Arts attacks on Met for cancelling Klinghoffer show

Arts attacks on Met for cancelling Klinghoffer show


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2014

First responses to the Met’s decision to cancel the simulcast of the controversial opera.

Composer John Adams: ‘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.’

Alice Goodman, librettist:  It’s hard to believe that the Met didn’t foresee all this and didn’t have a plan in place, as the St Louis Opera did, to handle it proactively. I foresee a great deal of pressure now to cancel the production, and wonder how the Met will respond. Cutting the number of performances?

London Barbican chief Nicholas Kenyon: ‘decision to cancel telecast of John Adams’s Death of Klinghoffer is shocking shortsighted and indefensible.’

Composer Nico Muhly: I was gonna HOST the HD of Klinghoffer. It is one of the most delicious, complicated, and wrenching operas I can think of. I encourage all of you to listen to the last seven minutes of the opera, in which Marilyn Klinghoffer confronts the captain of the Achille Lauro. Listen to how the kinetic energy at the beginning slowly melts into a landed grief with this passacaglia-like bass near 4 minutes, which itself then flips into floating strings under the most gorgeous line of the opera: “I grieve as a pregnant woman grieves / For the unseen, long-imagined son. Suffering is certain.” Solo oboe on high d! Wordless women’s chorus! Those strangz! The little recollections of the angry grief in the bassoon, flute, piano…
The whole last three minutes is one endless, slow-moving collapse into the single G she sings at the end. Yes gawd. Love this opera.

Composer Michel Van Der Aa:  What we can learn from the Klinghoffer debacle at the MET is how dangerous it is to have an opera system with such a dependance on funding through donors. That generosity comes with influence. At least with a government based subsidy system that influence is less immediate and less hands on*. (*depending on the government of course)

Also really quite absurd that the decision to cancel the movie transmission was forced by someone who had not even seen the opera; Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League “who said he had not seen the opera, but did not believe it was anti-Semitic.”


  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Nothing to add to John Adams’ statement, because it eloquently says everything that needs to be said, especially in the last sentence. Thank you, John. I hope I can make in to the Met in November.

  • Peter Freenan says:

    The last production of it which I saw did not actually portray the murder visually; it was left to the imagination.

  • Dennis Marks says:

    This is a deeply disturbing development. I attended the original productions in Vienna and New York and the revival on which the Met production is based. The Channel 4 film of the opera – specially created and not taken from the stage – has been distributed worldwide to great acclaim. They were all in their different ways major contributions to contemporary music theatre. Conspiracy theorists might conclude that the Met has been pressurised by US pro-Zionist lobby groups like AIPAC. But perhaps the beleaguered company is simply too jittery and financially nervous to take any artistic or intellectual risks. Whichever interpretation is the case, the handsomely overpaid General Director Peter Gelb ought to be ashamed of himself.

  • Scott Rose says:

    John Adams is gaslighting Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer’s two daughters. Those daughters’ feelings are very well-known to both Adams and Goodman; yet in their public statements they don’t even acknowledge the daughters’ pain.

    Alice Goodman, born to a Jewish family but now a Pastor in the Church of England, clearly had an agenda different from that of fully honoring a murder victim. As has been elsewhere stated, even the title of the opera attempts to minimize what happened; a “death” is not itself a result of a sadist murdering a wheelchair bound man. If you doubt that the murderer was a sadist, consider that he forced crew members to lift Leon in his wheelchair and dump him into the sea.

    Although Nico Muhly is free to have is own response to the passage he described, it is a clear Christianizing distortion of how Marilyn Klinghoffer, a Jew would have considered the matter. No Jewish widow of a murdered man would talk about her grief in terms of a “long-imagined son” being born; this is gross and disgusting, a spiritual rape.

    The same way that Magritte made the point that “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer characters of Adams’s and Goodman’s imaginations are not the real-life Klinghoffers.

    How hard could it have been, really, to anticipate that by using a “ripped from the headlines” story and then not being true to the people involved in that story, one would be courting moments such as this, with the victim’s daughters in consternation over the distortions in the representations of their parents?

    The malignant narcissism that keeps Adams and Goodman from acknowledging the Klinghoffer’s daughters’ pain is really quite something. I received a message from a friend of that family who at the end said “God, the Klinghoffers need defenders.”

  • MacroV says:

    I have great sympathy for Leon Klinghoffer as victim of a horrific crime, and for his daughters who lost their father in such an outrageous manner, especially because they were private citizens who were through no fault of their own thrown into the limelight. I’m actually a little surprised that Adams was able to appropriate their names, though I guess by the time he wrote the opera the Klinghoffer name was virtually public domain.

    Nonetheless, I have heard nothing but great things about the opera. I was hoping to see the HD presentation so that I could finally learn this work and make up my own mind about it’s alleged anti-semitic slant (which I doubt it has; these days anything that portrays Palestinians sympathetically or as even human tends to be labeled as anti-semitic).

    Peter Gelb, who has tried despite considerable criticism to make the MET more relevant and contemporary, had a great chance with this opera and its threatrical broadcast further that goal. Hopefully he will show a stronger spine on its revival.