More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

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lennygoran
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More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:20 pm

In Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, the hero is shunned by his fellow mortals when they realise he has visited a parallel world of unbridled sexuality.

It is a feeling that Le Gateau Chocolat knows all too well. The black British drag artist has denounced the “abject shame” of Wagner enthusiasts who booed his appearance at the opening night of the Bayreuth festival in Bavaria, one of the most exalted events in the operatic calendar.

An audience including Angela Merkel and Katharina Wagner, the German composer’s great-granddaughter, watched as the performer from Brighton played a spirit accompanying Tannhäuser in a blond wig, heels and a pink tutu. At one point he unfurled a rainbow flag over the stage in what he said was an “incredibly historic” moment.

It is thought to be the first time that the opera festival, which is notorious for aesthetic clashes between the avant-garde and the bloody mindedly old-fashioned, has featured a drag act.

When he made his curtsey at the end he was loudly derided by a group of conservative viewers nicknamed the “Wagner ultras” in the German press. He later received racist and homophobic abuse over social media.

Le Gateau Chocolat, 37, speaking on the condition that he would only be referred to by his stage name, told The Times that the “deeply uncouth and antiquated” behaviour had left him reluctant to go back to Germany for the remaining performances of the opera.

“What prompted the booing can and must only be answered by those who booed,” he said. “It was loud enough for me to hear and for many in the audience to concur, both in the auditorium and in cinemas.”

The drag performer is best known in Britain for his portrayal of the fool Feste in Emma Rice’s production of Twelfth Nightat the Globe theatre in London and in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the National.

Bayreuth, however, is a famously tough gig. Conflict between experimental directors and reactionary critics or audience members is as much of a tradition as Mrs Merkel’s annual appearance at the opening ceremony.

Quite aside from Bayreuth’s chummy relationship with the Third Reich — the Tannhäuser overture is said to have been Hitler’s favourite piece of music, and he was a regular guest of honour — it has a history of controversies that have little to do with artistic niceties.

In recent years the festival has been troubled by rows over a Russian singer’s swastika tattoo, an egg thrown at the head of Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, and the presence of Michael Gove and George Osborne.

Sections of the audience protested audibly when the creative team took their bow. There has also been criticism of Valery Gergiev, 66, the opera’s conductor, who is a prominent supporter of President Putin’s regime and its law prohibiting homosexual “propaganda”, although it was directed as much at his musical choices as at his politics.

The German reviewers, however, have generally applauded the decision to include a drag act. Le Gateau Chocolat said the “vociferous” support of Ms Wagner, the festival’s director, had persuaded him to return for the final four performances in spite of his misgivings.

“I shoulder a gargantuan responsibility in my attempts to authentically present a queer identity that may challenge people’s preconceptions on race, gender and sexuality . . . in the hallowed halls of Bayreuth,” he said.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/drag ... -rpqwjd02z

A followup-I hadn't known of this tattoo controversy with Nikitin


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Opera Singer Explains His Troubling Tattoo


By DANIEL J. WAKINAUG. 1, 2012


The Russian bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin, who resigned from the Bayreuth Festival over body art, wants his American audience to know his side: What appeared to be a swastika tattooed on his chest was just the first stage of a star with a heraldic crest.

“I am an artist, and I came up with it on my own,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. “It’s just my fantasy. It’s just an eight-pointed star with a shield on it, an ax, a sword crossed with a helmet on top. What is wrong with that?”

Mr. Nikitin drew international attention last month when he withdrew just days before performances of Wagner’s “Fliegende Holländer” (“The Flying Dutchman”). In a statement at the time by the festival, Mr. Nikitin, 38, said that the tattoo in question and others — apparently including Scandinavian runes — were a youthful indiscretion, a mistake, something to regret.

The statement said that he 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.”

That context would be the vicious anti-Semitism of its founder, Richard Wagner; the festival’s close connection to the Nazi Party; and its happy hosting of Hitler.

The context for Tuesday’s statements would be Mr. Nikitin’s appearance in seven performances of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” starting on Feb. 15 at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has appeared often since 2002.


In the interview, which was arranged by the Met and translated by a Met employee in a conference call, Mr. Nikitin repeated assertions he had made after the initial controversy that the tattoo had never depicted a swastika. He said the tattoo artist stopped while coloring in the sides.

“I started bleeding,” Mr. Nikitin added. He said he finally had it finished either early this year or in the spring; he could not remember exactly when.

Via e-mail, Mr. Nikitin provided a copy of the design, which he said he created, and a picture of his chest with the completed tattoo. German news reports first raised the issue of a swastikalike image. Mr. Nikitin said they were probably based on a YouTube video of him as he played drums in a heavy-metal band, bare-chested.

“It was very hot in the studio,” he said.

The Bayreuth Festival, which is run by two of Wagner’s great-granddaughters, Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, issued a statement saying that Mr. Nikitin’s decision to pull out was “fully in line with our policy of completely rejecting Nazi ideology in any shape or form.”


Mr. Nikitin said that after the German news reports emerged, he explained the tattoo to Ms. Wagner and Ms. Wagner-Pasquier. “I lifted my shirt and said, ‘This is what it’s like.’ ”

When asked why his original statement seemed to acknowledge a swastika’s onetime presence, he said: “When I told them the truth, as I am telling you right now, the administration of Bayreuth told me that we can’t publish it, because nobody’s going to believe you.”

