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Berlin Opera to Bring Back Mozart Opera Canceled Over Security Fears

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Exterior of the 'Deutsche Oper Berlin' building.AP

German opera company said Friday it would bring back a Mozart opera canceled because of security fears over a scene featuring the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Deutsche Oper Berlin said it hoped to stage two performances of the controversial Hans Neuenfels production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" before the end of the year, after receiving a new security assessment from police.

The cancellation of four scheduled fall performances last month by opera chief Kirsten Harms followed a vague security warning from police and triggered a furious debate about free speech.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the decision crazy and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against "self-censorship out of fear."

The opera includes a scene with the severed heads of Jesus, Muhammad, Neptune and Buddha. That was an addition to the 225-year-old opera by the director, who said it was to protest organized religion.

Despite the criticism, Harms refused to put the production on again without an all-clear from police. On Thursday, Berlin police issued a statement that the opera and its staff faced no "concrete danger" if performances were held.

The opera house said Friday that it "had begun without delay the relevant preparations for reviving the opera."

Police said they would discuss possible security measures close to the date of the performances.

The debate over the cancellation came after Pope Benedict XVI drew criticism for quoting a medieval Christian emperor calling Islam "evil" and "inhuman," and after protest in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper.