N.Y. Met Cancels Plan to Broadcast Klinghoffer Opera

Critics say opera, which deals with the death of an American Jew at the hands of Palestinian militants, glorifies murder and could fan anti-Semitism.

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Lisa, left, and Ilsa Klinghoffer, daughters of Leon Klinghoffer.
Lisa, left, and Ilsa Klinghoffer, daughters of Leon Klinghoffer.Credit: AP

The New York Metropolitan Opera announced Tuesday that it had canceled plans to broadcast the opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," following an outpouring of criticism that the opera glorifies murder and could fan global anti-Semitism.

The opera by John Adams, which deals with the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian militants and the murder of one of its Jewish passengers, Leon Klinghoffer, was scheduled to be broadcast live in HD on November 15 this year.

"I'm convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic," Met General Manager Peter Gelb was quoted as saying by operaworld.com, "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 Gelb and the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman, representing the wishes of the Klinghoffer daughters.

“Obviously, from our point of view and that of the Klinghoffer sisters, we would have hoped that the Metropolitan Opera would have stayed away from mounting such a problematic opera,” Foxman said, in a statement released by ADL.

“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 broadcast, which would have significantly expanded the production’s reach into more than 2,000 theaters 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 2014.

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.

“'The Death of Klinghoffer' perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it," Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer said in the ADL statement. "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."

The staging of the opera is part of the Met's efforts to keep opera artistically current. "John Adams is one of America's greatest composers and 'The Death of Klinghoffer' is one of his greatest works," said Gelb.

It previously presented Adams' other two major operas, "Doctor Atomic" (in 2008) and "Nixon in China" (in 2011.)

"The Death of Klinghoffer" has been presented without incident at The Juilliard School (2009,) the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (2011,) and in Long Beach, California. The Met's new production was first seen in London at the English National Opera in 2012, and received widespread critical acclaim.

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