A Holocaust-themed production of Wagner opera was cancelled last week after its traumatic scenes caused a number of guests to seek medical help.
The Dusseldorf opera’s version of Tannhauser included scenes of rape, suicide and a family having their heads shaved before they were shot. Some guests were so distressed that they were treated for shock.
A spokesperson for the opera house confirmed that “some scenes, especially the firing-squad sequence, proved such a intolerable burden for numerous members of the audience that they were subsequently obliged to undergo medical treatment.”
The spokesperson added that the opera house had asked stage director Burkhard C Kosminski to tone down the performance but, “citing the freedom of art, he has refused.
“Deutsche Oper am Rhein cannot and will not accept responsibility [if there are] possibly grave effects on its guests. The freedom of art is valid only as long as the personal safety of individuals is not in danger.”
Michael Szentei-Heise, head of the Jewish community in Dusseldorf, told Associated Press that the production was “tasteless and not legitimate. This opera has nothing to do with the Holocaust.”
Wagner, widely regarded as an antisemite, was one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite composers.
The production will now only be performed as a concert and current ticket holders have been offered a refund.