By coincidence, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the births, in 1813, of two of the greatest of all opera composers: the German, Richard Wagner, and the Italian, Giuseppe Verdi. Only Mozart belongs in their select circle.
In many ways, Wagner and Verdi were markedly different. Wagner has been called a “racist ass” by Leon Botstein, a music authority, orchestra conductor, and president of Bard College. William Berger writes, in “Wagner Without Fear,” “Wagner was intensely and obsessively anti-Semitic, growing more so as the years passed until it appeared to be almost the only thing he thought about.”