Mohammed's severed head had already caused enough consternation at Berlin's Deutsche Oper.
Fear that the head -- a prop in a Mozart opera -- could anger Muslims prompted the cancelation of the show last month and brought charges of needless self-censorship. Now the head has vanished along with those of Jesus, Buddha and Neptune just before the performance returns to the stage.
The four dummy heads feature in the final scene of a jazzed-up version of Mozart's Idomeneo, which the opera dropped from its schedule last month over possible security concerns.
After a hail of criticism and an all-clear from police, the opera house rescheduled two performances of the show for Dec. 18 and Dec. 29. However, spokesman Alexander Busche on Friday confirmed a report in the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper that the heads were missing.
"The costume director and the technical director are having a look around, but if they don't turn up, we'll just make new ones," Busche said.
"What matters for us is that we have heads on the 18th," he said.
He said the costume director recalled seeing them recently and that they had probably been misplaced somewhere in the opera's sprawling storerooms and workshops. He said he doubted they were stolen.
Deutsche Oper head Kirsten Harms had canceled Hans Neuenfels' interpretation of the 225-year-old work, last performed in 2004, following a vague security warning from police.
The decision provoked widespread debate in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's controversial remarks about Islam.
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, called the decision to cancel the opera "crazy" and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against "self-censorship out of fear."
Neuenfels refused to have the scene cut, saying it represented his protest against all organized religion. It's not part of Mozart's original work.
However, the opera company announced last month that it was returning the work to its winter lineup after a new police assessment found no "concrete danger."
Schaeuble plans to attend along with members of the Islam Conference, a group of Muslim representatives and public officials working for better integration of Muslims in German society.
Busche declined to comment on security arrangements for this month's performances.
However, he admitted that the saga was testing the nerves of staff at the opera house, one of three in Berlin.
"I will be so happy when this Idomeneo is over," Busche said. "We would really like to get back to just promoting and staging normal opera."
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