Düsseldorf’s Deutsche Oper am Rhein has been forced to cancel its controversial production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser after certain scenes proved too harrowing for audiences. Director Burkhard C Kosminski’s staging of the opera, which opened last weekend, is set in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, and includes depictions of a gas chamber and execution. The remaining dates will take place as concert performances.
In a statement on Deutsche Oper’s website, the company says early performances caused some audience members to seek medical help:
‘After considering all the arguments, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work,’ says the statement. ‘With paramount concern, we note that some scenes (especially the shooting scene) were depicted very realistically, causing psychological and physical stress’.
Although the company conducted ‘intensive conversation’ with Kosminski about the possibility of changing the offending scenes, the director ‘refused to do this for artistic reasons’. The company maintains, ‘We have to respect - and also for legal reasons - the artistic freedom of the director'.
It has been reported that the production, which stars Daniel Frank in the title role, provoked strong protests on its opening night, including booing from the audience.