Curtain falls on swastika
A Russian singer has pulled out of the Bayreuth Opera Festival because of Nazi tattoos on his chest, days before the start of the celebration of Richard Wagner's work.
Wagner was popular among the leaders of the Third Reich.
Evgeny Nikitin was to play the Flying Dutchman in Wagner's opera but German press and TV images have shown him with tattoos resembling symbols used by the Nazis on his chest.
One looks like a swastika, which appears to be covered by a new tattoo in more recent pictures.
"I had these tattoos done in my youth. It was a big mistake in my life and I wish I had never done it," Nikitin said on the festival's website. "I was not aware of the extent of the irritation and pain these signs and symbols would cause, especially in Bayreuth and in the context of the history of the festival."
Nikitin resigned after the festival's management confronted him with the media reports about his tattoos.
"His decision to relinquish the part of the Flying Dutchman for these reasons is in line with the consistent rejection by the festival's management of any form of National Socialist thinking," the festival's management said on its website.
The Bayreuth Festival, conceived by Wagner, dates back to 1876 and is celebrated for its stagings of his operas.
Though Wagner, who penned several anti-Semitic texts, died half a century before Adolf Hitler came to power, the Nazi dictator was an admirer and drew on his writings for his theories about racial purity and exterminating Jews.
The annual opera frenzy at Bayreuth is a highlight of European cultural life.