THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: A Russian opera singer has been forced to pull out of a celebrated music festival in German because he has a swastika and other Nazi symbols tattooed on his chest.
[Y]evgeny Nikitin, 38, who was once in a heavy metal band and got the body art done as a youth, withdrew from the Bayreuth festival, which celebrates Richard Wagner's work, after discussions with its organisers.
He was due to sing the lead role in The Flying Dutchman, the opening production, on Wednesday. The festival is particularly sensitive to Nazi associations because Wagner was an anti-Semite and his English daughter-in-law, Winifred Wagner, became friends with Adolf Hitler, who supported its performances under the Third Reich.
Mr Nikitin got the tattoos as a young man. He has a large swastika on the right side of his chest and on the left a "life rune", a symbol used by the SS Lebensborn project, which supported "racially pure" Aryan women.
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.
"It was not clear to me that the symbols that I have tattooed on my chest could have any connotations or even by used by Nazis and neo-Nazis," the singer added in an email to the Sunday German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. » | Tom Parfitt, Moscow | Sunday, Juy 22, 2012