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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Racy Mozart whips up Berlin storm
A Masked Ball
Bieito's A Masked Ball in London came in for heavy criticism
A Mozart opera modernised to include rape, torture, nudity and prostitutes has caused a scandal in Germany.

The premiere of Abduction from the Seraglio (Entfuehrung aus dem Serail) at the Komische Oper in Berlin has met outrage from audiences and critics.

The opera's Catalan director, Calixto Bieito, has in the past provoked shock with productions in England and Wales.

He claimed moving the Berlin opera's action to a modern-day brothel would highlight abuses in the sex trade.

'Absolutely unacceptable'

The production, which shifts the setting from Mozart's mythical 18th Century Turkish palace, has as its hero a cross-dressing pimp who slaughters the prostitutes at the end of the night.

Opera house sponsor DaimlerChrysler has threatened to withdraw its annual $24,000 funding in disgust at Bieito's interpretation.

Matthias Kleinert, an adviser to DaimlerChrysler bosses, told the Bild-Zeitung daily paper: "The overall depiction of sex and violence is absolutely unacceptable.

Composer Mozart set the opera in a mythical Turkish palace

"When the prostitutes were massacred onstage I had to leave."

The production features forced prostitution, simulated sex and masturbation, as well as a nude aria sung in the shower and urination on stage.

It has been well received by some supporters, who believe it reflects the darker text behind the Austrian composer's dazzling score, and turnouts have been strong.

Bieito's raunchy production of Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus (The Bat) for the Welsh National Opera in 2002 shocked audiences with an orgy, violence and strong language.

He was also criticised for his English National Opera (ENO) productions of Don Giovanni and Verdi's A Masked Ball, which featured homosexual rape, satanic sex rituals and masturbation.

Some audience members walked out and many regular theatregoers stayed away, adding to financial troubles for ENO.

The BBC's Tristana Moore
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