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Wagner Dispute In Israel

Conductor Daniel Barenboim is reluctant to change his plans to perform an opera by Richard Wagner at a Jerusalem festival despite antagonism from the Israeli parliament.

Israeli performances of works by the German composer are often accompanied by protest from Holocaust survivors and others who say he promoted anti-Semitism.

A letter was sent to Barenboim last week from festival officials, asking him to reconsider his programme.

However, Barenboim- who was born in Argentina but brought up in Israel, said it was up to those officials to order the change or cancel the July performance of Die Walkuere at the Festival of Israel in July.

"They are the ones who invited us to the festival and asked us to play Wagner," Barenboim told the Chicago Tribune.

Adolf Hitler was a great admirer of Wagner, and the composer's music was played at many Nazi rallies.

Israel is home to over 300,000 survivors of the Nazi holocaust.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner, best known for his grand-scale operas The Ring Cycle, Tristan and Isolde and Lohengrin, was born in Leipzig on 22 May 1813 and died in Venice of a heart attack in 1883. He did provide anti-Semitic inspiration for the Nazis, for whom he was a cultural icon.

Barenboim said he could understand the feelings of those who felt uncomfortable with Wagner's music, but argues that his music is too important to be ignored.

"The last thing I want is to hurt anybody's feelings who has been through such terrible times," he said.

"I didn't want anybody who felt unable to hear this music because of the association [with Nazism] to be confronted with it.

"But people who don't have the association should be able to hear it."

Last year the Israel Symphony Orchestra played its first performance of Wagner. That concert was conducted by Mendi Rodan, himself a Holocaust survivor, but was disturbed by a noisy protest from a man whose family died in concentration camps.

All Previous attempts to perform Wagner in Israel have been unsuccessful.

Barenboim said he expected a decision to be made on whether the performance will go ahead in the next week.