The Needle and the Damage Done
38-year old bass-baritone Yevgeny Nikitin was all set to make his Bayreuth debut singing the title role in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, the first Russian to take a lead role at the festival.
In Tom Holt's humorous fantasy spoof Flying Dutch the Dutchman's ship is carrying toxic chemical waste, and the reason why its crew can only go ashore every seven years is that they smell vile from its effects, which only let up occasionally. Well, Yevgeny Nikitin has landed himself with a whole shipload of toxic cargo, and has given himself a smell too bad for him ever to sing at Bayreuth (bad news if you're a Wagner singer).
How did he manage this feat? Well, in his younger days Mr Nikitin was a singer and drummer in a heavy metal band, and pictures have emerged for those days showing him bare-chested.
Well, not just bare-chested: bare-chested with tattoos.
Swoon! Gulp! The horror!
Hang on: not just any tattoos, but a swastika tattoo.
Because if there is one topic about which the Bayreuth management are sensitive, it is the link between the place and a certain popular moustachioed German Chancellor. To begin with, Wagner hated Jews. Then Hitler fell in love with Wagner's music (and, one supposes, his politics) and patronised Bayreuth a good deal. Then Winifred Wagner, the composer's daughter-in-law, was a big fan of Hitler. Yes, there are things there that Bayreuth's current administration would prefer to keep in the box labelled "history".
So having one's new star singer pictured with a swastika on his chest: not good.
If only he'd stuck to "666" or "Ozzy" or "Satan Wants You!"