The banknote in question. Photo: Riksbanken
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The banknote in question. Photo: Riksbanken
Opera singer Malena Ernman. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT.
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Opera singer Malena Ernman. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT.

Anger over Wagner scene on new banknote

Sweden's perhaps most well-known current opera singer, Malena Ernman, has criticised the design of Sweden's new 500 kronor bill. "Birgit Nilsson deserves a better tribute," Ernman told Swedish Television.

The newly designed Swedish banknotes will be introduced later this year. On the 500-kroner bill, the opera icon Birgit Nilsson will replace King Karl XI. Behind Nilsson's portrait is a scene from the opera The Valkyrie by the German composer Richard Wagner. And it is this that Malena Ernman is against. 

In a post on her Facebook page, Ernman writes: "Wagner is one of the most influential anti-Semites in history. He has often been called a proto-Nazist and was one of Nazi Germany's big idols. He and his music became an ideological guiding-star to Hitler and Nazism."

She refers to "increasing anti-Semitism" in Sweden today, and writes that it is unsuitable to drag Wagner into the production of Sweden's new banknotes. "To then choose to adorn our banknotes with a scene from a piece by a - to say the least - controversial composer is astonishing. Wagner is seen by many as one of the worlds most prominent composers and of course we shall play his works in Sweden. But he has a symbolic value that cannot be ignored. Birgit Nilsson deserves a better tribute," Ernman writes.

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