German opera company faces critcism over cancellation of Mozart's Idomeneo

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A German opera company has given in to a storm of criticism by agreeing to stage a Mozart opera which was cancelled because of security fears over a scene featuring the severed head of the Prophet Mohamed.

The Deutsche Oper Berlin said it hoped to stage two performances of the controversial Hans Neuenfels production of Mozart's Idomeneo before the end of the year, after receiving a new security assessment from police.

The turnaround follows a stormy discussion in Germany over freedom of speech and the need to defend it. Criticism of the cancellation came from officials all the way up to the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who warned against "self-censorship out of fear", and the Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who called the cancellation "crazy".

Kirsten Harms, the head of the opera company, had dropped four performances scheduled for November after a vague security warning from police. They have now advised that there is little threat of attack.

The opera includes a scene with the severed heads of Jesus, Mohamed, Neptune and Buddha. The scene is an addition to the 225-year-old opera by Neuenfels, who said it was his protest against all organised religion.