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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Met Throws Opera Overboard

The Met cancels its broadcast of The Death of Klinghoffer.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A scene from the English National Opera's production of John Adams' opera
The Death of Klinghoffer which comes to the Metropolitan Opera in 2012.
Photo by Richard Hubert Smith © 2012 English National Opera. 
The Metropolitan Opera announced today that the company's 2014-15 Live in HD broadcast schedule will not include John Adams' controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer.

The broadcast, planned for the final performance of the opera on Nov. 15 of this year has been dropped from the company's Live in HD series, which expands the Metropolitan Opera's audience to movie theaters around the globe. According to general manager Peter Gelb, the company's decision was caused by "genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the  live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe."

The opera company's highly successful Live in HD series brings the experience of a front-row seat at America's largest opera house to movie theaters around the globe at a relatively low cost. Klinghoffer was one of eight operas scheduled for the coming season.

First staged in 1991, Klinghhoffer depicts the hijacking by Palestinian terrorists of the cruise liner Achille Lauro. During the hijacking, the terrorists murdered wheelchair-bound American tourist Leon Klinghoffer, dumping his body over the side of the cruise ship. The brutality of this act served as the springboard for Mr. Adams' opera, which seeks to explore the motivations behind such a callous act.

A recent editorial in the New York Post referred to the opera as "anti-Semitic and sympathetic to the hijackers." The article cited sections of Alice Goodman's libretto, which refers to the hijackers as "men of ideals."

According to the press statement the decision was made after a series of conversations between Mr. Gelb and Abraham Foxman,  National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Mr. Foxman represented the wishes of the two Klinghoffer daughters, Ilsa and Lisa. The Met has also agreed to place a message from the daughters in issues of Playbill and on the company's website.

"My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer," John Adams said in a statement released by his publisher Boosey & Hawkes, "and it roundly condemns his brutal murder." He continued: "It acknowledges the dreams and the grievances of not only the Israeli but also the Palestinian people, and in no form condones or promotes violence, terrorism or anti-Semitism." The composer added: "The cancellation of the international telecast is a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of 'artistic freedom,' and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera’s detractors claim to be preventing."

Since its premiere, productions of The Death of Klinghoffer have been mounted at Brooklyn Academy of Music (in 2003) and at Juilliard in 2009. This new production, a collaboration with English National Opera marks the work's Met debut.

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