The Metropolitan Opera has recently sent two of its biggest stars down the wormhole – James Levine and Placido Domingo. Before we get to the big enchilada, the subject of this piece, there are lesser players whose memory must be erased. Enrico Caruso, he was a fanny picher and was arrested and fined for the offense. Ezio Pinza, his backstage antics are too painful to recount here. Arturo Toscanini, he slept with a lot his leading ladies – clearly an abuse of his powerful status. All have to go. I’m sure the diligent reader can find other musical miscreants to add to the canceled list.
But nobody operatic is in the same league as the bigot of Bayreuth. He was a serial adulterer. He seduced and appropriated the wife of one of his biggest disciples – Cosima, also a bigot. But his worst crime was anti-semitism. It was such a large part of his persona that it fertilized the German soil that grew Hitler and Nazism. His hatred for Jews did not stop him from using them when they could help his career. Meyerbeer befriended him only to be dropped like broken elevator when he could no longer be of use. Hermann Levi conducted the first performance of Parsifal. Wagner wanted him baptized before the premiere but was talked out of it by the Bavarian King Ludwig II.
The usual excuse for Wagner’s prejudice is that one must separate the man from his art. That worked for more than a century, but it won’t pass muster today. Washington and Jefferson are no longer allowed such separation. That the former was the indispensable man in the forging of the United States is canceled because he owned slaves. Jefferson wrote the soaring phrases of the Declaration of Independence, but he too owned slaves. Both are canceled, gone, omitted, defunct, erased, kaput, defenestrated, air brushed, destatuated, dememoralized, banished, defaced, painted over, branded, flushed, removed from the historical record, and generally maligned with anything handy.
Thus, it must be obvious to even the most unwoke observer that the Met is obligated to remove all Wagner’s operas from its repertory. Also, the photos, statues, and other memorabilia related to him and his music must go. The Met board in solidarity with right thinking (oops sorry, correct thinking) people everywhere should announce the departure of every note from its Lincoln Center palace.
Until they do so, opera goers should boycott all performance by the company. Well, they should if there were any to disavow. Until the company acts, the plaza in front of the house should separate from Lincoln Center and become a People’s Wagner Free Independent borough. They should get free medical care, and free and unlimited admission to the Juilliard School which also is in the complex. The school and the other institutions in center should likewise forswear Wagner. Reparations should be paid, but I’m not sure to whom.
This prompt action by the Met will likely spread to the rest of the country and the world. The goal is to make the planet Wagner-rein. To make up for the company’s thousands of Wagner performances over the past 137 years the orchestra should take a knee each time it plays either of the two preludes to La Traviata. To further atone for past musical malfeasance Peter Gelb and his successors as the Met’s general manager should be compelled to attend Yom Kippur services every year. Finally all food served in the house should be kosher.