The opening of John Adams' controversial opera, which has inspired an ongoing debate, included uniformed police men stationed at Lincoln Center. All bags were checked, according to the Times. A press conference and protest of the production were held across the street earlier in the evening.
Before the intermission, a man shouted, "The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven" several times before being escorted out, and a woman shouted a vulgarity and left the opera after the murder of Leon Klinghoffer during the second act.
The opera depicts the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murder of a Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, by Palestinian terrorists.
The Playbills for the production include a letter by Klinghoffer's daughters Lisa and Ilsa that expresses their opposition to the production, saying the opera "presents false moral equivalencies without context and offers no real insight into the historical reality and senseless murder of an American Jew.
"We are strong supporters of the arts, and believe that theater and music can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events," they continue. "The Death of Klinghoffer does no such thing... It rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father." Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker at the press conference. Additional participants included Congressman Peter King, former NY Governor David Paterson and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney.
New York's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, earlier in the day defended the Met's right to perform the opera, saying, "I think the American way is to respect freedom of speech. Simple as that."
Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, said in an interview with the Times, "It is not only permissible for the Met to do this piece — it's required for the Met to do the piece. It is a powerful and important opera."
Rabbi Avi Weiss and a group of Rabbinical leaders held a prayer vigil at noon at Lincoln Center Plaza at Broadway and 65th Street in memory of Leon Klinghoffer’s soul.
"We have the utmost respect and sympathy for the daughters of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, who have suffered an unimaginable loss as a result of their father’s murder," the Metropolitan Opera said in a statement. "We agreed without hesitation to their request that we include their own statement in the Met’s Playbill for all performances of Klinghoffer, and on our website at metopera.org."
As previously reported, a live broadcast of the opera was canceled in June, amid concerns that the broadcast could fan anti-Semitism. The decision followed discussions between Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, and the Anti-Defamation League, which represented the concerns of Klinghoffer's daughters.
The opening-night production of The Marriage of Figaro Sept. 22 saw more than 1,000 people protesting The Death of Klinghoffer. The rally was organized by a coalition of groups including the Zionist Organization of America and included a speech by former New York Gov. George Pataki. The Metropolitan Opera had also previously canceled a MetTalk about the opera scheduled for Oct. 15.
"It does not glorify terrorism," Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, previously said of the opera. "It's a truly great work of art that deals with a difficult subject. That doesn't disqualify it from being on our stage... I think it would be terrible for art if the Met were to suppress it."
The Times reports the audience both cheering and booing during the performance.
Visit MetOpera.org for more information.