A new and bizarre production of Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser” opera in Dusseldorf, which drew harsh criticism for staging Nazi atrocities, has been cancelled after less than a week.
At opening performances by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein company at the Dusseldorf Opera House over the weekend, the audience booed after witnessing scenes featuring the gassing of concentration camp prisoners, and the banned Hitler salute and swastika armband.
In one scene, a mother, father and daughter are led up by members of the Wehrmacht; their clothes are removed and they are shaved, and shot.
The audience was so shocked that some people sought medical help afterwards.
The music and text by Richard Wagner, whose music was a favorite of Hitler, is based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg. The opera usually is et in medieval Germany,
The performances “clearly affected numerous audience members so strongly both psychologically and physically that they had to seek medical help afterward,” according to a statement from Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
The Jewish community called the production “tasteless” and violent protests preceded the opening show.
The opera company had considered making changes to the staging, set in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, but the opera company’s director Burkhard Kosminski refused to make any changes for artistic reasons.
“After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work,” said the Deutsche Oper am Rhein company said in a statement.
The production has been cancelled, though concert performances are still scheduled.