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Murder ink

Evgeny Nikitin has withdrawn from the Bayreuth Festival’s new production of Der Fliegende Holländer after a German television program revealed the bass-baritone has a swastika tattoo. His departure leaves the company with only three days to find a replacement for the production, which opens the festival on Wednesday. [via AFP]


  • 21
    poisonivy says:

    Well I can say now that if I had a visible swastika tattoo, I would get fired from my current workplace. I might also get sued for creating a hostile work environment for other employees. So I don’t feel sorry for Nikitin. There are tattoo laser removal procedures. He could have gotten this taken care of a long time ago.

    Plus, the Bayreuth Festival has a lot of historical baggage. So you can’t blame TPTB for being ultra-sensitive to this sort of thing, because they are still trying to work off that historical baggage.

  • 22
    Arianna a Nasso says:

    from the Intermezzo link mentioned earlier:

    “I had these tattoos done when I was young. It was one of the great mistakes of my life and I wish I had never done it.”

    Maybe having to look at the remnants of this tattoo every day reminds him of his mistake, more than having it erased and pretending it doesn’t exist (the latter a very American thing to do, no?). People can change, why not give him the benefit of the doubt, based on this comment?

    • 22.1
      phoenix says:

      Disclaimer: Believe it or not, the following comment is not intended to offend anyone.
      -- Not fashionable anymore to post fotos of this diva looks like that diva -- I sure miss those old days. Anyways, the face of the inked diva at the head of this thread looks almost exactly like the face of the Hasid rabbi who moved into our neighborhood for awhile -- then left and went back to Brooklyn. The resemblance is unmistakable. Again, no offence intended to anyone, just a comment on what I noticed.

  • 23
    mrmyster says:

    The biggest fascist/nazi threat is these days embodied in the American right wing neo-christian conservative Republican movement, as presently represented by Gov McDonnell in Virginia, the Koch brothers, and we cannot overlook Gov Romney in that regard. These people are far more dangerous than some kooky neo-nazi movement in Germany, or heavy metal rock freaks, that are going nowhere and my doctor would likely call ‘a self-limiting virus.’
    We are constantly reminded of the dangers these days by the oft-repeated quote of the novelist Sinclair Lewis, ” When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” The non-Indian swastika has often be described as a cruciform symbol. I don’t consider that important, though Bayreuth looks a bit silly. I think we have to take these things one at a time. A thoughtless Bayreuth singer who does a dumb thing and pays the price . . . a dim-witted born again US president who starts unnecessary wars and wrecks the economy therefrom . . . followed by a right wing hyper-conservative movement that seeks to blame liberal progressives for all the evils of the world. On balance, which worries you the more? I know my answer.

    • 23.1
      Batty Masetto says:

      Mr M, I am no more fond of the American right wing than you are, but the Germans have their own very serious problem with extremists. These are not “some kooky neo-nazi movement,” they are thugs that terrorize neighborhoods and seize control of local governments:

      • 23.1.1
        OpinionatedNeophyte says:

        It isn’t just Germany. Neo nazism is growing in Eastern Europe. Countenancing this tattoo countenances contemporary violence. Dismissing it as a relic of the past sanitizes and white washes that violence. I’m sort of in a state of shock about some of these comments.

      • 23.1.2
        mrmyster says:

        Thanks, Betty, I appreciate what you say and understand. I read
        the article you sent. News to me. And rather shocking.

      • 23.1.3
        mrmyster says:

        So where is Mrs Merkel in this? And what is the German central government doing about it — I mean if Bayreuth discharges a neo-n. for his tattoo, it’s surely time for the German federal government to take a firm hand in it and
        make arrests etc. of the terrorizing thugs. This is not much in the American press; maybe there should be more attention paid. And maybe Germany needs a regime change.

  • 25
    m. croche says:

    20 years ago?

    Note that La Cieca’s top pic, the later one, has an upwards arrow in the middle of the chest. That arrow appears to be a recent addition -- it’s not visible in the lower pic.

    That arrow (the Tiwaz rune) is another bit of neo-fascist symbolism. See, for example, the flag of the Peruvian neo-nazis:

    It was used by the SS as a burial marker in place of a Christian cross and as a symbol of military valor (see:

  • 26
    phoenix says:

    Speaking of summer festivals -- did anyone listen to Massenet’s Thérèse from Montpelier today? It was as ugly and morbid to my ears as what I am reading about on this thread. The actors were great but the music was so abysmal I would hesitate to call them singers at this point.

  • 27
    pasavant says:

    Die Nazi Scum!

  • 28
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Interestingly, as of Saturday PM there are only 30 comments on the article in BILD
    and 85 comments here (minus a few for Massenet)

    • 28.1
      m. croche says:

      I’m not sure how many opera fans there are among the readership of Bild. And trust me, you do not want to read the comments there.

  • 29
    zinka says:

    I just realized Nikitin is scheduled for Klingsor at the Met…..Will he be fired????????????????

  • 31
    Marcello says:

    According to the Bayreuth website Samuel Youn will sing the Hollaender (in addition to the Heerrufer). Sorry about my misleading post from yesterday.

  • 32
    oedipe says:

    Responsibility and what’s right/wrong are relative, aren’t they? Or at least, they are culturally conditioned.

    Here is what a commenter on a French opera blog believes: The perverted spirit is not on Nikitin’s skin, but in the public opinion manipulators who are using him. Nikitin is a victim of the frenzy of the self-righteous and the power of the hypocrites. They have made reappear on the Russian’s skin a forbidden juvenile tattoo which no longer exists; they are passing the buck of their own guilt feelings to the other, the Foreigner. This scape-goating makes them (the Bavarians, I gather) feel good about themselves.

