Following the announcement by Metropolitan Opera Director Peter Gelb that the Met was canceling it simulcast of the controversial “Death of Klinghoffer” performance, due to concerns that the screening could inflame the already rising tide of global anti-Semitism or legitimize terrorism, there have been strong reactions from all sides of the spectrum.
Many in the artistic community have long argued that the opera is purely a work of art and not a political statement, and number of media outlets and individuals have described the Met’s decision as a capitulation to pressure from outside groups and individuals. They argue that the opera is not intended to glorify or even justify the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, but rather offers an artistic perspective on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic events of the Achille Lauro.
From the NY Times editorial page:
“Art can be provocative and controversial. Many critics of this opera have not actually seen it, though they are certainly free to express their concern or even outrage. Their political and personal views, however, should not cause the Met to reverse its artistic judgment.”
Opposing voices have argued that simply canceling the simulcast is insufficient, and the Met should drop altogether the entire Fall performance of the “Death of Klinghoffer.” A number of these individuals and groups claim that certain scenes portraying the terrorists’ point of view are, at best, highly insensitive to the Klinghoffer family, or, at worse, anti-Semitic. They argue that just as the Met would never perform an opera showcasing the “humanity” of the 9/11 terrorists, they should not host one which attempts to humanize terrorists.
From the NY Post:
“[Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager] said, ‘John Adams has said that in composing ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists . . .’ What humanity can — or should — be found in the murderers of innocents? When do we get an opera painting the 9/11 bombers as “men of ideals?”
In response to the widespread criticism of the Met’s decision, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, wrote a letter to the New York Times defending the Met. They argue that, while they strongly believe the opera trivializes their father’s death and rationalizes terrorism, the Met did not capitulate to their request by canceling the simulcast, nor do they support the notion of censoring an artistic event.
From their letter:
“The Met should be praised, not faulted, for taking a step that will prevent this biased and flawed opera from appearing in 66 countries, including in some regions where anti-Semitism is disturbingly on the rise. The Met did not “bow” to our wishes in canceling the global simulcast scheduled for this fall, but rather listened to our concerns and acted appropriately. We are strongly opposed to censorship and resent the implication that we would want to censor an artistic event.”
Their letter concludes with a strong message about the dangers posed by terrorists to innocent civilians, and an important reminder to opera goers and others that “any effort to politicize that message is a distortion of our father’s horrific death.”