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Singer with Nazi tattoo cancels Germany appearance

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
July 23, 2012 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
German Chancellor and Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler, second right, talking with Winifred Wagner in the park of the Wahnfried Villa in Bayreuth in summer 1937. Winifred Wagner was the daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth music festival.
German Chancellor and Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler, second right, talking with Winifred Wagner in the park of the Wahnfried Villa in Bayreuth in summer 1937. Winifred Wagner was the daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth music festival.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Evgeny Nikitin was due to appear at the Bayreuth Festival this week
  • He got a Nazi swastika tattoo as a young man in a heavy metal band, the festival says
  • The festival performs the works of Richard Wagner, a favorite of Adolf Hitler's

(CNN) -- Russian singer Evgeny Nikitin has pulled out of one of the world's best-known opera events, the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, because he has a Nazi tattoo, organizers said Sunday.

Nikitin was in a heavy metal band as a young man, and got the swastika tattoo then, said festival spokesman Gunther Philipowski.

"That is a problem in Bayreuth," Philipowski said. "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."

The festival is dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner, one of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's favorite composers.

Hitler attended the Bayreuth Festival regularly, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, which describes Wagner as "an artist long associated with anti-Semitism" and the racist-nationalist volkisch tradition "from which the Nazis drew much of their ideology."

Nikitin, 38, a bass-baritone, has "painted over" his Nazi tattoo, and it would not have been visible during his performance in "The Flying Dutchman," Philipowski said.

But there are videos of him online where the tattoo is visible, he said.

"I had the tattoos made when I was young. It was a big mistake in my life and I wish I had never done it," Nikitin said in a statement released by the festival.

Nikitin canceled his appearance after discussions with Bayreuth management, the spokesman said.

He had already been in Germany rehearsing for his premiere on Wednesday, Philipowski said.

Nikitin's agent did not immediately respond to CNN questions about the cancellation.

His website still lists him as appearing in "The Flying Dutchman" at the festival this summer. The festival website does not list him in the cast.

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