BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim performed a free outdoor “peace concert” in his native Argentina with an orchestra he co-founded featuring Israeli and Arab musicians.
Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performed a program of Vivaldi’s music on Sunday before a crowd of thousands at a neo-colonial bridge connecting Buenos Aires and the city of Valentin Alsina.
Saying he doesn’t speak during concerts or play music during talks, Barenboim told the audience, “But I want to say to you that I grew up in Argentina and some lessons remain inside me. I learned here that you can be Jewish, Polish, German, Syrian, Turk, and there is no problem here about multiple identities; you can be any of this and also an Argentinian.”
Barenboim, who in 2008 received Palestinian honorary citizenship, co-founded the orchestra with the late Palestinian academic Edward Said.
On Tuesday, Barenboim and the orchestra played Wagner at the Colon Theater, the main opera house in Buenos Aires. Barenboim’s performances of Wagner in Israel have been controversial because of the composer’s anti-Semitic views and because of how Nazi Germany made use of his music.
Prior to the Colon performance, Barenboim declared, “The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is very sensitive to the situation in Middle East. The musicians have relatives on both sides, the sides that are killing each other and, despite this cruel war, there is no Arabic or Israeli musician who has canceled his participation in this concert for peace. This is also a gesture to Argentina.”