A German court yesterday upheld the right of the Cologne Opera to ban press photographers from the opening night of its Samson et Dalila back in 2009. The opera house instead offered the press a selection of its own images.
Tilman Knabe's controversial production featured blood, nudity, gang rape, corsets and torture. The hardcore scenes sent some of the regie-hardened cast home on 'sick leave'. But it's just the sort of stuff that German tabloid Bild (a cross between the Sun, the Daily Mail and Nuts) loves to stuff its pages with.
The action was brought by the tabloid's publishers, Axel Springer Verlag. They complained that the photos would have been in the public interest, and so the ban amounted to censorship. In response to the opera house's contention that Bild had a reputation for sexist images, Axel Springer said that they shouldn't have made assumptions.
Cologne representatives pointed out that the house was obliged (contractually, in some cases) to protect the privacy of the performers. Many were naked on stage.
Münster judges ruled that the opera house was indeed obliged to provide information to the press, but could decide how and what to present. They also said the interruption caused by photo-taking was not in the interests of either performers or audience.
Axel Springer are considering whether to appeal.