Berlin — A German newspaper critic was smeared with animal feces on her face in the city of Hanover by a ballet director who had apparently taken offense at a review she had written.
The Hanover State Opera apologized for the incident and announced on Monday that it would suspend ballet director Marco Goecke with immediate effect.
The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that an angry Goecke approached her dance critic Wiebke Huester during the break of a premiere at the Hanover Opera House on Saturday and asked what she was doing there. It was said that the two did not know each other personally.
According to the newspaper, Goecke, who apparently felt provoked by a recent criticism she had written about a production he had written in the Dutch seat of government in The Hague, threatened her with a ballet ban and accused her of being responsible for the cancellation of season tickets in Hanover.
He then pulled out a paper bag containing animal feces and smeared the contents on her face before disappearing through a crowded theater foyer, the newspaper said. Huester identified the substance as dog feces and said she had filed a criminal complaint, German news agency dpa reported.
In a statement on its website, the opera house said Huester’s “personal integrity” had been violated “in unspeakable ways”. She contacted her immediately after the incident to apologize.
The opera house announced that Goecke’s “impulsive reaction” violated the house rules of the theater and “he had caused massive damage to the Staatsoper and the Staatsballett Hannover”. As a result, he will be suspended until further notice and banned from the opera house.
Goecke has the next few days to apologize “comprehensively” and explain himself to the theater management “before further steps are announced,” it said.
However, the ballet director was at least partially unrepentant. In an interview with NDR, Goecke admitted that his “choice of media was absolutely not great”.
“Of course it’s certainly not socially recognized or respected when you resort to such means,” he said of the attack, adding that he had never done anything like this before and was “a little shocked at myself”.
Goecke said that while having his work “smeared for years” is a price to pay to be in the public eye, there is a limit.
“At a certain point, I disagree,” he said.
The German Association of Journalists DJV condemned the attack.
“An artist has to tolerate criticism, even if it seems exaggerated,” said Lower Saxony’s state manager Frank Rieger. “Anyone who reacts violently to criticism is unacceptable. The attack on the … journalist is also an attack on freedom of the press.”