Evgeny Nikitin issues statement through Metropolitan Opera, where he will appear in Parsifal in 2013
Evgeny Nikitin, the Russian opera singer who withdrew last month from the Bayreuth Festival, has issued a statement claiming a tattoo on his chest was never a swastika. The bass-baritone, who had been due to perform the lead role in The Flying Dutchman at the famous Wagner festival, originally said the tattoo and others depicting Scandinavian runes were a mistake of his youth. However, he now claims that any suggestion the tattoos were Nazi in association is ‘inaccurate’.
‘While it is true that I have had a varied artistic life, including an interest in heavy metal music and Scandinavian mythology, which was the inspiration behind the tattoos I have on my body, it is inaccurate to state that I ever had a swastika tattoo,’ he said in a statement released through New York’s Metropolitan Opera. ‘In fact, the tattoo that has been called into question and that was photographed in 2008 was still in progress at the time.’
Nikitin is scheduled to sing in seven performances of the Met’s new production of Wagner’s Parsifal in February 2013 alongside Jonas Kaufmann and René Pape. The company have released a sketch of the original conception for the tattoo and a current photograph, which shows an eight-pointed star overlaid by a shield, sword and axe. Reports of the swastika-like image first appeared in the German news; Nikitin believes these were most likely based on a YouTube video of him playing drums in a heavy metal band, bare-chested.
‘If he was a Nazi and promoting Nazism, of course we’d have a problem,’ said the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb. ‘From what I understand, and I spoke to him, he’s guilty of being naïve and ignorant. That doesn’t disqualify you from singing on the stage of the Met.’