an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Exclusive: Nazi-themed Tannhäuser may be taken off after one performance

We’ve been receiving reports that Düsseldorf has been having second thoughts about Burkhard C. Kosminski’s new Tannhäuser production, featuring SS men and gas chambers. A colleague has just called the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and was told the production is being withdrawn. We await a full, reasoned statement. UPDATE: The press office has informed us that the matter is being discussed in house, but no final decision has yet been taken.

"Tannhäuser"-Oper in Düsseldorf

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Well, yes; a very sensible move. Will he be made to stand in a corner for a considerable time? What’s he doing in opera anyway? Born in 1961, he’s too young to take in what WWII meant to so many in Europe; and seems to have spent much of his career so far in the US. One hopes he’ll return there..we have our own ropey opera directors; we don’t require US imports!

  2. José Lastarria says:

    Even if it’s withdrawn the director will probably still get his full fee but I’d imagine the guest singers will probably lose revenue due to performances being cancelled. Justice, eh?

  3. harold braun says:

    Sensible Decision!

  4. Bassolirico says:

    My deepest desire is that this will trigger a serious discussion about the decadent, outdated and absurd Regietheater which is still force-fed to the audiences across Europe and which we artists cannot protest without being labelled difficult-to-work-with or ending up having no work.

  5. This is not a US import, blame the Germans and their love for their nazi past which they can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe they get turned on by their swastika, and their perverted sexual portrayal of nazis. Most performances in the US are traditional and beautiful, that’s how Americans like it.

    • Musiker says:

      What are you talking about? “Their love for their Nazi past which they can’t seem to get rid of”? “Their perverted sexual portrayal of Nazis”?
      Have you ever been to Germany or engaged any Germans in conversation? Do you have any knowledge whatsoever about the country and its current polticial, social and artistic situation?
      Your ignorant, illiterate comments suggest you don’t.

      • You are the one who is ignorant. I know more about Germany and Germans than I care to. Every day there is something about Nazis on German television, somebody must like to watch it. Almost every magazine at least once a week has an article about the Nazi past. People must like to read about it. Please do tell me about the average German’s political, social and artistic situation and knowledge, I need something to laugh about.

        • Musiker says:

          Why am I “ignorant” if I challenge someone’s [redacted] ill-informed ranting about a country they clearly have no knowledge of?

        • Ingrid, my wife and I have lived in Germany for the last 33 years. There are still a lot of issues to be dealt with in Germany, but your characterization of the Germans is not accurate and is unfair. And I say this even though my wife and I have faced very serious and well-known problems here.

          • What magazines is she reading?

            My grandmother had an article prominently displayed in her apartment for years – from an ADL newsletter, with the headline “One in eight americans has hardcore antisemitic feelings.” It didn’t surprise me with this daily reminder that she was always looking around the corner for the next Nazi (while living in Manhattan).

            And the internet is a difficult place to moderate anything. Here is an example – read through the huffington post’s crime section (for some reason, they have a whole section just devoted to the really heinous things that happen in this country). You don’t hear about the vast majority of them on the news, but if you read this every day of a few weeks, you will think that this whole country is full of murdering, child-raping savages who are going to skin you alive if you go out after 8pm.

            Every country has issues. Germany has made the discussion of the Third Reich so taboo that people explore it because they don’t know any better (read up on the censorship of Mein Kampf in Germany and how it has changed in the digital age). America is more than casually racist/ethnocentric to a wide variety of religious and ethnic groups. Shutting off the discussion only leads to further fetishizing.

          • I’m Dutch. My family suffered badly in WWII. I’m familiar with all the horror stories, But these days the Germans are no longer my enemies. They are my neighbours.They are a welcome part of my life. I speak their language, enjoy the richness and variety of their culture. I watch the daily news on German TV. I visit them regularly. And yes: they messed up big time in history. But so did the Americans in relation to the genocide of the native peoples of America. And the Dutch have a messy past regarding slavery. So, if we want to, we can find big mistakes in any nation! Dear Miss Johnson, your sources are clearly unreliable and insufficient. You show the usual American superficiality. You are clearly not hindered by any thorough knowledge. I suggest yo do your homework before bothering us with your tainted opinions.

        • Laurids says:

          If the Germans ‘love their Nazi past’, what excuse does, in particular, the Anglo-American element have for their unseemly obsession with matters they neither can, nor wish to, understand? Its addiction to self-praise, complacency and the most hilarious moral pretention has been duly noted. All in all, a rather sub-adult performance, acted out, as usual, at the expense of others.

          • Ms Koopman, you show the usual arrogance by using the “American superficiality” club, knowing nothing of me or my background. I am sure your knowledge and opinion is based on your superb education. You, and only you have a right to an opinion while mine is only based on being a stupid American. Do you really want to know what the Germans think of the Dutch?

