The Death of Klinghoffer
Readers Respond to Death of Klinghoffer Simulcast Cancellation

Readers Respond to Death of Klinghoffer Simulcast Cancellation

The Death of Klinghoffer

It came as no surprise that the cancellation of the scheduled simulcast of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, slated for production at the Metropolitan Opera this fall, has inspired some very active comment section action (both on this site and on the New York Times post about the issue), in addition to volleys lobbed via social media. Much of what we’re seeing here sits firmly on the side of disappointment that the Met would withdraw the opportunity to experience the work outside of Lincoln Center, and respondents question the validity of the charge that it could be used as a tool to encourage anti-Semitism. As a commenter posting as Jim notes on our initial news story, “There’s nothing anti-semitic about the piece, which flatly condemns violence. The only people who would come away with anti-semitic views would have to have come in with them.”

While most of the conversation since the news broke has centered around concern or outright annoyance that a piece of art could be challenged and removed in this manner, others spoke out in support of the position of the Anti-Defamation League and the Klinghoffer sisters, with Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun tweeting:

Of the many comments, however, Nancy Lederman, posting to the New York Times’ piece, pointed out that “I can’t comment on the underlying debate about the opera I’ve never seen or heard. But controversy breeds sales. I think I’ll buy a ticket so I can see for myself.”

And so on that note, we encourage those on all sides of this debate to listen to the piece! There is a recording, a DVD, a perusal score available (free with log-in) or buy the reduction and play through it at the piano. There’s even a Spotify stream of the recording available, so take your pick and a couple hours. Then let’s chat.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

11 thoughts on “Readers Respond to Death of Klinghoffer Simulcast Cancellation

  1. Garrett Schumann

    Thanks for the piece, Molly – I particularly like the line from Nancy Lederman. There is a definite financial side to this story that should be explored more deeply, but appears to be lost in the art/politics of the decision – at least according to my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

    I also think the timing of the announcement is interesting. The cloud it created has completely overshadowed the very interesting work of the New York Times’ Michael Cooper who reported on the Met’s bookkeeping just this Monday. Here’s a link to that story:

  2. David MacDonald

    Heaven forbid anybody be offended by a work of art. This discussion is insane. The people shouting the loudest have not seen the opera, or if they have, they clearly don’t understand it.

    It’s not a story about religion. It’s a story about people.

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  5. Susan Scheid

    Way too softball, Molly Sheridan. New Music Box needs to be a leader here and take a stand. What’s your view? My own is this (for it wouldn’t be fair to ask yours without giving mine): I saw the opera when it premiered, and have since seen the beautiful movie directed by Penny Woolcock. The opera handles this explosive material in an intelligent and sensitive manner, and is a magnificent work of art. Above all, it teaches the very thing we need to know about ourselves as human beings: evil is not “other.” It is a human thing, and if we are not attentive to that aspect in ourselves, we will fall prey to it. We need this lesson, and repeatedly.

  6. Philipp Blume, y'all

    This is censorship of the worst kind, and sets a horrible precedent. I agree with Susan, NewMusicBox shouldn’t be pussyfooting around the topic.
    It doesn’t matter whether the opera itself is even-handed, nuanced, “human”, or, for that matter, any good. John Adams stands for everything I dislike about contemporary music, actually. Death of Klinghoffer is an innocuous, downright mealy-mouthed message wrapped in saccharine, pseudo-poignant music, but it is deemed to advance the conversation, it gets people thinking about stuff — and so my opinion of the work is _totally_ irrelevant.
    The Met is acting like a bunch of cowards, and the ADL is speaking from a place of simple paranoia. I understand that paranoia very well, and I sympathize with it, it is justified, but that does not mean the whole world needs to share in it. As if anti-semites needed an excuse to be anti-semitic! Come on!! After all, won’t they take the suppression of this telecast as an equally valid excuse?
    I also don’t see why the children of Mr Klinghoffer have any say in the matter just because they share some DNA. They are entitled to letting their opinions be heard, and including a statement from them in the opera program is a nice gesture – but it shouldn’t go further than that. Reinstate the telecast! Let smart people form their own opinions! And most importantly, trust the process (i.e., trust that The Death of Klinghoffer, the opera, will someday find its rightful place in history) not because the process is flawless but because the alternative is worse.

  7. David Leone

    In this opera, John Adams elevates the murder of an innocent Jewish civilian to the level of public diplomacy. Not only should his opera not be shown in simulcast, but it should not be staged at all. Leon Klinghoffer was a man certainly not deserving death at the hands of Arab terrorists, he was not nor should his death be characterized as a metaphor for political issues relating to Israel and the Middle East.

    1. David MacDonald

      “John Adams elevates the murder of an innocent Jewish civilian to the level of public diplomacy.”

      This is a straw man. The opera does not do this at all. It simply treats people as people, even if they do terrible things. Bad people in the real world aren’t two-dimensional comic book villains. Adams isn’t “elevating” anyone. If anything, he’s doing the opposite. It makes us think about evil people as only being a few quirks of personal history away from being ourselves. That’s certainly an uncomfortable thought; I’ll concede that. However, we shouldn’t bail out of art that makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s cheap, and it’s not worthy of our nation’s flagship opera company performing the work of one of its most celebrated composers.

      I agree with those chastising NMBx for not taking a stronger stance on this issue.

      1. Phil Fried

        “This is a straw man.”

        No actually its Mr. Klinghoffer a real person and a victim. To my knowledge the authors chose not to get the permission of the Klinghoffer family to use his name. That falls under the category of cultural appropriation. This is a mistake especially as other characters in the opera are fictionalized. I suppose what the Klinghoffer family experience is not much different from what Native Americans have been experiencing for some time. They get to watch Mr. Klinghoffer being executed in a depiction they did not chose to illustrate someone else’s reading of these tragic events.

        Why use his name at all?

        Anyway, this is not an isolated case. Cultural appropriation is the dirty little secret of the entertainment industry. Many award wining films, plays, books and their respective actors etc. take part.

        Running roughshod over the oppressed to tell their story is simply wrong.

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