Fry: 'My love of Wagner is tearing me apart'

Stephen Fry is to discuss his complex feelings towards the composer on BBC4, writes Ian Burrell

Stephen Fry, the grandson of Jewish immigrants, has made a documentary for the BBC on his life-long passion for Wagner, the composer whose music is most closely associated with Nazism.

During the making of the film Fry visited the site of the Nazi Nuremburg rallies, at which a performance of Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, was the traditional opening for the annual event. "I've always loved music. I've always been hopeless at performing it, couldn't really play an instrument, and certainly can't sing, but it has made me do things inside, it has released forces within me – and no music has done it like Wagner's," said Fry, who grew up in Norfolk and was introduced to the composer's music by his father when he was 10 years old. The actor and comedian had relatives who died at Auschwitz, something he discusses in the BBC Four programme Stephen Fry on Wagner.

Richard Wagner died in 1883 but his music was appropriated by the Nazis and used an introduction to speeches by Hitler, who regarded him as "the Master". In spite of Fry's love for the composer's work, he acknowledges that the music has been tarnished by its association with Nazism. "Imagine a great beautiful silk tapestry of infinite colour and complexity that has been stained indelibly. It's still a beautiful tapestry of miraculous workmanship, but that stain is real, and I'm afraid Hitler and Nazism have stained Wagner. For some people that stain ruins the whole work; for others, it's just something you have to face up to."

The documentary forms part of the spring-summer season on BBC Four, which also includes Opera Italia, a programme in which Antonio Pappano, the ebullient music director of the Royal Opera, traces the role that the art form has played in Italian cultural life.

The season also includes a biopic of John Lennon that has Christopher Eccleston in the starring role and charts the life of the Beatle during the years 1967 to 1971 when he left Britain for America and met Yoko Ono.

In another drama project for the BBC Four season, the corporation finds itself in the unusual situation of making a programme about ITV's most successful show, Coronation Street. The drama is named Florizel Street in memory of the soap's original title (dropped because some of the cast found it difficult to pronounce). It tells the story of writer Tony Warren's battle to bring to the screen the stories based on characters that he knew in his youth. The drama is part of a series of programmes under the banner the Great Northern Season, exploring the influence of the north of England on British culture in the post-war years.

The channel also makes a rare foray into the sci-fi genre with Mark Gatissappearing as an Edwardian professor in an adaptation of H G Wells's 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas