Good Art by Bad People - Background Reading for Wagner at Pacific Opera Victoria

Pacific Opera Victoria will present Richard Wagner’s five-hour epic opera Die Walküre in October 2023. Although the music transcends, approaching Wagner in 2023 means reckoning with Wagner's influentially anti-Semetic views and the legacy that they have had.

This list offers some strategies for engaging with and loving art that has been created by problematic and challenging creators.

Updated September 27, 2023
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Black paper writing in a dark time
Cole, Teju 
A profound book of essays from a celebrated master of the form. "Darkness is not empty," writes Teju Cole in Black Paper, a book that meditates on what it means to sustain our humanity--and witness the humanity of others--in a time of darkness. One of the...
Fallen idols : twelve statues that made history
Von Tunzelmann, Alex
An Economist Best Book of the Year In this timely and lively look at the act of toppling monuments, the popular historian and author of Blood and Sand explores the vital question of how a society remembers--and confronts--the past. In 2020, history came tumbling down. From the US...
Monsters a fan's dilemma
Dederer, Claire, 1967- author. 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK * NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A timely, passionate, provocative, blisteringly smart interrogation of how we make and experience art in the age of cancel culture, and of the link between genius and monstrosity. Can we love the work of controversial classic and...
The sorcerer of Bayreuth : Richard Wagner, his work and his world
Millington, Barry.
The power of Wagner's music to enchant, to cast a spell, to transport the listener to states of hedonistic delight, has often been remarked - sometimes appreciatively and sometimes not. Indeed, no other composer arouses such fiercely divergent responses as Richard Wagner. For Baudelaire, Wagner's...
Takedown art and power in the digital age
Nayeri, Farah 
Farah Nayeri addresses the difficult questions plaguing the art world, from the bad habits of Old Masters, to the current grappling with identity politics. For centuries, art censorship has been a top-down phenomenon--kings, popes, and one-party states decided what was considered...
Wagnerism art and politics in the shadow of music
Ross, Alex, 1968- author. 
For better or worse, Richard Wagner is the most widely influential figure in the history of music. Around 1900, the phenomenon known as Wagnerism saturated European and American culture. Such colossal creations as The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were models of formal...

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