Présentation de l'éditeur
The first version of the article appeared in the NZM under the pseudonym of K. Freigedank ("K. Freethought"). In an April 1851 letter to Franz Liszt, Wagner gave the excuse that he used a pseudonym "to prevent the question being dragged down by the Jews to a purely personal level".
At the time Wagner was living in exile in Zurich, on the run after his role in the 1849 revolution in Dresden. His article followed a series of essays in the NZM by his disciple Theodor Uhlig, attacking the music of Meyerbeer?s opera Le prophete. Wagner was particularly enraged by the success of Le prophete in Paris, all the more so because he had earlier been a slavish admirer of Meyerbeer, who had given him financial support and used his influence to get Wagners early opera Rienzi, his first real success, staged in Dresden in 1841.
Wagner was also emboldened by the death of Mendelssohn in 1847, the popularity of whose conservative style he felt was cramping the potential of German music. Although Wagner had shown virtually no sign of anti-Jewish prejudice previously (despite the claims by Rose in his book Wagner, Race and Revolution, and others), he was determined to build on Uhligs articles and prepare a broadside that would attack his artistic enemies, embedded in what he took to be a populist Judaeophobic context.