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Wagner at 200

Wednesday, 22 May, 2013

The prodigiously talented and deeply unpleasant Richard Wagner will be celebrated today, the 200th anniversary of his birth, around the musical world and especially in his native Germany, with a torrent of tributes. Along with his legendary operas, Wagner wrote a hate-filled treatise called Das Judenthum in der Musik in which he held that Jewish speech had the character of an “intolerably jumbled blabber” incapable of expressing true passion. This, he claimed, prevented Jews from creating song or music.

“The Ride of the Valkyries” marks the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four Wagner operas that comprise his epic Der Ring des Nibelungen. The theme was used memorably in Apocalypse Now, where the US 1/9 Air Cavalry regiment plays the music on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during its assault on a Vietnamese village.


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