13 Aug 2012

Another Bayreuth Stunner

Just after things were settling after the scandal of baritone Evgeny Nitikin supposed swastika tattoo at the Bayreuth Festival, another one seems likely to take its place.

Nitikin was forced to leave rehearsals and abandon the title role just days before the opening of The Flying Dutchman and it created a fire-storm of press coverage.

The very high-profile revelation of Nitikiin’a tattoo of the Nazi Party symbol, the display of which is formally banned in Germany, embarrassed the festival and the famed singer’s constantly changing story, dripped out over days, gave the story legs it should never have had.

Some opera managers, including Munich’s Staatsoper and New York’s Metropolitan Opera have already declared that this “youthful indiscretion” would not bar his appearances on their stage. (The group he was singing with in his teens was named the ““National Socialist Black Metal” band.) Even Bayreuth’s managers, the team of Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, hinted that any ban would not necessarily be permanent.

The German press, however, has now been writing about the bad boy artist Jonathan Meese, who has been hired to stage a new revival of Richard Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal at the 2016 Wagner Festival at Bayreuth. He was the subject of two German newspaper articles yesterday and today. Both articles raise questions about his “Nazi fetish” — a constant theme in his body of work.

The artist’s home page, for example, has a photo of him giving a Nazi salute during a panel discussion. Presumably, the same Bayreuth Festival leadership that sent away the Russian baritone has not yet dealt with this seeming contradiction.

The artist-director’s website is www.jonathanmeese.com.

Frank Cadenhead