25 September 2013 – February 2014 (the exact end date will be announced later)
The year 2013 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, one of the most controversial personalities of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. His essay ‘Judaism in Music’ (1850 and 1869), his operas, and many other statements established Wagner as one of the most out-and-out anti-Semitic figures within the German bourgeoisie. At the same time his musical creativity, the idea of the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (total work of art), and the cult of genius meant that he had an enormous influence on his time and on subsequent generations. The Jewish Museum Vienna focuses in its exhibition on this wide-ranging and contradictory phenomenon, with special reference to Vienna, which became a center of the Wagner cult very early on. There were a lot of Jewish Wagnerians, but his most sarcastic critic, the renowned feature writer Daniel Spitzer, also lived and published in Vienna. Wagner’s work inspired non-Jewish artists and intellectuals as well as declared anti-Semites and – naively ignoring or reinterpreting the anti-Semitic messages – influential Jewish intellectuals like Theodor Herzl or Otto Weininger. Taking this adoration of the composer, which was soon to prove to be a trap, as the starting point, the exhibition looks at anti-Semitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and at Wagner’s impact on the art and culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna and – beyond that – on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. It also considers attitudes to Wagner today in Europe, the USA, and Israel.