New York, NY, June 17, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the Metropolitan Opera’s decision to cancel a global simulcast of the controversial John Adams opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” in response to concerns that the opera’s biased portrayal of events surrounding the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro could foment anti-Semitism globally or legitimize terrorism. ADL noted that while the opera itself is not anti-Semitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries as a means to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.
The decision came after a series of conversations between Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, representing the wishes of the Klinghoffer family, and Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Foxman raised the Jewish community’s concerns about the opera’s flawed attempt to dramatize the 1985 hijacking and the death of Leon Klinghoffer, a Jewish American tourist who was shot in the head by Palestinian terrorists and pushed overboard in his wheelchair, and its implicit justification of terrorism through the juxtaposition of Palestinian and Jewish suffering.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, have long held serious objections to the opera’s biased portrayal of their father’s death and its sympathetic view of his killers. The Met’s co-production with English National Opera is scheduled to premiere in New York on October 20.
“Obviously from our point of view and from that of the Klinghoffer sisters, we would have hoped that the Metropolitan Opera would have stayed away from mounting such a problematic opera,” Mr. Foxman said. “We certainly did not want to see the Met production simulcast into theaters around the world. The Met was very open to hearing our concerns. After listening to our views, they have agreed to cancel the simulcasts and to take steps to ensure that the Klinghoffer family’s perspective is clearly heard by opera patrons.”
In addition to canceling the high-definition simulcast, which would have significantly expanded the production’s reach into more than 2,000 theaters in 66 countries, the Met has agreed to include a statement from Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer in the printed program during the opera’s scheduled run of eight performances in October and November 2014. A similar statement from the Klinghoffers was included in the program and marketing materials when the opera was staged earlier this year by Long Beach Opera.
Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, who along with their mother, Marilyn, co-founded ADL’s Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting terrorism, said that while they continue to be pained by the opera, the Met’s decision to cancel the global simulcast and to include a statement from them in the program is a positive action.
“Serious concerns remain about this opera and we are aware that this decision will not satisfy all of the Met’s critics,” Mr. Foxman said. “Yet it does ensure that the opera will have far less of an impact beyond the walls of the opera house at Lincoln Center.”
Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer stated: “The Death of Klinghoffer” perverts the terrorist murder of our father and attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it. The political approach of the composer and librettist is evident with the opera’s disingenuous and dangerous juxtaposition of the plight of the Palestinian people with the coldblooded, terrorist murder of an innocent disabled American Jew.
“We are strong supporters of the arts, and believe that theater and music can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events. “The Death of Klinghoffer” does no such thing. Its rationalization of terrorism and false moral equivalencies provide no thoughtfulness or insight.”