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Deutsche Oper am Rhein Cancel "Nazi" Tannhauser - for "Medical Reasons"

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 8 May 2013 | 7:35:00 pm

Deutsche Oper am Rhein have decided to cancel Burkhard C. Kosminski's "controversial" production of Tannhauser. Instead, remaining dates will be filled with concert performances of Wagner's story of redemption.

According to  Deutsche Oper am Rhein, although they knew that the production would be "controversial" they did not expect the extreme reactions that it apparently induced. This included people seeking medical treatment for "psychological and physical stress".

Before cancelling, they asked  Kosminski if he would allow alterations to the production so that it would be, we assume,  "toned down" and made "less offensive".  However, Kosminski refused on artistic grounds.

We believe this may be the first time this has happened since the introduction of Nazi themes into Wagner's work became popular with a number of  opera directors.

Strangely, and we would suspect completely unknown to most opera directors including Kosminski , this was a trend that was started by the Nazis themselves as part of a program of  appropriating the greatest artists of the "western world" to give intellectual credibility and respectability to the ideology that underpinned the Third Reich. This included not only Wagner and his work, but Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Shakespeare. Popular examples of this could be found in  the daily "newspaper" dedicated to this cause , the Völkischer Beobachter.  For example, it published a series of articles using quotations from Henry IV Part One, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Two Gentlemen of Verona to provide "evidence"of  the playwright’s antisemitic ideology and maintained this implied support of their own twisted agenda.

In the the case of Tannhauser, things become even more complicated as it was the favourite opera  of Theodor Herzl - father of modern political Zionism and in effect the foundation of the State of Israel.

Readers interested in the manner that the Nazi propaganda machine worked in this regard might wish to check out  the very well written: Inhumanities: Nazi Interpretations of Western Culture by David B. Dennis. To pursue the links between Tannhauser and Herzl you might want to read: A Knight at the Opera: Heine, Wagner, Herzl, Peretz and the Legacy of Der Tannhäuser by Leah Garrett