Almost twenty-four hours after Yevgeny Nikitin was hustled out of Bayreuth because his large swastika tattoo had caught media attention, the episode leaves more questions than answers.
“I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history,” Nikitin was quoted as saying by the DPA news agency.
By which he meant, presumably, that Bayreuth was always a Nazi hotbed. That kind of statement is not tolerated by the Wagners and the Russian bass-baritone was sent on his way.
Nikitin, 38, has sung on many of the world’s great stages and is popular with colleagues of all nations. He is, they say, a reformed character who has put his wild youth behind him. From the evidence of his tattoo, it would appear that he has tried several times to cover up the huge swastika with other images. But the emblem is too large and the scar tissue makes it impossible (we are told) to remove the swastika completely.
He branded for life. Not just branded but seared with the mark of Cain: the swastika represents mass murder.
So what now for Nikitin? Certainly his career will be blighted. It’s unlikely he can appear at the Met without protests, not for a while at any rate. I expect there will still be work for him in St Petersburg.
What he needs to do from now on is keep his shirt on – and that, in opera nowadays, is very hard to do.