Cops in the house, and the Met’s still barely half-full

Cops in the house, and the Met’s still barely half-full


norman lebrecht

October 21, 2014

We have first-night reports from our intrepid New York operagoers, Elizabeth Frayer and Shawn E Milnes. For once, they had no trouble at all getting a premiere ticket.

Elizabeth writes: I was left with a great respect for the performers for persevering over a great deal of pressure and objection from the public, but an uncertainty on how I feel about the piece itself.  What put me at ease a bit at least, was seeing an Orthodox Jew in the lobby as we left explaining to other operagoers “No it isn’t supposed to be an actual retelling of the death of Klinghoffer, it’s an art meditation on the events.”  I appreciated seeing someone who I would have assumed was against the opera actually evaluating and appreciating the work.


cops in the met

Shawn writes: The only real disruption of the performance came during a brief break about 20 minutes into act one.  A single man somewhere down in Orchestra Left began screaming, “The Murder of Klinghoffer Will Never Be Forgiven!” over and over until he was ejected or left of his own accord.  I did find it of note that he waited until a musical break in the opera to stage his protest. As undisruptive as a disruption can be really.


Read their full reviews here.


  • Mark says:

    Based on every account I’ve heard the house was partially sold out – ticket sales on line just the other day looked more than 75%.

  • sdReader says:

    Failure of management! Should have been sold out, mostly on subscription. They need people on staff who know how to package and sell a season, and this means lower prices, a smart price curve, and aggressive selling in the springtime. They have forgotten the basics.

    • Dashman says:

      Just because it’s part of someone’s subscription, doesn’t mean that person won’t try to exchange it for something else. Klinghoffer was part of one of my subscriptions, but I exchanged it for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

  • Has been says:

    I was there in both the orchestra and the grand tier. It looked 75 to 80% full.

  • milka says:

    It is done ! the protesters have gone home, the performance went on the scheme of things it was a tempest in a tea pot , allowing every Tom , Dick and Harry to vent their prejudices. The night
    is already in the dust bin of history ,
    the majority of the world couldn’t give a rats behind about Klinghoffer the
    opera or person . It’s done ..let’s go
    on to more important things .

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    “No it isn’t supposed to be an actual retelling of the death of Klinghoffer, it’s an art meditation on the events.” Even if this would be the only person attending the performance, the show would have to go on. I am glad to learn this good news. I maintain that it is far too simple to blame the Met’s management for the less than ideal ticket sales figures. These figures are as much, if not more, an indictment of certain parts within the New York community, of those who want to forbid, rather than engage in controversial debate and effort in mutual understanding about, any expression though artistic means of opinions and views that are not their own. Not New York’s finest moment, I say. What a shame.

    • Dashman says:

      Maybe some just think John Adams’ music = dullsville. If the Met wants to do something contemporary, there are so many interesting composers to choose from – Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Karl Werner Henze, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Olivier Messaien, Pierre Boulez – the NY Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall have had no difficulty in selling tickets for folks like that.

      But John Adams? Yech.

      • newyorker says:

        Name an opera by Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, or Karl Amadeus Hartmann.

        And Messiaens and Stockhausen’s contribution to the genre are virtually un-performable or unsellable.

        Stick to your day job.

        • Fabio Luisi says:

          I am sorry, I don’t agree.
          “Simplicius Simplicissimus” (Hartmann) is a very good opera, not hard to perform, so is “St. Francis” (Messiaen).

      • Fabio Luisi says:

        I would add Luigi Nono, Aribert Reimann and Bernd Alois Zimmermann for sure.
        But this Adams’ opera is not bad at all, the choruses are great music.

      • Lendall says:

        I agree with your comment wholeheartedly, and with others who have mentioned composers along the lines of Reimann — how wonderful it would be to have his Lear or Medea at the Met. Or Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, which is musically rich and emotionally touching, as are most of Henze’s operas. In my opinion minimalism and opera are a bad combination. And Adams (this one, not the other) is a shabby opportunist. On the other hand minimalism and interrogation of suspects might work just fine. I’d confess to just about anything to get out of listening to Adams (again this one, not the other), Reich or Glass.

        • cornbear says:

          The original article mentioned that the protester waited until a “musical moment” to shout out his protest. Is the occurrence of music so rare in Mr. Adams’ opera that the musical moments stand out in contrast to the rest of the work?

          • William Safford says:


            But seriously, I took the comment to mean a break in the action. But I wasn’t there. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    My wife was there with a friend. Her report: House 90% full, in the break all the protesters left. (she sat aside one of them, who booed after the first chorus – she asked him why he did not boo after the second chorus – she only earned a rude answer) Probably some 50-60 people. Great success and standing ovations for all singers, conductor and director without any protest at the end. I attended some rehearsals when I was in New York and I have to say that the choruses are excellent (musically), the opera itself is mostly good (musically). The libretto is intelligent and sensitive. The staging is outstanding.

  • 110 says:

    What’s wrong with Aida?
    This is how classical music wants to attract the young and the undecided?

    • William Safford says:

      Aida was once a new opera by a living composer. There are also many operas written at the same time as Aida that we will never hear, because they were mediocre or worse, or for other reasons that have disappeared in the mists of time.

