Crazed protester disrupts Wagner symposium

A crazed Israeli protester, angered that a symposium was focused on Richard Wagner, Adolf Hitler's favourite composer, disrupted a public discussion at a Jerusalem concert hall before police removed him.

The event, and a planned concert on Wednesday (local time) which was cancelled earlier because of bad weather, aimed to mark the 200th year of the birth of Wagner, whose anti-Semitic ideology inspired Hitler's National Socialist ethos.

Wagner's music is unofficially banned in Israel and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra was not going to play any of his works on Wednesday. But the concert was called off because it was unable to complete rehearsals due to a heavy weekend snowstorm and poor ticket sales, an orchestra official said.

Wagner has for decades raised the ire of some Israelis and Holocaust survivors, who say his works carry echoes of Nazi Germany's slaughter of six million Jews during World War 2.

In getting around the unofficial ban on playing Wagner in Israel, the concert was to have included works by composers who influenced the German composer or were influenced by him, among them Beethoven, Weber, Debussy and Chausson.

Ushers struggled to restrain the protester, who gave his name as Ran Carmi, a strongly built man in his late 30s. He stormed the stage, sang the Israeli national anthem and then stayed put as audience members shouted at him to leave.

He referred to at least one usher as a "Nazi collaborator" and hurled abuse at those in attendance.

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 entrance.

After calm was restored, panel member Michael Wolpe, an Israeli composer, 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.

NOT A CELEBRATION

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 were a good opportunity to air the problematic history of the composer.

"I didn't want to celebrate his birthday, that was not the idea ... (but) the Jewish spirit to study a problem, not to ignore it ... so if we ignore the fact that Wagner (was born) 200 years ago, we ignore a big problem that is part of this society," Chaslin told Reuters.

The orchestra's director general, Yair Stern, said the concert probably would not be rescheduled because only a few tickets were sold. But he said he thought there would have been huge demand had Wagner's music been on the programme.

"Had we played Wagner, I'm sure that the auditorium would have been over-booked. But since (the concert was) around Wagner ... I don't think we will hold another concert of this type in the near future," Stern said.

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