IGNATZ WAGHALTER (1881 - 1949)
Waghalter’s career started first as a conductor under the patronage of Artur Nikisch before he was called as music director in 1912 to the newly opened German Opera House in Berlin’s autonomous city-within-a-city, Charlottenburg. It was to be a less stuffy, more democratic alternative to Berlin’s nearby Court Opera Unter den Linden. During Waghalter’s years in Berlin, he was responsible for establishing an enthusiastic public for the music of Giacomo Puccini while cultivating a wide circle of friends such as Franz Schreker, Eugene d’Albert and even Paul Hindemith and Albert Einstein, who joined him in occasional performances of chamber music held in Waghalter’s home. During these years, Waghalter would write four operas, one of which, Mandragola based on a play by Machiavelli was highly regarded. Adolf Weißmann, writing in Musik in der Weltkrise (Music in the World Crisis) an important assessment of contemporary musical life in 1922 referred to it as being richer in melodic inventiveness than the actual story merited. To his successes in Berlin was added a short period in New York as conductor of the State Symphony Orchestra before returning to Berlin where he continued his career as a popular conductor, creating an unusually large legacy of recordings. A mere decade later he and his family would be driven into exile by National Socialism. While in America he launched an orchestra of African Americans, an attempt at social engineering that was largely unwelcomed by the establishment and found no outside support. He died unexpectedly at the age of 68, remembered by the émigré community in 1949 and honoured with a lengthy obituary in the New York Times.