- Associated Press - Saturday, July 21, 2012

BERLIN (AP) - A Russian baritone who was due to sing the lead role in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” when the annual Bayreuth opera festival opens next week has withdrawn from the event after it emerged that he once had Nazi-related symbols tattooed on his body.

A German television program broadcast Friday showed old footage of a bare-chested Evgeny Nikitin playing drums, in which a partly covered swastika tattoo could be seen. Festival organizers said Saturday that Nikitin made his decision amid questions from a German newspaper about the significance of some of his tattoos.

Nikitin said in a statement that getting the tattoos in his youth was “a major mistake” and that he hadn’t been aware of the “extent of the confusion and hurt” they could cause.