The Israel Chamber Orchestra is to play at Germany's prestigious Bayreuth festival of Wagnerian music, in a rare breach of an Israeli taboo against performing the rabidly anti-Semitic composer's work.

"The orchestra will play at the opening of the festival," Erella Talmi, the chairwoman of the orchestra's board of directors, told Israeli army radio on Tuesday.

She said the decision to take part next summer was the result of an invitation from Wagner's great-granddaughter, Katerina Wagner to the Israeli ensemble's musical director, Austrian conductor Roberto Paternostro.

She said that Wagner was trying to shake up the event, traditionally attended by what she called an "elitist" audience.

"The decision was not to break a taboo," Talmi added. "The decision was to accept an invitation that showed a new openness."

Since the the Nazi Holocaust, musicians in what is now Israel have largely honoured an unwritten ban on playing Wagner, Adolf Hitler's favourite composer.

Many Israelis are Holocaust survivors and find the associations provoked by the music distressing.

In 1991 Israeli composer Daniel Barenboim led the Berlin State Opera in a performance of an excerpt from "Tristan und Isolde" in Tel Aviv, prompting catcalls and a walkout by several members of the audience.

Talmi said she respected the ban on performances in Israel but said playing abroad was different.

"As long as there are those among us who are so sensitive I also oppose playing Wagner (here), today," she said. "But I think one can make a distinction between (that and) playing there, not for the ears of the vulnerable audience in this country."