He said the festival did what it had to do to “quiet things down” and preserve its reputation. He said he withdrew because he felt he could not perform well amid the “media frenzy.”

“I read the statement and said ‘fine,’ and left,” he said. “Because at that point I was so disturbed by everything else, I didn’t care. Since I was leaving, I gave them carte blanche to say what they wanted to preserve the festival.”

Mr. Nikitin, when pressed on why he at first blamed the folly of his youth for the tattoo but then acknowledged starting it in 2006, said he was actually referring to all his tattooing, which began when he was about 17.


Mr. Nikitin said he genuinely was not aware of the connotations of the Stage 1 tattoo, with its swastikalike form, though both his grandfathers were killed by German forces in World War II.

“It just escaped me at the time,” he said. “I was immersed in my art, my career. I wasn’t focused on the tattoo, to be honest, and what it resembled.”

Mr. Nikitin said he had never had any connection to a neo-Nazi or fascist movement or any sympathy for those elements. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said the house supported him.


“If he was a Nazi and promoting Nazism, of course we’d have a problem,” Mr. Gelb said. “From what I understand, and I spoke to him, he’s guilty of being naïve and ignorant. That doesn’t disqualify you from singing on the stage of the Met.”

He called Mr. Nikitin a good colleague and a fine artist. “It would be really a shame if an artist’s career was destroyed over something that isn’t true,” Mr. Gelb said. “That’s what we should be sensitive to.”

Mr. Nikitin said that looking back, he wished he had never had any tattoos at all. It was a message that he would gladly convey to young people.

“When you’re 18 and you have this, you think it’s cool,” he said. “But when you’re 50, it starts to seem infantile. Better not to do these things.”



https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/arts ... stika.html

John F
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by John F » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:35 pm

I don't understand why so many younger women, clearly middle class and often in the professions (e.g. medicine), get themselves tattooed - not just a small discreet image but big stuff, like you'd expect sailors to wear. As Nikitin points out, it serves no positive purpose and eventually can become an embarrassment or worse.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:41 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:35 pm
I don't understand why so many younger women, clearly middle class and often in the professions (e.g. medicine), get themselves tattooed
I'm with you on this! Regards, Len

barney
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by barney » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:09 pm

Me too. I go further - it seems to me a desecration of the body. I'm not quite sure how to express what I mean by that - it is not a religious desecration. But it is so permanent, and people so often regret it.
Mind you, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion on this, and lots don't agree with me.I'm not suggesting no one should have tattoos, just that I never would.

maestrob
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by maestrob » Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:58 am

barney wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:09 pm
Me too. I go further - it seems to me a desecration of the body. I'm not quite sure how to express what I mean by that - it is not a religious desecration. But it is so permanent, and people so often regret it.
Mind you, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion on this, and lots don't agree with me.I'm not suggesting no one should have tattoos, just that I never would.
I'm with you on this! It seems such an alienating thing to do, and so painful! Yikes! :mrgreen:

THEHORN
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by THEHORN » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:09 pm

While it may have been wrong for the Bayreuth audience to treat this drag queen the way it did , this does not mean the production was not absolutely ridiculous . What on earth do drag queens have to do with the story of Tannhauser , which takes place in medieval Germany among the the Minnesingers ? Absolutely nothing .
The staging is nothing but a typical hokey Eurotrash production . Of all operas, those of Wagner take least well to being set in the present day . I don't object to productions of operas by other composers where this happens, but too often , such productions have often been nothing but collections of ridiculous arbitrary gimmicks .
The Met's current Rigoletto , set in Las Vegas, is one of those updatings which are not ridiculous travesties and it works somehow because it does no damage to the opera . Their Fidelio , which is set in some banana republic probably in Latin America , also does no damage to the opera .
But a Munich Rigoletto done as "Planet of the Apes ?" Give me a break ! Or the previous Bayreuth Lohengrin with the chorus dressed as RATS ? And so on .
Movie audiences today have no problem seeing movies with stories which take place hundreds or even thousands of years ago as long as the story is enjoyable . Why should opera audiences object to productions set in the original time and place of the story ? Don't any opera directors active in Germany and other European countries have the guts to do more traditional productions ?

barney
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by barney » Mon Aug 12, 2019 5:43 pm

You're singing our song! At least Len's and mine. :D
I remember quite enjoying the first transplanted Rigoletto I saw, the famous New York mafia version in which the Duke sings La donna e mobile to a jukebox accompaniment. One of the least successful was Marriage of Figaro set in a 1990s fashion house.

In fact I'd be very interested to hear from those on the forum about the silliest productions they've seen. I'll set that up as a separate thread.

lennygoran
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Re: More On Bayreuth Tannhäuser Le Gateau Chocolat Booed Nikitin Tattoo

Post by lennygoran » Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:43 pm

THEHORN wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:09 pm
The Met's current Rigoletto , set in Las Vegas, is one of those updatings which are not ridiculous travesties and it works somehow because it does no damage to the opera .
Bob it sure didn't work for me-Rigoletto as Don Rickles-no way. Regards, Len :(

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