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Siegfried: Page 486
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own operas, and, most importantly, that Wagner felt he had to purge any Meyerbeerian traits from his own artwork if his mature self was to be born:

“Meyerbeer is a special case, as far as I am concerned: it is not that I hate him, but that I find him infinitely repugnant. This perpetually kind and obliging man reminds me of the darkest -- I might almost say the most wicked – period of my life, when he still made a show of protecting me; it was a period of connections and back-staircases, when we were treated like fools by patrons whom we inwardly deeply despised. That is a relationship of the most utter dishonesty: neither party is sincere in its dealings with the other; each assumes an air of devotion, but they use each other only so long as it profits them to do so. I do not reproach Meyerbeer in the least for the intentional ineffectiveness of his kindness towards me, on the contrary, I am glad that I am not as deeply in his debt as Berlioz, for ex. But it was time for me to break away completely from so dishonest a relationship: superficially, I did not have the least occasion for doing so, for even the discovery that he was playing me false could not surprise me or, indeed, justify my action, since it was basically I who had to reproach myself for having wilfully allowed myself to be deceived concerning him. No, it was for more deep-seated reasons that I felt the need to abandon all the usual considerations of common sense in my dealings with him: I cannot exist as an artist in my own eyes or in those of my friends, I cannot think or feel anything without sensing in Meyerbeer my total antithesis, a contrast I am driven loudly to proclaim by the genuine despair that I feel whenever I encounter, even among many of my friends, the mistaken view that I have something in common with Meyerbeer. With all that I want and feel, I cannot appear before any of these friends with the requisite pureness and clarity until such time as I distance myself completely from this vague image with which so many people still associate me. This is a necessary act if my mature self is to be fully born, and – if God wills it – I think I shall have been of service to many another person in having performed this act with such zeal!“ [556W-{4/18/51}Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 222]

I do not cite this highly personal passage as an example of how Wagner’s art was a reflection of his actual life. It ought to be seen, rather, as an example of how Wagner interpreted his life in terms of his art. Though Meyerbeer was Jewish, Wagner might have said the same of any highly regarded and well-compensated conventional artist of the period whose art he felt beneath him, but whose forms he had previously imitated during his apprenticeship. There are some scholars who trace his anti-Semitism to his false accusations against Meyerbeer, but to me this seems unlikely. Wagner’s anti-Semitism was not only deeper and more obsessive than could ever be rationalized by one particular bad experience, but also of course owed a great deal to his cultural context. Wagner must have been played false by dozens of people in his lifetime, both Gentile and Jew, and also openly admitted drawing helpful influence from the artworks of many artists, whose overall significance for the history of art Wagner doubted. One such case which comes to mind is Bellini. Furthermore, Wagner had great respect for the operas of Halevy, Jewish like Meyerbeer. In any case, one can see here a source of inspiration for Wagner’s remarks, quoted earlier, about the distinction between the mime and the interpretive artist, and the fact that all artists must go through a period as imitators of what they admire, before they grow fully confident of their own unique abilities.

In Wagner’s following observations concerning what he regards as a specifically Jewish nature, by which he means philistinism in general (a quality found among many individuals of all races, as

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