The company made headlines this past fall when it cancelled a November revival of the 2004 production following vague warnings from the Berlin police that performances might be a target for violence by Muslim extremists. The staging, by Hans Neuenfels, adds to Mozart's original an invented scene depicting the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad (along with those of Jesus Christ, the Buddha and the ancient Greek god Poseidon — the only one of the four who is actually mentioned in the libretto, which is set in ancient Crete.)
When the cancellation was announced, a huge controversy broke out in Germany over freedom of expression; following a deluge of criticism for its decision, the Deutsche Oper rescheduled two performances for December. The first, on December 18, attracted journalists from all over the world anxious to see what the fuss was about — and if furious extremists would in fact attack the theater. Audience members had to pass through metal detectors, and bomb-sniffing dogs inspected the auditorium before the music was allowed to begin.
There were fewer seats filled on Friday, not quite 1,400 in the 1,863-seat house, than at the first performance, which was nearly sold out — a relatively rare occurrence these days at the troubled Deutsche Oper.
About 20 Muslims protested peacefully outside the theater, according to the AP, praying quietly and holding a green banner printed with the Arabic words of the shahadah, the basic profession of Islam which states, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his Prophet."
One Berlin resident, Yusuf ‹zg‹z, told the AP that "Islam is for freedom, but we are against this insult."
Police told reporters that there were no threats to the house or disturbances of the performance. As before, audience members had to pass through metal detectors before entering the theater.
While several leaders of Germany's Muslim community have offered the expected criticisms of the staging when interviewed by the media, there have been very few protests by rank-and-file German Muslims, who have chosen to keep a low profile in the affair. The only protesters outside the Dec. 18 performance were a couple of Christians.