A Russian opera singer has had to pull out of a debut appearance at this year's Bayreuth Festival just days before it is due to begin in a row over Nazi tattoos.
Yevgeny Nikitin, pictured, was to play the star role in The Flying Dutchman at the month-long music festival, but resigned after the festival's management confronted him with media reports showing the tattoos on his chest.
The issue of Nazism is a sensitive one for the festival, which is dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner – Adolf Hitler's favourite composer and a notorious anti-Semite. Hitler attended the festival on a number of occasions and ensured that it was funded during his dictatorship.
"I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offence these signs and symbols would cause," Nikitin was quoted as saying by the German news agency DPA. "I had them done in my youth. It was a big mistake and I wish I'd never done it."
Photographs of the bass-baritone show tattoos on his chest that resemble Nazi symbols. One which looks like a swastika appears in more recent photos to be covered by a new tattoo.