are some details about the controversy in Israel surrounding Wagner’s music:

* BACKGROUND: - Israel has unofficially banned Richard Wagner’s music for decades. For many, especially Holocaust survivors, his works carry echoes of Nazi Germany’s slaughter of six million Jews during World War Two.

- Hitler’s theories of racial purity and exterminating Jews were partly drawn from Wagner’s anti-Semitic writings.

- The ban on Wagner predates Israel’s creation in 1948. The Israel Philharmonic under its former name, the Palestine Orchestra, imposed it in 1938 following Nazi attacks on Jews in Germany.

- The Berlin Philharmonic was also barred from Israel because its legendary conductor for more than three decades, Herbert von Karajan, was a Nazi party member. However, it came to Israel under conductor Daniel Barenboim in 1990. Karajan died in 1989.


- In July 2011, the Israel Chamber Orchestra played a special orchestral concert in Bayreuth, the Bavarian town that holds an annual festival dedicated to Wagner’s operas. The orchestra was praised in Germany and the event was met with only muted protest in Israel, an indication that opposition to the composer has faded over time, as a growing proportion of the population pays less attention to classical music.

- In 2001 Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Israel Philharmonic, condemned a call by Israeli lawmakers to ban performances by maestro Daniel Barenboim over a performance of a work by Richard Wagner.

- Barenboim, an Argentina-born Israeli, told his audience at the July 2001 concert he would play a piece from Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde” and said those who objected should leave. Several dozen, some shouting “Fascist” and “Go home,” slammed doors as they walked out of the concert by the visiting Berlin Staatskapelle in Jerusalem.

- In 2000, Israel’s Rishon Lezion orchestra broke the taboo against Wagner. The orchestra, conducted by Holocaust survivor Mendi Rodan, played Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll.”

- In 1998, Israel’s Tel Aviv opera company shelved plans to perform a Wagner aria after dozens protested.

- In 1953 on a tour to Israel, revered violinist Jascha Heifetz was attacked by a man with an iron bar after playing a violin sonata by Richard Strauss, who had been head of the State Music Bureau for several years under the Third Reich but whom it was later revealed, detested the Nazis and conformed to help protect his Jewish daughter-in-law and Jewish grandchildren.

- Strauss’s music is no longer unofficially banned in Israel and is performed regularly and heard on the airwaves.

Writing by David Cutler and Ori Lewis; Editing by Dan Grebler