Wagner opera rapped for Nazi atrocities in staging

Production of Tannhauser in Dusseldorf draws criticism for scenes featuring gas chambers, Hitler salute, swastika armband.

May 8, 2013 06:28
1 minute read.
Deutsche Oper am Rhein production of Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser" at the Dusseldorf Opera House.

Wagner's Tannhauser opera 370. (photo credit: Hans Jörg Michel)


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BERLIN - A new production of Richard Wagner's Tannhauser opera in Dusseldorf has drawn criticism for staging Nazi atrocities.

The opera company apparently is considering modifications, according to reports.

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At performances over the weekend by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein company at the Dusseldorf Opera House, the audience reacted negatively to scenes featuring the gassing of concentration camp prisoners, and the banned Hitler salute and swastika armband.

In one scene, a mother, father and daughter are led up by members of the Wehrmacht; their clothes are removed and they are shaved, and shot. There reportedly is no music accompanying the scene.

Burkhard Kosminski, the opera company's director, added the scenes that have drawn criticism.

Israel's ambassador to Germany reportedly has voiced displeasure, and some left the theater "bathed in sweat," according to a report in the online edition of the local Rheinische Post.

Oded Horowitz, head of the Jewish community of North Rhine, said in the Rheinische Post's Tuesday edition that "survivors are likely to find the provocative handling of Nazi history in this Tannhauser production quite painful." While remembrance of Nazi crimes is important, he said, "a theater scandal is not our preferred form of confronting the past."

Many eschew Wagner's music because of the admiration that Hitler held for Wagner as well as the composer's alleged anti-Semitism.

Last July, Russian opera singer Evgeny Nikitin was pressured to withdraw from Germany's famous Bayreuth Opera Festival because of Nazi tattoos on his chest and arm. He was supposed to sing the lead in The Flying Dutchman.

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