    • 32.1
      brooklynpunk says:

      “Here is what a commenter on a French opera blog believes….”


      Are the French the “purist” judges of what’s “right or wrong” in this matter??

      Anyone remember the dark years of 1940-44?…Remember “Le Marechel”Petain..and his weasely lap-dog, Laval?…and the thousands of French men and women who had no moral problems with collaborating with the Germans?
      (yea…there WERE MILLIONS of French people who suffered horribly under the Occupiers—BUT….)

      • 32.1.1
        Arianna a Nasso says:

        I see, so because of things some French people did 70 years ago, that means NO French person EVER can have a valid comment on anything that has a connenction to WWII. How nice that we have you to be the absolute arbiter on these matters and tell us what to think.

          brooklynpunk says:

          You misread me, Arianna:

          I never claimed to be the “absolute arbiter”
          ( whatever that means…??) BUT--just bringing up a FACT-- regardless of whether or not it happened 70-1,000 years ago—or just yesterday--

          AND-- anyone ( the poster on the French blog) who can be so facile and dismissive of the troubled history of the not so distant past, has little-if NO respect, as far as I am concerned….

          • brooklynpunk says:

            AND-- it was more than just “a few French people” who committed fairly heinous acts during the Occupation, BTW-- read “Marianne in
            Chains”, or any of the books by Robert Paxton, concerning the years of the Occupation, for a damning expose of those years --( “The Sorrow and the Pity”, anyone?)

          • oedipe says:


            This poster was not around during the Occupation, and neither you nor I know who his parents were (nor does it matter, really). So you need a more appropriate and substantial argument against his viewpoint.

          • armerjacquino says:

            The argument against the poster’s viewpoint is that it is a ridiculously over-complicated piece of projection.

            People don’t like swastikas because people don’t like Nazis. The end.

          • oedipe says:

            Just because something is complicated doesn’t make it null.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Obviously. And just because something is complicated, it doesn’t stop it being stupid, either.

          • oedipe says:

            Armer dixit?

          • armerjacquino says:

            *shrug* You asked for another argument against his viewpoint. Mine is that it’s dumb. No need to get snotty.

          • brooklynpunk says:


            Your right--I don’t “know” what the blog-poster’s personal family history is--for all I know , his/her relatives were deported from France in 1942.

            However, reading between the lines ( and I’m sure I am not the only “guilty party” in doing so, on this site, regarding any number of things, no?), I just got a very uneasy gut feeling in reading a French person’s ( actually we don’t even know if this person is French, so it might be a moot point), reaction.

            I grant you that this is a very “hot-button ” issue fer me--and it is one of the few matters where, as far as I believe, that there is no area of “gray”--it is purely “black or white”--which might not be a rational response, on my part,,,,

          • oedipe says:


            I hear you loud and clear about that gut feeling. But I think it’s a mistake to get angry and/or dismissive about the guy’s arguments. IMO, such arguments should be taken seriously and analyzed carefully, because they are subtly shrewd and could appeal to many people (including some here).

            One comes across such arguments and sophisms quite often today, especially (though not only) in Europe when discussing historic responsibilities. Simplifying things, I would say the new “trend” is to state/prove that everybody is -and has been all along- a victim. If we are all victims, then singling out the victims of the Holocaust is manipulative and an over-reaction.

            Thus, Nikitin is a victim…

          • brooklynpunk says:


            You hit the nail on the head, fer me….

            The “we are all victims” line, in regards to the horrors of WWII, is one that I find particulary odious--NO— not EVERYONE WAS a “victim”--and there were quite a few perpetrators/by-standers/supporters/ , even tin the invaded Countries that the Germans occupied.

            That was my only real strong response to the blog-post….

  • 33
    Nerva Nelli says:

    Has Reichsmaestro Thielemann exhibited HIS tattoos yet?

    • 33.1
      DurfortDM says:

      The Reichmaestro is said to be an admirer of Frederick the Great, a defense-cutting, French-speaking, music-writing, government government health care -providing, relidgiously-tolerant and (it is claimed, with some good reason) gay correspondent of Voltaire.

  • 34
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Can you find the relevant word in this music?

  • 35
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    You would think that any singer worthy to sing Vanderdekken in Bayreuth would know how to pronounce Mädchen ! (as in “Wie aus der Ferne längst vergang’ner Zeiten Spricht dieses Mädchens Bild zu mir”). No, I don’t cut him any slack because he’s Russian. If anything, on German TV he should have been eager to demonstrate a knowledge of the subtilties of singing in German.

  • 36
    Clita del Toro says:

    I don’t know anything about Nikitin, his singing or his politics, except that I do find him physically repulsive. Yucky face. And it’s not that I don’t like hot, bald, tattooed, hairy numbers either.

  • 37
    Uninvolved Bystander says:

    He has already sung Wagner at the Met with Levine conducting (Fasolt). I think if he is anti-Semitic and racist we would have heard about it by now and Nikitin would have been unemployable.

    Still, as I replied upthread, given his country’s suffering during WWII the tattoo was an ignorant thing to do, even given he was a young man at the time. Kind of like a Native American getting a tattoo of Custer.

  • 39
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Furthermore, at 1:24 in the ZDF video Nitkin delights in saying “good crazy things.” I suspect his delight comes from believing he has chosen the right word in English. Perhaps he meant to say ‘really crazy,’ but he is in general defensive…” [in the underground and world of heaby metal] if you didn’t have [such tatoos] you were not serious.” At that moment, his body language portrays disgust at having that side of his personal life invaded. The irony is also that pre-production video portraits of opera singers in general are very scarce these days and difficult for press people to arrange in the first place. They wanted a hook for this one than they found a dandy one.