Performer on stage (illustrative)
Performer on stage (illustrative) Reuters

A German opera house has cancelled an opera featuring graphic Nazi imagery following a wave of public protests on opening night.

The Düsseldorf opera house announced that it would cancel its second on-stage dramatization of Richard Wagner’s notoriously anti-Semitic Tannhaeuser opera and that only the concert version would be performed.

At the opening of the Düsseldorf performance, performers could be seen inside glass chambers, falling to the floor as white fog flowed. The performance showed a family having their heads shaved and then being shot, The Telegraph reported.

Other scenes showed suicide and rape, according to German magazine Der Spiegel.

Saying that they were aware of the dramatization's potential for "controversy," the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (German Opera on the Rhine) said it had underestimated the effect of the display.

"We react with the greatest of concern to the fact that some scenes, especially the very realistic depiction of execution at gun point, led to such a strong physical and psychological impact on numerous visitors, that they had to seek medical attention afterwards," the opera house said in its statement published on Wednesday evening, according to Deutsche Welle.

"In an intensive discussion with director Burkhard C. Kosminski we talked about the possibility of changing some individual scenes," the opera house said. "He refused to this on artistic grounds. Obviously we are legally obliged to respect the artistic freedom of the director."

The director of Düsseldorf's Jewish Community, Michael Szentei-Heiser, called the dramatization "tasteless," but said he would not ask for the show to be cancelled.

Szentei-Heise said that while Wagner was an “ardent anti-Semite,” he had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

Wagner's music was adopted and used by the Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, 50 years after the musician's death. Its live performance is opposed in Israel.

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