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Russian quits Bayreuth festival over Nazi tattoos

Sunday, July 22, 2012    

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BERLIN, Germany (AP) — A Russian baritone who was due to sing the lead role in Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman when the Bayreuth opera festival opens next week withdrew from the event yesterday after it emerged that he once had Nazi-related symbols tattooed on his body.

A German television programme broadcast Friday showed old footage of a bare-chested Evgeny Nikitin playing drums in a rock band, in which a swastika tattoo partly covered by another symbol could be seen. The festival said Nikitin made his decision amid questions from a German newspaper about the significance of some of his tattoos.

Organisers made Nikitin, 38, aware of "the connotations of these symbols in connection with German history", said a statement from the festival in Bayreuth, in the southeastern state of Bavaria. It added that his decision to pull out is "in line with the festival leadership's consistent rejection of any form of Nazi ideas".

The festival is currently led by the composer's great-granddaughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner.

The Nazi past is a sensitive issue for the Bayreuth festival, which was founded by Richard Wagner in 1872.

Winifred Wagner, who headed the Bayreuth festival under Nazi rule, was a strong admirer of Adolf Hitler. During her reign, Hitler not only helped fund the festival but was allowed to meddle in artistic decisions.

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