Cancellation of Nazi-themed “Tannhäuser” sparks debate

Posted on: May 15, 2013

A post Monday (5/13) on the WQXR Blog Conducting Business states, “Last week, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf cancelled a Nazi-themed production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, when the premiere performance prompted booing, mass walkouts and even reports of audience members getting sick. With scenes that reportedly showed Jews being murdered and dying in gas chambers, it certainly shocked—but it was hardly the first revisionist opera production. In this podcast, Naomi Lewin asks three prominent opera-watchers whether Düsseldorf was right to cancel the production, and what radical updates can bring to the art form. To some commentators, the Dusseldorf Tannhauser was a stretch: the opera is set in the Middle Ages and based on a ballad about a bard called Tannhäuser. Yet the intention of the director, Burkhard Kosminski, had a logic that many could understand. In the month of Wagner’s bicentennial, he wanted to link the opera to the Holocaust—an event which the composer’s own ardent anti-Semitism seemed to presage.” John Berry, the artistic director of English National Opera; James Jorden, opera critic of the New York Post; and Anne Midgette, the classical music critic of the Washington Post, all weigh in on the podcast.

Posted May 15, 2013