When I first started writing for this blog a few years ago, one of my first assignments was to explore the relationship between the product of the artist and the person of the artist. In other words, how much should we allow the person to influence our interpretation of the art?
I don't know that it was particularly apparent at the time, but the impetus for this was, of course, Mel Gibson's drunken tirade when he was pulled over by the police. Was Mel an anti-Semite, and if so, did this discredit his work, particularly The Passion of the Christ? My feeling was that it did not, but rather than address the question directly I chose to do so by looking at two of the most controversial artists of our time: Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Wagner.
The Riefenstahl piece was rather good, if I do say so myself, but I never really got around to addressing Wagner to the extent I wanted, save this piece which was inspired by Fr. Owen Lee's book Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art. And now I find that there's barely enough time for me to write anything, and still there's so much to be said. What to do, what to do?
Enter the indespensible Opera Chic, only the coolest, hippest opera blogger around, who presents us with this wonderful documentary by the actor, comedian and author Stephen Fry. And Fry, a Jewish homosexual, would have every reason to resent Wagner. Indeed, although Fry adores the music of Wagner, he acknowledges that Hitler and Nazism have indelibly stained him. There's no getting around it. For some, that will prove to be too much to allow them to appreciate Wagner's artistry. For others, "it is just something you have to face up to." And that is what he does, in this maginificent program. Really, is there anything more that I can bother to add?