This past August, following a performance of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” in Rio de Janeiro’s opera house, the production’s eccentric Jewish director made sure the audience received a view of the full moon — and it was not to confirm the arrival of Rosh Chodesh.
Brazilian prosecutors have charged the German-born, American-raised director, Gerald Thomas, with indecent exposure after he removed his pants to expose his backside to a disgruntled audience, which disapproved of the director’s modern interpretation of Wagner’s classic, including a plot change that highlighted the composer’s antisemitism. Thomas claims the mooning came only in response to anti-Jewish catcalls. A court hearing is scheduled for February 17.
“All the Wagner hard-liners in the front three rows started shouting at me ‘You Jew, you Jew. You’re an assassin. Go back to your camp,’” Thomas told the Daily Telegraph. “I am afraid my blood boiled. My family lost eight people in Auschwitz.”
Thomas’s gesture was all the more brazen considering the high-powered contingent on hand for the performance, which included the president of Brazil, actors Winona Ryder and Denzel Washington and “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola, who went backstage to console the distraught director.
For the last 17 years, Thomas has headed the Dry Opera Company in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since the controversy erupted, he has apologized on national television and is currently in self-imposed exile in Britain.