Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guest Post: Death of Klinghoffer Review

Pamela McCorduck, author of Machines Who Think and co-author of The Futures of Women, was at the Met opening of The Death of Klinghoffer and sent me this review, which I am publishing with her permission:

Arrived to a tremendous police presence, which saddened me, but which also reassured me. Ticket holders had to enter at the side of the plaza, which was otherwise completely sealed off; the demonstrators were out toward Columbus Avenue. Plenty of purse-checking once inside the house too.

The production was given a tremendous ovation (which it earned) at the end. The disruptions - one guy yelling out during a quiet moment in the first act (a well-educated voice) that "the murder of Klinghoffer will not be forgiven" seemed to me entirely self-aggrandizing. No one in that auditorium could, or probably would, be forgiving anyone, nor had they the right. The Times says he was escorted from the house and arrested; likewise a woman who screamed "a vulgarity" and though I was seated in the orchestra, as was she, I couldn?t tell what she yelled. 

The opera opens with two choruses in succession, one the exiled Palestinians, one the exiled Jews. Each is an exquisite piece of music (and as my Juilliard instructor pointed out, each lasts to the
minute the same time as the other). After the exiled Palestinians sing, people actually booed. Not because the music wasn?t beautiful and beautifully performed, but because Palestinians in New York
deserve to be booed on principle, apparently. This dismayed me, but there you go. No Palestinians in the audience to boo the chorus of the exiled Jews.

The first act seemed a bit abstract?the choral music was always superb, but the arias less so. I?d have to hear them again to say more. But the second act! It took hold and didn?t let you go. I was utterly wiped out at the end.

Does the opera humanize the terrorists? Yes, it does. Are they admirable human beings? Glamorous? Not in the least. But to acknowledge their pain in exile is only to acknowledge the unpleasant facts, and the opera would make no sense as drama if we didn?t have a little backstory. 

Whereas Klinghoffer and his wife are altogether admirable: from a wheelchair, he speaks truth to power, in the old phrase, a guy standing in front of him with a machine gun--a hugely courageous
thing. The conjugal love between them is beautifully delineated. The captain is subtly characterized (a peacemaker, and a courageous man who, even at gunpoint, lies about Klinghoffer's death to the
authorities on land because he suspects that if the death is reported, mayhem will come from land and many more will be killed). He offers his own life to the terrorists, because as "host" on his ship, he has failed his "guests."

Before, at intermission, and after the performance, an electronic bulletin board told how the opera differed from the facts, and what happened to the main characters, including the terrorists (they were
eventually released from prison). The program itself had a page-long statement from the Klinghoffer daughters, which was heartfelt, but contained a major confusion between art and real life. It was their father; they're entitled to the confusion. 

Even Rudi Giuliani, who was outside leading the protestors, admitted that he loves the music, and listens to it "without listening to the words"? I can't think why. This is in no way propaganda. It's a
deeply moving piece of art. 

How it got the reputation of being anti-Semitic just baffles me. Yes, one of the terrorists talks about "Jewish exploitation of the poor," but that's the stuff you've heard since you were four, and in
this case, it quickly changes to "American exploitation." But the Jewish characters themselves are portrayed with deep sympathy and subtlety, which the Palestinians are not. Their sorrow has
degenerated into fanaticism, which may be human, but isn't to be admired. 

To me, it was an irony that fanatics were outside protesting an opera which nearly none of them had seen nor knew anything about.

 My report from the field,

No comments: