A new production of Richard Wagner's opera "Tannhauser" in Germany was reportedly booed by members of the audience who were apparently upset over the use of Nazi imagery in the staging. The opera opened Saturday at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that audience members started booing about 30 minutes into the production. The staging of Wagner's mythical opera portrays certain characters wearing uniforms of the Third Reich and features a scene reminiscent of a gas chamber.
Displaying or wearing a swastika is illegal in Germany. Some photos of the production show characters wearing swastikas on their arm bands. The production is staged by Burkhard C. Kosminski, a theater director making his first foray into opera.
The use of Nazi imagery in "Tannhauser" is particularly provocative because Adolf Hitler was an admirer of Wagner's music and the composer himself held anti-Semitic views.
Reports state that the new production sets the opera's overture to a choreographed scene in which dancers are trapped inside a transparent gas chamber.
In addition to booing, the production was met with some walkouts, according to reports. The director was reportedly accosted by angry patrons during an after-party.
The opera company's website describes the new staging as "a stifling story of guilt and its mental repression, an attempt at atonement and final capitulation before the task."
Though Wagner's music is more than a century old, its association with Nazism is still a sensitive subject for some.
In 2009, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich attempted to overhaul the Ring Festival L.A., a county-wide event tied to L.A. Opera's staging of Wagner's "Ring" cycle operas. Antonovich cited the composer's anti-Semitic views and said that the festival would be "an affront to those who have suffered or have been impacted by the horrors" of the Nazis.
Wagner's music is still considered taboo in Israel, where music groups avoid performing it in concerts.
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