Opera Singer With Nazi Tattoos Quits Fest

By JTA

Published July 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Russian opera singer Evgeny Nikitin has withdrawn from the Bayreuth Opera Festival because of Nazi tattoos on his chest and arm.

Nikitin, 39, withdrew days before he was supposed to sing the lead in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” after archival images of him playing drums in a heavy metal band – chest bared and with shaved head – were shown recently on German television and seen by the Bayreuth festival directors and conductor. Images of a swastika and other far-right symbols were plainly seen on his body, which is covered with tattoos.

Festival spokesman Peter Emmerich told the German news agency dpa that “this is not business as usual.” Emmerich said the festival is sensitive to issues related to the Nazi period, as Adolf Hitler was an admirer of Wagner and frequently attended the festival, and that the connection to Hitler is a badge of shame that postwar generations of Wagners have tried to confront.

Nikitin was called in to meet with the management on Saturday and was told about the significance of his tattoos in light of German history. Shortly afterward Nikitin announced that he would drop out of the festival, at which music by the 19th-century composer Wagner is presented. According to news reports, his understudy, the bass-baritone Samuel Youn, will sing the role on Wednesday for the festival opening.

A statement from the festival said the singer’s decision to withdraw was in keeping with the festival’s rejection of Nazi ideology and its trappings.

Nikitin later explained that the tattoos were a youthful folly that he regretted. In ensuing years he had other images tattooed over the swastika, but it remains visible.

Emmerich said the festival directors – Wagner’s great-granddaughters, Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier – normally do not pay attention to how a singer decorates his body. “We hire a voice, a singer,” he told dpa. But this case was different, he said.

The Bayreuth festival dates back to 1876. To this day Wagner’s music is eschewed by many because of the admiration that Hitler held for the composer and because of the composer’s alleged anti-Semitism. The first postwar festival was held in 1951.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.