Met to Stage Terrorist Hijacking Opera in 2014-15 Season

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One of the most controversial operas of recent decades will be staged at the Metropolitan Opera this fall.

The Death of Klinghoffer is based on the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by a group of Palestinian terrorists. It focuses on Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled Jewish American tourist who was murdered during the hijacking and thrown overboard.

The opera, by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, will open at the Met on October 20. It will be the first fully-staged production of the work in New York since its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991.

Klinghoffer has been a lightning rod for controversy in the past, in part because Adams and Goodman sought to portray the captors and captives alike in a multidimensional, historically backgrounded fashion. It has also come in for a reappraisal in recent years, and arrives in a co-production with the English National Opera where it debuted in 2012 (read WQXR's report). It will be directed by Tom Morris (director of War Horse) and will star Paulo Szot, Alan Opie and Michaela Martens.

The work is one of six production premieres scheduled for the Met's 2014-15 season, which was announced on Wednesday.

As previously announced, the Met season will open on Sept. 22 with a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, in a staging by Richard Eyre, whose house credits include the 2011 production of Carmen and the current season’s Werther. This is expected to be the first of six operas that James Levine will conduct next season.

The season features three other new co-productions. Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, which debuted at the Mariinsky Theater in Russia in 2009, arrives on a double bill with Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle on Jan. 26, 2015. Anna Netrebko stars as the title character in Iolanta; Nadja Michael stars in Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, which was previously staged at Teatr Wielki-Polish National Opera. Valery Gergiev conducts both works.

And Rossini’s La Donna del Lago (The Lady of the Lake) – directed by Paul Curran and starring Joyce DiDonato – will get its Met premiere on Feb. 16, 2015, having debuted at Santa Fe Opera last summer.

Two other productions are brand new: Tony Award-winning director Susan Stroman will stage Lehár's The Merry Widow with Renée Fleming, Nathan Gunn and Kelli O'Hara, opening New Year's Eve. And David McVicar directs a double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, with Marcelo Álvarez singing both leading tenor parts; it opens in April 2015.

The Met says that ticket prices will increase by two percent in 2014-15, though it notes that at $160, this is "significantly lower than the average price of a ticket in the 2012-13 season, which was $174." The company will continue to offer rush tickets and student-priced tickets as well as an open rehearsal series.

The announcement comes as the Met saw its attendance dip somewhat in 2013 and as the union representing its singers, dancers and production staff predicts a tough round of upcoming contract talks.

Below is a clip of the Mariinsky production of Iolanta in 2009.