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Swastika Tattoo Forces Singer to Quit Opera Festival

Swastika Tattoo Forces Singer to Quit Opera Festival

Swastikas and Nazi imagery have been making waves in European entertainment over the last few weeks. Madonna has been threatened with a lawsuit by the right-wing French National Front party after she showed a picture of their leader juxtaposed against an image which included a swastika during a concert outside of Paris last week. Now another European musical event has also received media attention because of scandalous imagery. An opera singer was forced to quit a German production after it was revealed that he sports a tattoo of a swastika.

Yevgeny Nikitin, a well-known bass-baritone opera singer, announced this weekend that he is dropping out of the German Bayreuth Festival. Organizers confronted the singer about the tattoo after a German television show started commenting on the body art. The show, called “Aspekte,” aired a feature about the singer in which they discussed the swastika tattoo, which sits on Nikitin’s chest.

Nikitin would have been performing in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” which is opening this coming Wednesday. The AFP quotes the singer in his response to the decision to leave the production:

I had them done in my youth. It was a big mistake and I wish I’d never done it… I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history… As a result, I have decided not to appear at the Bayreuth Festival.

The Bayreuth Festival is a famous annual musical celebration, which shows only the works of Richard Wagner. He was known for making anti-Semitic comments throughout his career as an opera composer. The BBC notes that Wagner’s daughter-in-law headed the festival under Nazi rule and looked up to Adolf Hitler. Hitler claimed that Wagner was his favorite composer and was often present at the Bayreuth festival during his rule.

It’s understandable why organizers have tried to reinvent the festival over the last 50 years to direct it away from its anti-Semitic past. Jan Philipp Gloger, the director of “The Flying Dutchmen,” told AFP that the Bayreuth festival is committed to “rejecting Nazi ideology in any shape or form.” But many organizers also feel that the damage has already been done. When they found out that the singer had such imagery on his body, they immediately confronted Nikitin and asked him to step down.

Wagner wrote a number of famous and influential operas in the late nineteenth century, including “The Ring of the Nibelung” an entire series of operas that played with themes of German mythology, power and symbolism.

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44 comments

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7:55AM PST on Dec 16, 2013

I don't buy it. Tattoo removal
isn't an expensive procedure. The fact that he still has the tattoo says a lot about his current beliefs.

7:31AM PDT on Jul 30, 2012

Exhibit a swastika on your body makes you a Naziskin and is not acceptable. The decision was right.

3:28PM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

"Nikitin would have been performing in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” which is opening this coming Wednesday. The AFP quotes the singer in his response to the decision to leave the production:

I had them done in my youth. It was a big mistake and I wish I’d never done it… I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history… As a result, I have decided not to appear at the Bayreuth Festival."

I doubt he was as unaware as he claims. Unless the man was living under a rock or is just plain stupid - though anyone who would dare to get a swastika tattooed anywhere on them is clearly not a very bright person -, there's no way he could have not known about the extent of the irritation and offense that swastikas cause.

5:05AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

Thanks

5:05AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

Thanks

8:57PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Just get rid of this stupid Nazi festival. Opera sucks anyway.

4:58PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

wow

4:47PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Hey Steward s. Ok you wanna get rid of the nazis....The translation would be the National Socialist Party. and stricktly speaking you would have to get rid of off a lot of government entities all over the world .including some parts of the U.S. fedederal and state gov's and Israel too.

4:16PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

It is truly sad how Hitler took a sacred symbol from another religion and twisted it into something so evil. And I understand that in India, the swastika still has it's original, positive meaning.

However, for most of us here in the west, the Nazi swastika will always be a symbol of evil, just as in some places the Christian cross is seen as a symbol of evil due to what the "Christian" missionaries did to the indigenous people.

It is a delicate subject.

While a part of me does think that if he could simply cover the tattoo with clothes during the performance, that would be OK, but I think the fact that this is a German festival which used to have strong ties to the Nazi's does merit some thought. Germany has spent the last 67 years trying to make amends and distance themselves from their actions during WWII. I'm sure the organizers of the festival are simply trying to continue that distancing.

Is it fair to the singer? I'm not sure. Is it fair to Hindus who see this symbol in a completely different way? No.

4:03PM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

If it was a youthful mistake, then either get it removed or covered up with another image.

But, I'm not really buying it. He said he "was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history."

Huh? Did he grow up in a cave? Did he not get a good education? Was he not aware of what the swastika has come to mean? (I know it had a much different meaning before the Nazis, but we are talking about a German music festival that was used by the Nazi's to push their propaganda.)

I recognize some see this as no big deal, but considering there are many out there who deny the Holocaust ever happened, for those of us who are Jewish or who are among the other groups the Nazi's targeted (homosexuals, gypsies, disabled, mentally challenged), it still is, and will always be, a big deal.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and I, for one, do not want to see that particularly part of history repeated . . . for any group anywhere.

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Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
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