Reactions to the Met’s Cancelation of ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Simulcast » ADL Blogs
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June 25, 2014 0

Reactions to the Met’s Cancelation of ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Simulcast

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.

Metropolitan_Opera_HouseFrom 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.”