First picture: how an opera house handles the terror issue

First picture: how an opera house handles the terror issue


norman lebrecht

December 21, 2011

There have been deep discussions at English National Opera over how to present The Death of Klinghoffer, the John Adams opera in which Palestinian terrorists murder a wheelchair invalid on a Mediterranean cruise. Previous productions and recordings have gone totally neutral on their visual presentation, trying not to inflame an already overheated issue.

Many commercial sites have refused to post the cover image for Penny Woolcock’s television film of the opera (below). The image itself is curiously depersonalised: you see nothing of the victim.

ENO, in an image released today to Slipped Disc, has decided to go full-on with the brutal act: a helpless man in a wheelchair, executed without mercy by PLO thugs. It will not please anyone in the Palestinian camp. Click here for what you’ll see next month on the billings:




  • If an accurate representation of the atrocity that was committed on the Achille Lauro doesn’t please mainstream Palestinians, then they should speak out against the thugs who commit such acts in their names.

  • Ziggy says:

    Agreed, Jeffrey.

  • This cannot be true that there’s no one in the “Palestinian camp” that would be pleased that violence that solves nothing is portrayed for what it is. I’m sure that there are enough that would be as happy to see it all stop as there are other people all over the world in any “group” that is labeled as being involved with such atrocities, as if everyone in the group condones it.

  • In the USA, this opera has been vehemently characterized by some as anti-Semitic. John Rockwell has a thorough report here:

    Due to these accusations, “Klinghofer” has not been performed as often as some of Adams’ other operas. Perhaps the provocative poster is a strategy to change the perception of the opera and illustrate that it deals with Palestinian terrorism, even if Adams and the librettist, Alice Goodman, have attempted to give equal voice to both Israeli and Palestinian views.