Proms 2013: Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim defends performance of anti-Semitic Wagner's Ring cycle

'It is Wagner's greatest misfortune that he became Hitler's favourite composer', says Israeli conductor

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The Independent Culture

Renowned Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim has defended his upcoming performance of the Ring cycle by Wagner, a composer known for his anti-Semitic views.

The Argentine-Israeli will perform the cycle in its entirety at this summer's Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, which is his first Wagner opera in the UK.

Speaking to the Radio Times about performing music by Hitler's favourite composer, he said: "First of all, one has to say Wagner's anti-Semitism is abhorrent, beyond anything that is acceptable.

"He was a German nationalist in the second half of the 19th century. All nationalists at this time - in England, France, Germany, Russia - were anti-Semitic. It was not unusual.

The 70-year-old, who lived in Israel from the age of ten after his family moved from Argentina, added: "Hitler saw in him - and in his anti-Semitism - a prophet and it is Wagner's greatest misfortune that he became Hitler's favourite composer. That was not Wagner's fault. And the operas are not anti-Semitic.

"They don't deal with the anti-Semitic questions. If they did, I don't think I would be able to perform them."