music festival
music festival Reuters

Russian singer Evgeny Nikitin, 38, has pulled out of the renowned Bayreuth Festival in Germany which celebrates the works of Richard Wagner, amid controversy over his Nazi tattoo.

Nikitin, a former heavy metal singer and drummer, who has a tattoo of a large swastika on the right side of his chest, was set to sing in The Flying Dutchman, the opening production, on Wednesday.

The heavy-metal artist has since “painted over” his offending body art.

"I have been confronted with questions about the tattoos, their background and their meaning. I had them done in my youth," Nikitin said. "It was a big mistake, and I wish I'd never done it.”

"I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and offense these signs and symbols would cause, particularly in Bayreuth, given the context of the festival's history," he wrote in a statement posted on the festival's website. "As a result, I have decided not to appear at the Bayreuth Festival."

Established in 1872 by the composer and notorious anti-Semite Richard Wagner, the festival's reputation had long been marred by its association with the Nazi regime. Hitler reportedly attended the festival on a regular basis.

“Bayreuth has a bad history with the Nazis. It's clear that Bayreuth has to be careful about this terrible part of history and has to take a position against it,” Festival spokesman Gunther Philipowski told CNN.

"His decision to pull out of the role is fully in line with our policy of completely rejecting Nazi ideology in any shape or form," the organizers said in a statement.

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