A controversial staging of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser set in a concentration camp during the Holocaust has been cancelled after it proved so shocking some audience-members were forced to seek medical help after watching.
Early performances of a production at a Dusseldorf opera house “clearly affected numerous audience members so strongly both psychologically and physically that they had to seek medical help afterward,” according to a statement from Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
The production, branded “tasteless” by the local Jewish community, and had provoked “violent protests” at its 4 May premiere, according to local newspaper reports. The audience on opening night responded by booing loudly.
The opera, which is traditionally set in medieval Germany at a time of troubadors, goddess worship and castles, instead depicts Tannhäuser as a concentration camp guard shooting Jewish prisoners.
Other upsetting scenes reportedly showed death in the gas chambers, violent rape, physical brutality and suicide by self-immolation, Der Spiegel reports. The audience on opening night responded by booing loudly.
In response to the outcry theatre bosses have pulled the theatrical staging of the opera. Future performances will be sung in concert only.
In a statement the Deutsche Oper am Rhein said that after considering all the arguments we came to the conclusion "that we cannot justify such an extreme impact of our artistic work".
Director Burkhard Kosminski decided not to make changes to the most shocking scenes, according to the statement.
“Of course- and for legal reasons too - we will respect the freedom of the artist,” the opera house said.