Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Met Cancels Klinghoffer HD Broadcast

From the Met:
New York, NY (June 17, 2014)After an outpouring of concern that its plans to transmit John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer might be used to fan global anti-Semitism, the Metropolitan Opera announced the decision today to cancel its Live in HD transmission, scheduled for November 15, 2014. The opera, which premiered in 1991, is about the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murder of one of its Jewish passengers, Leon Klinghoffer, at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.
“I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “But I’ve also become convinced that there is 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 final decision was made after a series of discussions between Mr. Gelb and Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, representing the wishes of the Klinghoffer daughters.
In the interests of transparency, the Met ought to release some evidence of the "outpouring of concern," because right now it looks like the ADL and the Klinghoffer daughters have done this single-handedly.

From John Adams:
My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, and it roundly condemns his brutal murder. 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 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.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

Alice Goodman on Twitter, to Nico Muhly:

Alice Goodman ‏@AliceGoodman17 5m
@nicomuhly The Met should have anticipated all this and had a plan in place. St Louis Opera did. It's not as if there were no history.

Alice Goodman ‏@AliceGoodman17 8h
@nicomuhly It's not antisemitism that @MetOpera is concerned about; it's the baseless accusations of antisemitism, which it can't afford.

Lisa Hirsch said...


Anonymous said...

People who call the opera anti-Semitic are often accused of making baseless charges without having seen it.

I attended the original San Francisco Opera production.

So I am speaking from direct first hand experience in opining: Yes. It is anti-Semitic.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Say more, please.

Michael Strickland said...

I was onstage and performed in the original San Francisco Opera production as a supernumerary hostage.

So I am speaking from direct first hand experience in opining: No. It is not anti-Semitic.

I'd also like to hear more, kalimac. Otherwise you're just engaging in slander which is creepy.

Anonymous said...

Well. It has been many years. And what I remember is my disturbed reaction at the time more than the specifics that generated it. But I am not going to revisit this offensive work merely to justify myself to someone who uses words like "creepy" and "slander."

Let us specify that any Israeli burning and eviction of Arab villages in 1948 was a bad thing. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that the libretto equated and equivalenced this with the Holocaust, which is a mistake of orders of magnitude, and, equally importantly, of context. For even the worst Israeli treatment of Arabs - and some of it has been very bad - is not, and has never been, genocidal.

Further, the extended focus on this - which seemed to me to outweigh, and possibly even to outlast in time spent, that on the Holocaust (I would like to see actual time figures here) - served in context as an excuse to justify, or at least to render understandable and sympathetic, the pushing of Leon Klinghoffer overboard. That Leon was not there does not matter. The Jews did this, the Jews must be punished. You don't see the Holocaust used to excuse the burning of Arab villages this way.

All this is what I call anti-Semitic. Remembering that this term is not, as it is often taken today, a synonym for "genocidal." Consult the novel or film Gentleman's Agreement for a definition of genteel, oh so polite and respectable, anti Semitism.

I specified that my judgment was an opinion. Others are free to opine otherwise. But we are told over and over again, re racism, sexism, etc., that speaker's intent, or other hearers not being offended, does not trump offense given. So it is here.

Lisa Hirsch said...

To a Palestinian person, what has happened since 1948 could very well feel like genocide, whether it meets the definition of "genocide" or not.

I have personally never heard or read "anti-Semitic" taken to mean "genocidal;" maybe I am reading the wrong sources. I see it used to mean "Jew hating." What you describe doesn't sound like Jew hating; it sounds as though the emphasis and balance are off. It sounds anti-Zionist, which is not the same as anti-Semitic, although some anti-Zionism is antisemitic.

I haven't seen the opera; had hoped to see it on the HD broadcast. I'll be looking for the libretto.

Axel Feldheim said...

Lisa, let me know if you're still looking for a libretto. I saw the San Francisco production of Death of Klinghoffer. This discussion sent me searching, & I finally found my copy of the libretto. It includes the text for the scene originally inserted between the Chorus for Exiled Palestinians & the Chorus for Exiled Jews. I believe this scene was the cause of the original accusations of anti-Semetism & was only performed in the original production at the De Munt in Brussels. It's been excised from subsequent productions in the US.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Axel, thank you. I would love to see it, but I fear losing it in my own house. I think I should be able to find a copy.