The Met Cancels Screening of The Death of Klinghoffer, Starring Paulo Szot, Citing Anti-Semitic Concerns

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
18 Jun 2014

A planned screening of The Metropolitan Opera's production of John Adams's opera The Death of Klinghoffer — 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 — has been canceled.

After an outpouring of concern that The Death of Klinghoffer might be used to fan global anti-Semitism, the Met announced June 17 that the Nov. 15 "Live in HD" transmission would no longer happen, but that the production would go on as scheduled. Performances, starring Paulo Szot, will begin Oct. 20.

"I'm convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic," said the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, in a statement. "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."

According to the Met, the final decision was made after a series of discussions between Gelb and Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, representing the wishes of the Klinghoffer daughters.

Leon Klinghoffer's daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, have held serious objections to the opera's portrayal of their father's death.



Foxman said in a statement from the Anti-Defamation League, "Obviously from our point of view and from that of the Klinghoffer sisters, we would have hoped that the Metropolitan Opera would have stayed away from mounting such a problematic opera. We certainly did not want to see the Met production simulcast into theaters around the world. The Met was very open to hearing our concerns. After listening to our views, they have agreed to cancel the simulcasts and to take steps to ensure that the Klinghoffer family's perspective is clearly heard by opera patrons."

In addition to canceling the simulcast, which would have expanded the production's reach into more than 2,000 theatres in 66 countries, the Met has agreed to include a statement from Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer in the printed program during the opera's scheduled run of eight performances in October and November. A similar statement from the Klinghoffers was included in the program and marketing materials when the opera was staged earlier this year by Long Beach Opera.

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer stated, "The Death of Klinghoffer perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it. The political approach of the composer and librettist is evident with the opera's disingenuous and dangerous juxtaposition of the plight of the Palestinian people with the coldblooded, terrorist murder of an innocent disabled 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. The Death of Klinghoffer does no such thing. Its rationalization of terrorism and false moral equivalencies provide no thoughtfulness or insight."

The opera, which premiered in 1991, has been presented without incident at The Juilliard School (2009), the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (2011) and, this March, in Long Beach, CA. The Met's new production was first seen in London at the English National Opera in 2012 and received critical acclaim.

Composer Adams said in a statement, "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."

For more information on the Met's production, click here.