Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90
The conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim holding a music class.

( Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will take the Berlin State Opera to Tehran, where they will perform a concert, AFP reported Thursday. According to a State Opera email statement, Barenboim, the Staatskapelle Berlin’s general music director, “is in talks with Iran about a possible concert in Tehran…”

But Iranian born Tennor Ramtin Ghazavi, a frequent performer at Italy’s La Scala, on Tuesday told San Jose Mercury News that the Islamic revolution that removed the Shah in 1979 “takes a dim view” of most musical forms, including opera. He said there are no conservatories for Western classical music in Iran, and the Tehran Symphony Orchestra does not perform in public.


“Most of the Iranian population doesn’t even know about the art of the opera, so there are not many people that appreciate the fact that I’m the first Iranian tenor to sing on the stage of the most famous opera house of the world,” Ghazavi, a Baha’, said in an email interview with the Mercury News.

The trip to Tehran is Barenboim’s latest opportunity to enrage Israeli politicians on the right. The 72-year-old world renowned musical celebrity, who holds citizenship of Argentina, Israel, Palestine, and Spain, has conducted Richard Wagner’s music with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the Palestinian Authority (Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss are not played in Israel because of their cultural connections to Nazism); performed in the at the Palestinian Bir Zeit University and in Ramallah; was made to wait 7 hours at the Gaza border before giving up on playing in Gaza City in 2007; and in 2011 retaliated by conducting the “Orchestra for Gaza” in Gaza.

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev responded with predictable rage, saying she was sending a letter of protest to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking that she block the concert. That’s not likely going to happen, as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has already agreed to sponsor the Tehran concert, because he “supports Daniel Barenboim’s dedication to making music accessible to all people, irrespective of national, religious or ethnic boundaries.”

Regev told her Facebook followers: “In my letter I shall stress that Daniel Barenboim’s appearance in Iran harms Israel’s efforts to prevent the nuclear agreement and gives encouragement to de-legitimization of Israel.”

That does not sound like a winning argument with Merkel, whose government was first among all the Europeans to send a planeload of trade-hungry economic experts to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran more than a week ago.

“Iran is a state which supports terror, is behind Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas and its leaders have blood on their hands. I believe that Germany would be acting rightly if it were to cancel the appearance of the orchestra and its conductor,” Regev insisted on Facebook.

Regev also accused Barenboim of “using culture as a platform for his anti-Israel political views,” which is a valid point, but not one that will likely find a listening ear in Berlin these days.

A Simon Wiesenthal Center official, Shimon Samuels, also addressed Chancellor Merkel—in a letter—over her plan “to visit Iran in October,” for the signing of the nuclear deal, and “at news that you are to be accompanied by the Berlin Staatskapelle, led by its musical director, Daniel Barenboim.”

According to AFP, Samuels asked Chancellor Merkel to “reconsider the mission to Tehran and, above all, to cancel this embellishment — under the cover of music — of Iran’s constantly declared nuclear genocidal design to destroy Israel.”

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