LETTER:Sizing up Wagner

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From Mr Humphrey Burton

Sir: Keith Warner and Lionel Friend ("Lieber Herr Wagner", 13 April) are right to protest the one-sidedness of Channel 4's recent Wagnermania, but wrong to suggest that Wagner's ideas are "too exacting, too complex" for the medium of television to handle.

Back in 1982, when BBC2 transmitted the Bayreuth centenary Ring as a sort of celestial soap opera, each of the 10 episodes was prefaced by a 15-minute essay on different aspects of Wagner's art. The issue of his anti-semitism wasn't shirked, although I pointed out that the influence on Hitler's thinking had perhaps been exaggerated - you won't find "Wagner" in the index to Mein Kampf.

I'm sure we gave a more faithful account of the composer's emotional ups and downs than the weird goings-on to be witnessed last Sunday in Channel 4's Wagner's Women. Instead of the drama we'd been promised by the hype, we got underwater sex to the music of Tristan, preceded by a dissertation on the size of the Master's sexual organ, given by that less than perfect Wagnerite, Ken Russell.

O tempora! O mores!

Yours faithfully,


London, W14

18 April