Nazi-themed Wagner production cancelled

A production of Tannhäuser in Düsseldorf has been cancelled after causing ‘psychological and physical stress’ to audiences

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TannhäuserPhoto: Hans Joerg Michel

A Nazi-themed production of Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser has been cancelled after a huge outcry of protest.

The production, which opened on 4 May at the Rheinoper in Düsseldorf, featured gas chambers, executions and characters dressed as SS officers.

Some audience members reportedly had to seek medical help after watching the production and the opening production was met with boos and protests.

The opera house announced this week that the production had been cancelled and that the rest of the run would be replaced by concert performances, without a staging. 

‘After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work,’ the opera house management said in a statement.

‘With paramount concern, we note that some scenes (especially the shooting scene) were depicted very realistically. We react with the greatest of concern to the fact that some scenes, especially the very realistic depiction of execution at gun point, led to such a strong physical and psychological impact on numerous visitors, that they had to seek medical attention afterwards.’

The management of the opera house had tried to persuade director, Burkhard C Kosminski, to tone the production down, but he refused. The opera house said they had to respect the artistic freedom of Kosminski but that from 9 May the opera would be performed without the director’s staging.

Tannhäuser is on – in concert performance – at the Düsseldorf Rheinoper until 2 June.