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Russian opera singer Yevgeny Nikitin has withdrawn from the Bayreuth festival over controversy sparked by a tattoo of a swastika on his chest. Nikitin was due to sing the lead in The Flying Dutchman last Wednesday but has bowed out after discussions with the Festival’s organisers.
Germany’s Nazi era is a touchy topic for Bayreuth, which only produces operas by Richard Wagner, a composer beloved by Adolf Hitler, who was a regular visitor to the Festival.
In a statement released by the Festival, the bass-baritone said: “I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth given the context of the festival’s history. I had them done in my youth. It was a big mistake and I wish I’d never done it.”
According to reports in the German press, the tattoo shows a swastika with another image superimposed.
Nikitin is a star of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, where his tattoos have not aroused any controversy.
He was replaced in the role by the tattoo-free Korean baritone Samuel Youn.