So today's the big day when the LA Board of Supervisors is going to vote on Mike Antonovich's ridiculous proposal that the long-planned LA Ring Festival changes its focus away from Richard Wagner and his music to less controversial composers such as Puccini and Mozart (see previous posts for the details if you're just tuning in). Some folks object the to hype, others to the man and what his music have come to represent through its association with the Third Reich. Antonovich essentially wants to make it an "opera festival," though what that would look like and how to plan it at this late date, never mind the fact that LA Opera is going to simultaneously be staging its first complete Ring cycle, is a detail to be worked out later, I guess.
From what I've been reading online, the consensus of most bloggers and critics thinks this idea is foolish or just plain wrong on many levels. Although I'm well aware of the slippery slope which lurks treacherously in the background when one chooses to juxtapose Hitler, anti-Semitism, Wagner and the legacy of the Holocaust with the view of the online "majority," in this case I have to call out the squeamish and say to them, with all due respect, "get over it."
In the last year "The Producers" made it's debut in Berlin. Talk about a conflicted audience response. Yet how interesting it would have been to be in that audience and feel the reaction- to feel the tension of, Is this going to be funny? Can we actually give ourselves permission to laugh at this? Is our culture ready for this?
In LA, in the entire U.S., we don't have these qualms. We have Henry Ford, we have Lindbergh, we have FDR's internment camps. Yet no one lodges campaigns against the Ford Motor Company, Lindbergh is largely thought of in a heroic sense (justified or not) and the camps are not the first thing most people think of when FDR is brought up. Our own culture and history has many more such examples we could debate forever, but to what end?
So let the festival go on as originally planned. It will provide plenty of opportunity for people to discuss Wagner's anti-Semitism, and also give them the chance to delve into what is one of the Western world's most significant and impressive artistic achievements. It will draw people from all over and it will be a boon to the LA arts and academic communities. I'm all for it- and the conversations it will start. Hopefully the Board will get this one right and vote against this.
Below is the motion to be voted on today:
MOTION BY SUPERVISOR MICHAEL D. ANTONOVICH JULY 21, 2009
Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming Ring Festival LA, which celebrates the work of composer Richard Wagner, a racist whose anti-Semitic writings were the inspiration for Hitler and the holocaust, is an affront to those who have suffered or have been impacted by the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialistic Worker Party.
To provide balance, historical perspective and a true sampling of operatic and musical talent, the LA Opera should reevaluate and rearrange the festival’s programming to delete the focus on Wagner and incorporate other composers as headliners including Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Schubert, Schumann, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn and others.
I, THEREFORE, MOVE, that the Board of Supervisors direct the County’s Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter to the Marc I. Stern, Chief Executive Officer of the LA Opera and members of the Board of Directors requesting that the Festival shift the focus from honoring Wagner to featuring other composers as headliners.