9/11 mayor to lead anti-Met Klinghoffer demo

9/11 mayor to lead anti-Met Klinghoffer demo


norman lebrecht

October 19, 2014

Opponents of John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer, which opens tomorrow night at the Met, are jubilant at the capture of a trophy march leader. Rudolph Giuliani, who has signalled his participation in the protest, acquitted himself with proficiency and sympathy as Mayor of New York during the 9/11 attacks.

His opposition to the opera is vested in his investigation of the case it dramatises. ‘As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat,’ he is on the record as saying. ‘I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases.’

Some, however, contest his claim to have investigated the case.

The Death of Klinghoffer



  • CDH says:

    I had never heard of John Adams before all this, nor the opera, and of course I have never heard the opera or read the libretto or anything. But because I was involved in the original, or at least the secondary, story, I feel entitled to oppose any artist’s attempt to comment upon it — in perpetuity.

    Honestly. Once a politician, always a politician.

  • Hank Drake says:


    Get over yourself. You’re not going to be elected President.

  • Chris Foster says:

    He’s wanting to censor a piece that has had performances all over the world for over thirty years?? Idiot. He should actually listen to/watch it and THEN make up his mind.

    Good job he doesn’t know that a scene with Mr and Mrs Klinghoffer was cut from the early performances where Mrs Klinghoffer sang (high in her range to add weight to the line): “Reagan, that ass-hole!” then he might really be angry. How do I know about this? I was one of the chorus in the early performances in Lyons and Vienna.

    I say censor the bloody politicians.

    • Michael J. Begley says:

      Mr. Giuliani is acting as a private citizen, so the claim of censorship is a red herring. The work has previously been performed in New York; there has been no attempt to censor it. However, the Met’s current so-called leadership has shown, yet again, it’s contempt for the Met audience. It is a unconscionable waste of money, while the Met is in a financial crisis which has forced it to mortgage the precious Chagall paintings that are an important element of the theatre’s frontage, and auction off historic jewelry donated to the company on condition it not be sold (so I am told), and then to spend money producing an opera that most MET patrons don’t care to see and will alienate an important portion of the donor base. The question now is not WHETHER the MET will go bankrupt, but how soon? I have donated to the MET all of my adult life – I have told them that above the most basic membership in the Met Guild, they will not see another penny from me while Gelb is in charge. I’m tired of seeing my money pissed away by Gelb.

      • Dashman says:

        Couldn’t agree with you more.

        According to the contract settlement with the unions, Mr. Gelb is obligated to cut millions from administrative expenses. So where will the money come from to pay for all the extra security that he has deemed necessary for the Klinghoffer performances?

        Also, he committed himself to go on a campaign, after the contracts were settled, to replenish the depleted Met endowment fund. I wonder how he is making out with the Patrons/Donors on that?

        I read of one man who had been a Patron for 25 years, gone on all the Met Patron tours each summer, had a subscription to a Parterre box for 25 years. He said all that is over now. Money he would have contributed to his Patron membership was now going to fund one of the protests.

        I suppose it’s fine to go merrily along, with your head in the clouds, being oh so artistic, if you have an independent income. But if you’re an organization that depends for its existence on private donations (not box office receipts like pop entertainment), then sticking your finger in the eye of many people that have been prime supporters of the Arts seems like lunacy.

  • Brian says:

    Of course, New Yorkers have been down this road before with Giuliani:

  • Ks. Christopher Robson says:

    Here’s a thought from Village Voice about Mr Giuliani and his (non) connection to the Klinghoffer affair, amongst other things.


    • Ks. Christopher Robson says:

      ‘As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat,’ he is on the record as saying. ‘I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases.’

      Apparently, NOT TRUE!!!

  • John says:

    As Chris Foster points out, this is an opera that has been performed for thirty years. Of course it’s a distasteful subject, and one would have to expect that the terrorist character would make anti-Semitic statements. The outcome, the killing of Mr. Klinghoffer, is a matter of record, not some dramatist’s invention. Censorship of this opera seems to add another layer of injustice on top of the horrible injustice inflicted on Mr. Klinghoffer. Freedom of speech is a hallowed tradition in the US, often assailed and often under attack as it is here. I’m sure demonstrators feel a need to demonstrate outside the Met just as Jews did in Chicago back in the 1970s when Wagner’s Tristan was presented at the Lyric Opera. I just hope that all sides can respect each other and not inflict bodily harm while the free speech rights of both sides are exercised on opening night.

    • NYMike says:

      Having played the Lyric’s Tristan in 1958 – Artur Rodzinski’s last performance and Birgit Nilsson’s first – I have no memory of protests outside the Opera House.

      • John says:

        I wish I had been at that performance. Halina Rodzinski writes glowingly about it in her biography of her husband. No, I’m talking about a performance I saw in the late 70s with Jon Vickers as Tristan. I don’t remember the Isolde, but I believe Ferdinand Leitner was in the pit. Protesters, some with the numbers tattooed on their wrists, were demonstrating outside the opera house. I knew all about Wagner and his bigotry toward Jews, and I had taught in a suburban Milwaukee high school where a majority of the students were Jewish and one girl threatened to leave the room in a music appreciation class when I started to put on a recording of something with the Berlin Philharmonic and Karajan. I was young and not particularly rich, and the $60 ticket I had purchased ahead of time represented a lot of outlay for me. And Jon Vickers was singing Tristan, which I really, really wanted to hear. So I went past the line and enjoyed a memorable performance. But after that, in music history and appreciation classes that I taught, I always included a discussion about what is the right course of action when confronted with a masterpiece created by a racist. There are many examples of many people who espoused repugnant points of view, but created things that nonetheless are pillars of their art. Wagner, Pound, TS Eliot (I believe), DW Griffiths (Birth of a Nation). The list is pretty extensive.