      Will Klinghoffer endure? Who knows? But I’m glad that the Met is presenting works by living composers for us to see and assess. I hope there will be more in upcoming years. Maybe even a few revivals! (I was saddened when the revival of Ghosts of Versailles was canceled.)

  • milka says:

    Newyorker –Do not sell Stockhausen
    short .Having been lucky to have seen all of Licht one cannot but be amazed.
    One day it may come to the Met -though I doubt it.
    It is spellbinding -performable yes,
    unsellable perhaps .

  • Classical Music says:

    “Maybe some just think John Adams’ music = dullsville.” I agree this was nothing more than a cheap dull opera with a controversial subject to create sensationalism. Adams is a has-been who is using cheap tactics to make something of himself. Poor excuse of a man. Poor business practices. No ethics. And destroying REAL ART all at the same time.

    • REAL ART says:

      What a poor and dark soul you must have, and so deprived of REAL ART. As a wise friend of my once said, “You’re entitled to your own misguided opinion.”

      • Classical Music says:

        I’m glad you agree that Adams is a dark depraved soul. (depraved: having or showing lowered moral character or standards). It would explain his demented and twisted thought process. Not unlike those that take his side that art is what ever you make it. Even to the ends of glorifying bloody murder of a fellow human and calling it free speech.

        • William Safford says:

          In what ways are he a “dark depraved soul?” How is he a “has-been,” when his career continues to grow? What are examples of his “poor business practices” or his lack of “ethics?” Please substantiate his “demented and twisted thought process.”

          • Classical Music says:

            There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear the truth. And none so blind as those that refuse to see the obvious. For little intelligence or moral fiber is required to ascertain the obvious needs no further explanation or proof.

  • Susan Trexel says:

    I was at the performance Monday night. The house was fairly full for the first act of the opera, about average for the Met these days — some empty seats in the last few rows of most sections. There were quite a few defections after the first act, at least one of which was a heckler seated on the row behind me. (His method was saying “boo” in a sort of conversational tone, thereby annoying only people in his immediate vicinity.) I would guess that some others left because they didn’t care for the piece or possibly the way it was staged.

    But “half-full” is a very broad exaggeration.

  • Classical Music says:

    There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear the truth. And none so blind as those that refuse to see the obvious. For little intelligence or moral fiber is required to ascertain the obvious needs no further explanation or proof.

    • William Safford says:

      Translation: you can’t support your allegations and opinions with facts.

      Got it.

      • Classical Music says:

        To you who are ignorant to the obvious… It has become blindingly apparent in the diminishing quality of classical music today that true vocal and musical giftings are being sold out for elaborate theatrical multi-media centered showmanship.

        “The Met does have a problem with declining attendance, but the downward trend has happened a little too quickly to be explained by large-scale demographic shifts. A report prepared by the Met’s orchestral players and Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians has a telling graph, tracing attendance at performances of Wagner’s “Ring” from the 2008-2009 season—when the old Otto Schenk production was seen for the last time—to 2012-2013, when the Lepage staging had its first revival. Attendance declined from 97.43 per cent of capacity to 75.06 per cent. Did a quarter of the audience die off in four years? Or have people simply peeled away after a string of bad shows?” The New Yorker

        Adams continues the trend and accelerates the downward spiral:
        If it can shock your values, create cultural disturbance, and disrupt the soul, individual opportunists with no real gift such as John Adams will embrace it, market it and BS the intellectual community into believing it has great value. His work has always been just a prop in a large immoral production of self serving propoganda with monetary reward as his measure of success. On the level of real music, all one has to observe is his limited ability to produce quality compositions. Having no real gift for music composition, Adams using the minimalist card, he excuses his ineppedness and instead relys on sensationalism and controversy to gain momentum with an equally unintelligent, morally-confused art culture with its supporting institutions. Art is the mirror of our soul. If we are ever to again witness a great composer in history and demostrate that we are intellectually and artistically deveolping as a human race in all aspects of human nature, then we must rise out of the uglyness of dark emotional struggles and dispare unto higher plains of respectable standards, morals, self-respect, virtues, and human responsibility. “Real Art” not only reflects our human soul in all its beauty, but is accountable for guiding the thoughts, feelings and passions of comming generations. Do we dwell on darkness? Or dwell on beauty? We see the darkness of John Adams. And he fails the audition into the developing human race.

        • William Safford says:

          This time you tossed in a few facts irrelevant to the current discussion (e.g. Wagner productions), but still haven’t supplied any facts to support your allegations.

          You don’t like John Adams’s music. We get it. You’re entitled to your opinion.

          Can you substantiate your allegations?

  • Market of Ideas says:

    One thing that is totally false is that the libretto is “sensitive”. It is definitely not sensitive when the surviving daughters of the murder victim have watched the opera and said that:

    “We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.

    Many of those that have seen ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ have said that the music is good (but choppy in some parts) and the libretto is quite bad and doesn’t flow well. I don’t know about the staging. My advice is do not see the opera as a show of respect to the victim’s surviving family. Don’t allow the Met Opera to make money off the pain of Klinghoffer’s surviving daughters.

    • William Safford says:

      Heck, I understand the following: ““We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production….” Forget the Jewish or Palestinian aspects of this. If my parents were murdered and someone wrote an opera about it, it would be tough to accept. I am sympathetic.

      I hope to attend a performance this fall. These issues, and more, will be on my mind as I watch and listen to it.