German opera house dumps Mozart opera depicting Mohammed

Deutsche Presse-Agenteur dpa
Published: Monday September 25, 2006

Berlin- One of Germany's leading opera houses, Deutsche Oper Berlin, announced Monday that it was cancelling a controversial production because of the likelihood that it might offend Muslims. The original opera, Idomeneo by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, makes no reference to Islam, but director Hans Neuenfels introduced a scene to his production that depicts the decapitated heads of the Prophet Mohammed, Jesus Christ, the Buddha and the Greek god Poseidon.

It caused outrage at the premiere in 2003. The opera company said it was cancelling plans to revive the show next month after advice from security authorities in Berlin that the performances posed an "incalculable" security risk.

Asked for comment, police said they were not aware of any specific threat to the opera house at the moment.

Idomeneo had been scheduled to run on November 5, 8, 15 and 18.

The original Mozart opera, first performed in 1781, revolves around resistance to human sacrifice to the gods.

But Neuenfels, famed for his provocative interpretations, turned Idomeneo into an attack on world religions, reviewers said back in December 2003.

While singing, King Idomeneo was shown bringing out the four heads and placing them on four chairs.

Publicly subsidized theatres in Germany often seek to shock audiences, with directors quick to cite freedom of expression.

In February, there were violent protests in parts of the Muslim world over a series of cartoons published by a Danish newspaper depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

On September 10, Pope Benedict XVI criticised intellectuals for "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom," but himself upset Muslims two days later by quoting medieval criticism of Islam. He has since voiced regret.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur dpa