Director slams cancellation of Wagner opera
(via Daily Star) – FRANKFURT: A German theater director, whose controversial Nazi-themed staging of a Richard Wagner opera was canceled after the premiere, struck back Monday at what he described as “censorship.”
His new reading of Wagner’s opera “Tannhaeuser” – which set the composer’s story of the medieval knight-minstrel in the Nazi era and contained the graphic portrayal of the gassing and execution of Jews – was loudly booed at its May 4 premiere in Dusseldorf.
After much heated debate in the local press, with the city’s Jewish community describing the staging as being in “bad taste,” management announced that the remaining four performances in the short run would not be staged, but would be given as concert performances instead.
The opera house said it had been fully aware that the director’s concept and staging would likely cause controversy.
“But it is with great consternation that we ascertain that some scenes, including the very realistic execution scenes, caused such physical and psychological distress to some audience members that they sought medical help afterward,” the opera house said in a statement.
In “intensive talks with the director, we discussed possible changes to individual scenes,” the statement continued. “But he rejected this on artistic grounds. We have therefore decided that ‘Tannhaeuser’ will be in concert performance only.”
Kosminski told Der Spiegel that he was left “shocked and speechless” by the decision.
“We were put under extreme pressure by the local press and ignorant know[-it]-alls,” the director complained, “most of whom didn’t even see the staging.”
Kosminski defended his concept, saying that Wagner’s libretto as it stood was no longer comprehensible to contemporary audiences.
In Wagner’s version of the story, the knight-minstrel Tannhaeuser is cast out of society because he loves the goddess Venus.
“What interests me is the great, archaic theme of guilt,” the theater director said.
“Why shouldn’t we cast Tannhaeuser as a perpetrator, a war criminal? In my staging, Tannhaeuser is forced by members of the Wehrmacht to shoot a family. The staging is about individual guilt during the Nazi era” and in the reconstruction of Germany after World War II.
Wagner, whose bicentenary is being celebrated all across the musical world this year, is frequently referred to as the favorite composer of Adolf Hitler.
The composer penned the viciously anti-Semitic pamphlet “Judaism in Music” in 1850 and his descendants entertained close ties with Hitler and the Nazi leadership during World War II.
His music is still banned from being performed in Israel.