          • This discussion is degenerating into personal abuse. Stop it, please.

        • I am an American living for the last 13 years in Frankfurt. You have misrepresented current Germany in many ways. I suspect you have really no idea what you are writing about.

  6. PK Miller says:

    Sounds like a smart decision. I believe one can take some liberties with opera but a complete rewrite inserting things in the opera the composer never imagined is verboten. (e.g. The Ring some years back which featured Wotan et al in tuxedos, Valhalla, as I recall, a formal dinner party, Valkyries as “Ladies of the Evening…” I recently saw a stunning performance of West Side Story by Albany7 High School (Albany NY) Drama Club. They took a few liberties with the show but remained faithful to Bernstein’s score, concepts, etc. I still remember Cosi & Don Pasquale years ago at what is now Opera Saratoga then Lake George Opera Co., with some madness carefully orchestrated by the immortal (basso buffo) Gimi Becchi and coordinated by Will Parker, a wonderful baritone who could have been the American Fischer-Dieskau had he not been taken from us too soon by AIDS. We had much fun but never strayed far from Mozart’s intents.

    PS Folks–can we please be careful about attacking each other. We can have a spirited discussion, even vehement disagreement sans personal attacks. Life would be bloody boring if we all like the same thing, agreed 100% on everything. But can we be careful about personal attacks. Each of us comes from a different perspective. It got out of hand with that now infamous NY pianist & her impulsive tweet. So let’s agree, disagree, but let’s all play nice in the sandbox!

  7. Basia Jaworski says:

    Still discussing! WHY???
    Beacuse it means a lot of publicity. And: I bet there are some ****** who just want to see it. The all adore Bieito,,porn and blood. And nazi’s of course!

    How can we STOP it???????
    And: why did the singer cooperate????????

  8. Rosalind says:

    Where’s the Intendant been hiding through all this? Someone must have watched the rehearsals and maybe, just maybe thought: “Is this REALLY such a good idea after all?” The buck stops with the Intendant and it would be interesting to find out if he has made any kind of statement either defending his Regisseur’s “artistic concept” or perhaps even apologizing?

  9. Has there been any actual discussion about the concept and whether it was coherent, or is everyone up in arms because Nazis are verboten?

    In response to many of the people who say that you can’t add new things or change an opera – go get a DVD.

    Art needs to be interpreted, not just rehashed again and again. Reading through the Der Spiegel article (the only one that actually seems to have info about the production – see it seems that the director did have an interesting concept. In discussing excess vs. chastity, the director re-conceives lust as blood-lust. He is taking the work of a complicated, anti-Semitic composer with mixed ideas of gods and god (using Roman and Christian ideas together) – and seems to make it a relevant discussion about Germany’s past (what drove a nation to the extremes of WWII?).

    Opera is not always pretty – in spite of what people may want. I was thinking back to the most recent Met production of Lulu. It was a light, fun filled evening full of laughter and a raucous ovation at the end. I always considered it to be one of the most harrowing of all operas – brilliant, but not a “feel good” event. Why did no one express outrage when the staging led to bursts of laughter at Lulu’s murder?

    • Musiker says:

      Well said, NSW.

    • José Lastarria says:

      The article sums up everything we already knew about the worst excesses of Regietheater: Everything about the scandal and its perpetrator, the conductor just mentioned by name and the singers basically ignored. Par for the course, I’d say; scandal or no scandal…

  10. Basia Jaworski says:

    to NSW (your name, please???? Why do you hide it??)
    Progress? YES!
    Naked Jews in the gass chambers? NOOOOOOOOOO!
    The stage director not only CAN’T READ the music, he never ever saw an opera before!
    But it’s not important for Mr (ms?) NSW/. He (she? it?) loves blood, porn and nazis. And naked Jews.
    And don’t compare it to Lulu – an absolutely masterwork!

    • My dear Basia,

      I don’t know exactly how you choose to speculate on my predilections or habits, but I do know of someone who would have loved blood, porn and Nazis… Wagner. So do we ban Wagner? I guess it isn’t that ridiculous, as various places have banned him in the past. But censorship is censorship.

      Part of the problem with Germany seems to be the absolute censorship of the Third Reich, to the point that it has become this elusive, mysterious thing. Displaying Nazi symbols is illegal, as is an outright Nazi Party. I was thinking back to an article in the Times ( about the issues in Germany with restricting Mein Kampf. It was available everywhere else in the world, but not Germany. With the digital age, people began to read it because they were curious – and the arcane restrictions (which made sense for a time after the war, but its effect is less clear now) have lead to a fetishizing of this difficult piece of agit-prop.

      I think that it is best not to judge something until you have seen it and experienced it. My initial post was that people were jumping to conclusions about the staging without knowing anything about it. I don’t believe that this production glorified the Reich, but used it as a vehicle for discussing the human urge to kill and dominate (it only takes a cursory look at the news to offer evidence that while YOU may not have such urges, it is something that humanity struggles with).

