New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Opera, the world’s biggest (largest budget) nonprofit performing arts institution, under the leadership of Peter Gelb, was finally persuaded to cancel the simulcast scheduled for Nov. 15, 2014 of the John Adams/Alice Goodman anti-Israel, antisemitic opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” to theater screens around the world. The cancellation reduced the potential audience for this morally bankrupt work by hundreds of thousands. It immediately followed CAMERA’s successful campaign, which had led to hundreds of protests via letters and phone calls to The Met, to the news media, and to sponsors of the simulcast and the simulcast company. Strong objection to the cancellation was made by New York Times and Boston Globe editorials (see below) on spurious grounds failing to address the facts. The Met had announced the cancellation on June 17, saying it was “because of concerns that it could fan global anti-Semitism.” But this being the case, why is it acceptable to stage the opera in New York at all and fan antisemitism there?
It’s time at long last for the Met to pull the plug completely on this nasty piece of propaganda masquerading as a work of art – the eight New York performances scheduled for October-November should be cancelled.
The Times and Globe are either unwilling or incapable of acknowledging stark truths about the opera in question and about the larger issue, which composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman purport to address. First, the claim that the opera is balanced is false. While it may be true that the work “indicts the gruesome cruelty of [individual Arab hijackers] the terrorists” (Times editorial), it repeatedly defames an entire ethnic/religious group – Jews/Israel. Nowhere does it criticize Arabs/Muslims as a group.
r Tragedy: The Met’s Bad Decision on a Controversial Opera” (June 20, 2014) said:
… It [cancellation of simulcast of Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer”] is, in fact, a step backward for both the Met and for Mr. Gelb, who has championed the work of Mr. Adams, including this opera, which has been widely praised.Art can be provocative and controversial. Many critics of this opera have not actually seen it, though they are certainly free to express their concern or even outrage. Their political and personal views, however, should not cause the Met to reverse its artistic judgment.Critics, including the daughters of Mr. Klinghoffer, have challenged the way the opera portrays Mr. Klinghoffer’s murder in 1985 on the cruise ship Achille Lauro. Palestinian terrorists killed Mr. Klinghoffer, who was confined to a wheelchair, and pushed him into the sea. The opera gives voice to all sides in this terrible murder, but does not offer resolutions. The audience hears from the Palestinians who killed an innocent man, but most powerfully from Klinghoffer, who indicts the gruesome cruelty of the terrorists and whose final aria is particularly moving…
The Globe editorial “Met Opera embarrasses itself and cheats its audience by canceling ‘Klinghoffer’ broadcast” (June 22), while noting the logically inconsistent statements of Gelb and Anti-Defamation League director Foxman, cynically dismisses fears that the opera could fuel antisemitism:
… The wrong-headedness of the Met’s decision [cancellation of the simulcast] sets a bad precedent for arts organizations and violates the vital notion that difficult ideas can be confronted and discussed through the arts… The 1991 opera has been criticized by some for being insufficiently sympathetic to the Klinghoffer family and too sympathetic to the terrorists. Adams has denied any such intent, and supporters of the work have praised it for its humane presentation of all points of view…The Met’s decision to cancel both the live, high-definition theater transmission and the radio broadcast was made after the company’s general manager, Peter Gelb, was approached by Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League… Both Gelb and Foxman have stated that they do not consider the work anti-Semitic (Foxman says he has not seen it). So the fear is only that this complex contemporary opera may somehow fuel the flames of anti-Semitism. Just how that would happen is unclear. Are the goons who dominate far-right parties in European countries really going to tune into opera broadcasts for their inspiration?..
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, Ilsa and Lisa, took strong exception (Boston Globe Readers Forum, June 29) to the Globe’s June 22 editorial defending the Adams opera: “Its [the opera’s] rationalization of terrorism and false moral equivalencies provide no thoughtfulness, and no insight.”
Times and Globe ignore the intolerable
The Globe’s assertion of the opera’s “humane presentations of all points of views” falls flat, for example, regarding the hijacker’s lyrics that convey an inflammatory lie accusing Israelis of killing his mother and brother among others, “She was killed—With the old men—And children in—Camps at Sabra—And Shatilla—Where Almighty God—In His mercy showed—My decapitated—Brother to me—And in His mercy—Allowed me to close—My brother’s eyes—And wipe his face.”
This tear jerker falsely implies that Israelis, rather than members of the Lebanese Christian Phalange militia, massacred hundreds of Palestinian Arabs on Sept. 16-18, 1982 in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee districts. It gives no hint that the Phalangists acted in retribution for massacres of Christian Lebanese by members of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to which the Klinghoffer murderers belonged, and the September 14 assassination of the country’s Christian president-elect, Bashir Gemayel.
Could the opera fuel antisemitism?
An opera’s storyline and words, both sung and spoken, affect audience psyches and emotions. But The Globe seems aware of only one European source of antisemitism that might be inspired by opera – “goons of far-right European parties.” However, another significant source is opinion makers (teachers, journalists, media personalities and so on) who are often interested in theater, including opera. More than a few tend to lean to the post-liberal left where hostility to the Jewish state and its supporters is becoming acceptable if not fashionable. The opinion makers – who may well be influenced by, or have prejudices confirmed by propagandistic art targeting Jews and the Jewish state – help set a general tone of what’s permissible and what isn’t, and that can filter through to society at large. Likewise, the newspaper omits a conspicuous source – the virulent antisemitism and anti-Zionism widespread among Europe’s growing Muslim population. Possibly, the Globe has learned that this population is unaware of theater, including opera.
broadcasts” since the concern has been related to the opera being viewed on large theater screens which include translation footnotes in the language of viewers.