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Some Germans Protest Grace Bumbry, Negro Opera Singer, in Wagner's "Tannhäuser"

July 22, 1961 - Richard Wagner's grandson today angrily rejected protests against the choice of Grace Bumbry (pictured), a Negro mezzo-soprano, as Venus in tomorrow's performance of "Tannhäuser," which opens the annual Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany. "I will take black, yellow or brown artists if the production needs them," said Wieland Wagner, festival director. "Did Richard Wagner ever say that any role should be sung only by the possessor of a particular skin color?" The festival management has received more than 200 letters and telephone calls protesting against a "black Venus." Wagner's operas - particularly "The Ring of the Niebelungen" - immortalized German myths, and Nazi propagandists exploited them for their doctrines of racial superiority.


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