      I don’t think that I am “hiding.” I can tell you that I am Jewish and married a Jew (so your comment about liking naked jews and nazis is… well… misguided at best). I prefer to keep my personal information from deranged, retired music teachers who spend their free time speculating about how everyone is out to “get the jews,” and anyone who disagrees is secretly masturbating to Nazi porn.

      • Basia Jaworski says:

        Just let us go back to the real point: what os Tannhauser about????
        Yes, Wagner was an antisemitic, and not a little bit, but his opera is NOT about gas chambers!
        Me, as a Jew, I don’t take it!.
        I’m born after the war, without family around – all gone in the gas chambers, and it wasn’t called Venusberg!
        Tannhauser is NOT about the Shoah!

        • So art is not interpretive? Directors are required to give you the same material over and over again? No wonder classical institutions are suffering.

          But accepting your premise that this isn’t right because Tannhäuser is not about the Holocaust, here are a list of opera we need to get rid of because they are about bad things.

          The entire ring cycle – The Niebelungen are clearly negative stereotypes of Jews (ugly dwarves who hoard gold and steal)
          Der Meistersinger – Beckmesser is a negative caricature of a Jew.
          Salome – Porn
          Les Contes d’Hoffman – the most recent production had many women in underwear and nipple tassles – clearly too provocative and the opera is misogynistic.
          Cosi – misogynistic.
          Magic Flute – racist
          La Traviata – promotes prostitution and improper quarantine of lethal pathogens.
          The Nose – we can’t really convey a nose – so it should be gone. Not real!
          Carmen – promotes cruelty to animals


          Censor or don’t – art is either open to interpretation or it isn’t. And if you don’t want music to change, buy a dvd you like and you will never be subjected to something outside of your comfort zone again.

          • Basia Jaworski says:

            I am very afraid you didn’t understand my point or just DIDN’T want to.
            What I said is that Tannhauser is NOT about the Shoa and NOT about the gaschambers.
            If I want to see it I can watch a DVD (just to use your argument).
            Where did I say _anything_ about the opera itself????? I actually do like Wagner and especially Tannhauser. Saw a wonderful, MODERN production of it made by Lehnhoff.
            The only thing I said is that the stage director, coming from the speaking theater, whon can’t read music and nothing about opera, is misusing a very big theme just for his own ego. He did it on purpose – he KNEW it’ll be scandal and that;s what he’ve got. Scandal and a lot of attention.

          • Michael Hurshell says:

            @ NSW: Please don’t repeat, even sarcastically, the absurd allegations that the Nibelungen are caricatures of Jews. The seriously flawed arguments to that effect are based on hindsight, and the vague conjurings regarding “subtext”, “code” etc. And when someone tries to cite an actual example of this theory – always of course a quote from the text, never the music – it is so off the point and wrong that it’s not even funny. However, the increasing rate of publication of such misguided arguments – e.g. the oh so silly “Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen” by Levin (1999, Princeton Univ. press – more’s the pity) – probably fuels the fires of folks like Mr. Kosminski. So, as I said on the other thread – don’t confuse musical ignorance and musical insensitivity with the license to “make art.” Let play directors who have never done opera, if they are going to be allowed to “interpret” works of music, FIRST learn to read music; and then start with Bastien und Bastienne, or better yet contemporary chamber opera, and not the long suffering scores of Wagner, which – need I repeat? – have no need whatsoever for their “originality.” It’s not about comfort zones; it’s about allowing a musically ignorant director to ruin the efforts of several hundred trained professionals who required years and years of training to put on an opera. And the German public, by and large, is heartily sick of all this – part of the crisis we hear about, shrinking audience numbers, are the result of such productions, not the cause.

  11. I really hope they decide to take out that production now. Other posts have already described what I feel as a Jew hearing about such a production. But all in all – an opera company came into the media, they got international attention – no matter whether postive or negative. Take the production out and make a new beginning possible – concentrating on OPERA and not on cheap scandals!

    • Basia Jaworski says:

      Completely agree with you, Mordi!
      Take the crap away!

      Well said, “Musiker”??????
      I bet you are not a “musiker”, you just love the scandal!
      And naked Jews.

  12. Basia Jaworski says:

    Can’t agree more, Mordi!

  13. Armando says:

    So it’s OK on this website to redact out a complaint that an entry is racist by denigrating all Germans, but when Musiker is personally insulted and abused and accused of fantasizing about naked Jews that’s NOT redacted out?
    Sounds like censorship to me.

  14. Rosalind says:

    Any update from the opera house on whether the production will be pulled? Indeed, any statement from Christoph Meyer, the Intendant?

an ArtsJournal blog