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German opera staging Nazi atrocities is canceled

(JTA) — A production of Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser” opera in Dusseldorf that was harshly criticized for staging Nazi atrocities was canceled after less than a week.

Performances of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein company’s production at the Dusseldorf Opera House are still scheduled despite the cancellation.

The company had considered making changes to the staging, set in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, but its director, Burkhard Kosminski, refused for artistic reasons, the BBC reported Thursday.

“After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work,” the Deutsche Oper am Rhein company said in a statement.The realistic scenes caused “psychological and physical stress” to some audience members, according to the statement.

At opening performances over the weekend, the audience reacted negatively to scenes featuring the gassing of concentration camp prisoners, and the banned Hitler salute and swastika armband. In one scene, a mother, father and daughter are led up by members of the Wehrmacht; their clothes are removed and they are shaved, and shot.

The original “Tannhauser” was set in Germany in the Middle Ages, and was first performed in Dresden in 1845.

Many eschew Wagner’s music because of the admiration that Hitler held for Wagner as well as the composer’s alleged anti-Semitism.

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