BERLIN (Reuters) - A Nazi-themed staging of a Wagner opera in Germany that caused some members of the audience to become sick with its scenes of murder and a gas chamber has been withdrawn, the opera company said on its website.
After failing to get the director to agree to changes, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duesseldorf said that the production of “Tannhaeuser” would be given for the rest of its run in a concert version only.
German director Burkhard C. Kosminski’s interpretation of “Tannhaeuser” is set during the Holocaust and caused a scandal when it opened on Saturday, prompting some audience members to seek medical treatment, the opera house said in a posting this week on its website.
Management was aware before the premiere that the director’s modern take on the opera rooted in German legends would cause controversy, it said.
“We are, however, shocked that some scenes, especially the very realistic shooting scene, caused numerous guests such psychological and physical stress that they had to get medical treatment afterwards,” the Deutsche Oper am Rhein said.
“After considering all of the arguments, we have concluded that we cannot take responsibility for our artistic work having such an extreme effect so we cannot allow this production to continue being performed without any changes.”
The opera house said while it had discussed the possibility of changing some scenes with Kosminski, he had refused to allow this for artistic reasons. Deutsche Oper am Rhein said it accepted his artistic freedom for legal reasons.
Kosminski was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters but he was quoted by German newspaper Westdeutsche Zeitung as saying he was “shocked” by the decision, adding that he had merely been informed of it by the opera house’s manager.
“Ten months ago I presented my concept and explained what I wanted to do. I ensured there was a lot of transparency during the rehearsals too. I am not a scandalous director,” he said.
In the bicentenary year of his birth, Wagner is still a controversial figure in Germany given his virulent anti-Semitism and the fact that he was Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer.
Last year, a Russian opera singer pulled out of the opera festival at Bayreuth, which was founded by Wagner, over tattoos on his chest, one of which resembled the Nazi swastika.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Additional reporting by David Cutler; Editing by Michael Roddy