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Music for Peace

DW staff (kjb)March 15, 2008

Daniel Barenboim's Israeli-Palestinian orchestra is set to perform a Wagner opera in a former Nazi venue in Berlin. The proceeds will go towards building a concert hall in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

Daniel Barenboim
Maestro Barenboim has shown that music can break down cultural barriersImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Berlin's Waldbuehne open-air theater, built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympic Games, will host the historic performance by Barenboim's West-East Divan Orchestra on Aug. 23, organizers announced this week.

The first act of Richard Wagner's "Walkuere" opera headlines the program. Wagner (1813-1883), known to have been anti-Semitic himself, was a favorite composer of Adolf Hitler.

Barenboim, one of the world's most renowned conductors and pianists, will also perform Mozart's Concerto for Three Pianos, together with his students Yael Kareth and Karim Said.

Tangible gesture of peace

Poster from 1926 showing a painting of the Waldbuehne theater
The open-air Waldbuehne theater was built fort the 1936 Olympic GamesImage: picture-alliance / akg-images

A new concert hall in Ramallah in the West Bank would do a lot to improve the daily lives of the people there, said Barenboim. "Political negotiations are important, but everyday life is even more important."

Following a concert in Ramallah earlier this year, Barenboim accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship, saying that it "symbolizes the everlasting bond between the Israeli and Palestinian people."

Barenboim was born in 1942 in Argentina as the son of Russian Jews and also holds an Israeli passport. Together with his friend the late Palestinian academic Edward Said, he founded the West-East Divan Orchestra in 1999 as a way to improve understanding and promote peace in the Middle East.

In 2001, he sparked controversy by performing parts of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" with Berlin's Staatskappelle at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. There had been an unofficial ban on works by the composer since the Holocaust.