Singer quits Wagner festival over Nazi tattoos

Sun Jul 22, 2012 10:58am EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - A Russian opera singer has pulled out of the Bayreuth opera festival over Nazi tattoos on his chest days before the start of the celebration of Richard Wagner's works that was once popular with Third Reich leaders.

Evgeny Nikitin was meant to play the Flying Dutchman in Wagner's opera of the same name but German newspaper and TV images have shown him bare chested with tattoos that resemble symbols used by the Nazis.

One looks like a swastika, which appears to be covered by a new tattoo in more recent pictures.

"I had these tattoos done in my youth. It was a big mistake in my life and I wish I had never done it," Nikitin said in a statement on the festival's website.

"I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and pain these signs and symbols would cause especially in Bayreuth and in the context of the history of the festival," he added.

Nikitin resigned after the festival's management confronted him with the media reports showing his tattoos.

"His decision to give back the part of the Dutchman for these reasons is in line with the consistent rejection by the festival's management of any form of National Socialist thinking," the festival's management said on its website.

The Bayreuth Festival, which was conceived by Wagner, dates back to 1876 and is celebrated for its stagings of his operas, including "Tristan and Isolde", "Parsifal" and the four operas of the monumental cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung".

Although Wagner, who penned several anti-Semitic texts, died half a century before Adolf Hitler came to power, the Nazi dictator was an admirer and drew on the composer's writings in his own theories on racial purity and exterminating the Jews.   Continued...