  • Dashman says:

    Also at the protest, will be former NY State Governor David Patterson and Congressman Peter King. At the previous protest, they had former NY State Governor George Pataki, former US Attorney General Michael Mukasy and Congressman Eliot Engel.

    I think it’s hilarious that a couple of Jewish protestors can get the Met, many bloggers, etc. all frazzled and in a tizzy. Will Mr. Gelb be asking Governor Cuomo to call out the National Guard?

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Why do you think Solzhenitsyn’s “200 years together” has still not been published in English?

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Does Rudi actually know what fool he is made of? I hardly expect he knows anything about the piece. Too bad he felt into this salacious trap. I will fly to NY in November to attend the opera, happy to invite any demonstrator to join me and see for him or herself.

  • Chris Foster says:

    To Michael and Dashman,

    As New Yorkers you will almost inevitably have a different opinion from those outside the state or (as in my case) country but the real red herring here is surely the fact that 99% of the contrary arguments against this piece seem to have little to do with the content of the work (few protesters seem to have heard a note of the piece) but more to do with the underlying financial problems that the Met has. This piece is many things but it is NOT anti-semitic. We can all think of mainstream operas that do display those themes so I am tempted to ask the question whether there would be quite so much furore over this if this were a Wagnerian piece with the Met in the same financial state. (I don’t want to get into the Wagner was/wasn’t an anti-semite discussion here but I hope that the drift of what I’m saying is clear). The fact that, regardless of one’s beliefs in this matter, people seem to be willing to reject a piece without having seen/heard it and that is far more disturbing to me. What next? Burning opera scores?

    Yes the Met evidently has to get its house in financial order but surely there has to be a balance of programming too or the art form eventually dies? Or, do the patrons only want a diet of Bohemes, Figaros and Lucias? I sincerely hope that that is not the case and I would ask that people don’t turn their backs on important pieces like Klinghoffer through ignorance alone.

    PS I’ve met Giuliani during and post his time as mayor and, forgive me, there seems to be little that he does as a private citizen IMO; he craves the limelight.

    • Michael Begley says:

      You make valid points, but anyone who had done their homework and had half a brain should have realized that this piece was going to be offensive to an important block of donors. There are many worthy operas that would not have been – for example Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe” has never been produced at the MET. It was a role identified with Beverly Sills, so the MET would have been foolish to have tried to compete with New York City Opera while Ms. Sills was active. However, she retired in 1980, and had dropped the role from her repertoire long before that. Why not produce an American Classic, never done at the MET, likely to be popular with audiences and not offensive to a great part of the MET audience? Gelb has piled up disaster after disaster, and it seems to me simply foolhardy to produce a piece that is so controversial and unlikely to be revivable while in such a precarious financial position. The controversy and demonstrations were easily foreseeable by anyone who knows the MET audience. (For the record, I am not a New Yorker – but I know how to look things up on the Internet, and visit New York frequently.)

      • Susan Trexel says:

        There are good reasons for performing The Ballad of Baby Doe, but they do not include the presentation of works by living composers. You may agree or disagree that the Met should devote some fraction of its resources toward the commission or at least the production of works by composers currently living, but their policy on this matter is at least consistent.

        Arguably the Met could have another initiative devoted to the revival of “classic” American works by Menotti, Barber, Moore and so forth. But that sort of program does not address an opera company’s responsibility to present newer works and to assure that living composers be heard at America’s greatest opera house.

    • Dashman says:

      Whenever I have read anything about the Klinghoffer opera, I have seen the word “controversial.” If the Met is considering mounting a “controversial” opera, is any type of risk analysis performed, going through different scenarios so that if unpleasant things happen, the management has a plan in place to deal with and possibly lessen the unpleasantness? Was any market/demographic analysis performed related not only to the Met audience but also the contextual environment in NYC? What was the plan, the preparations? It seems to me this would be part of the job of the General Manager – to set up and direct such an effort.

      All I can see right now is unmitigated chaos. How was the situation allowed to get to this point?

  • PJS says:

    “one would have to expect that the terrorist character would make anti-Semitic statements.”

    Would one? I always understood that these terrorists were anti-Israeli, not anti-Jewish.

    Thank you for the clear clarification.

    • John says:

      I’m sorry, I maybe too readily equate being anti-Israeli with anti-Semitic. I suppose it’s possible that some or many in organizations like Hamas aren’t anti-Semitic, but just anti-Israel. Thanks for the correction.

      • Marshall says:

        Oh, I wouldn’t be so quick to change your view that equates anti- Israel with, with anti-Jewish. Sure, in theory, one could be anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and not be anti-Semitic, but it rarely is the case. In my experience anyone who is strongly anti-Israel, beneath the surface, is anti-Jewish-and there is a lot of logic to that, though logic is not what is behind it. That doesn’t mean that Israel is beyond criticism, or disagreeing with certain Israeli government policies makes you against all Jews. But if a policy of an organization, or a thought beneath a reasonable exterior, is one that calls for, or dreams, of the elimination of a state, what are you left with?

        When it comes to Wagner-he was undeniably bigoted, but I’ve yet to see anything anit-Semitic in his art-that is the difference. By the way, I suuport freedom of expression in all its forms, even if I find a particular message repulsive.

  • William Safford says:

    Thank you for the prompt, everyone. I’m going to try to find the opportunity to travel to NYC to attend this opera — in part to judge for myself what I think of the opera, but in large part to reward the Met for presenting an opera written within my lifetime.