Baritone quits Bayreuth festival over Nazi tattoo

Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 01:00

BAYREUTH’S NEW Flying Dutchman has flown the coop, four days before his premiere, after it was revealed he had a large Nazi tattoo.

Organisers of the annual Richard Wagner festival announced the departure of Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin on Saturday, after a 2007 video surfaced showing him playing drums in a heavy metal band, bare-chested, with a sizeable swastika on his right breast.

“The reaction was severe: upset that something like this could happen, then dismay that he had something like this and didn’t admit it,” said Peter Emmerich, spokesman for the festival.

“If he once had something like this, we could talk about it, but it was kept secret and there was not a lot of honesty. That led to a lot of disappointment.”

Nikitin (39) said in a statement that he “deeply regretted” getting the tattoos as a young man and decided to cancel his performance.

His replacement will be South Korean singer Samuel Youn.

Even with intense rehearsals, director Jan Philipp Gloger said the “artistic damage” to his production was “immense and cannot be adequately prevented before the premiere” on Wednesday.

Festival organisers said Nikitin’s departure was “consistent with the consequential rejection of every form of national socialist thought”.

Visitors to this year’s festival will see new plaques around the festival theatre telling the stories of Jewish artists who were forced to end their Bayreuth careers after the rise to power of Adolf Hitler.

The Nazi dictator was a close friend of the Wagner family in the 1930s and a regular visitor to the annual Bayreuth festival.