Metropolitan Opera Cancels Broadcasts of Klinghoffer After Protests

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 02:21 PM

The Death of Klinghoffer at ENO The Death of Klinghoffer at ENO (Richard Hubert Smith)

The Metropolitan Opera has called off its HD and radio broadcasts of The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams and Alice Goodman's landmark 1991 opera, saying that Jewish organizations feared it could "fan global anti-Semitism."

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 has been a flashpoint for debate since its 1991 premiere, although recent productions have gone off with relatively little incident.

The Met said it decided to cancel the broadcasts after a series of discussions between its general manager Peter Gelb and Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL has a close association with Klinghoffer's two daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, who have been outspoken about what they see as the opera's one-sided portrayal of their father's death. In a statement, Foxman praised the Met for taking steps "to ensure that the Klinghoffer family's perspective is clearly heard by opera patrons" yet he added that it will not satisfy all of the work's critics.

"I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic," Gelb said in a statement. "But I've also become convinced that there is genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe."

The HD broadcast to movie theaters was scheduled for November 15 and the Saturday radio broadcast was to air on February 28, 2015.

John Adams, whose operas have been seen at the Met in recent seasons, condemned the cancellation. "My opera accords great dignity to the memory of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer, and it roundly condemns his brutal murder," he said in a statement provided by his publisher. "It acknowledges the dreams and the grievances of not only the Israeli but also the Palestinian people, and in no form condones or promotes violence, terrorism or anti-Semitism."

Adams added, "The cancellation of the international telecast is a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of ‘artistic freedom,’ and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera’s detractors claim to be preventing."

The Met says it will include a message from the Klinghoffer daughters both on its Playbill and on its website during the eight stage performances of the opera, which take place from October 20 to November 15.

This is the first time that the Met has cancelled an HD broadcast since the series launched in 2006. The broadcasts are transmitted to 2,000 movie theaters in 67 countries around the world, including Israel. WQXR is one of several hundred stations around the world to broadcast the Met's radio series.

The cancellation comes days after editorials in the New York Post and accused the Met of romanticizing Klinghoffer's murder. It is also reminiscent of a similar flare-up when Juilliard presented a semi-staged production in 2009, prompting a letter to The Juilliard Journal protesting the opera as "a political statement made by the composer to justify an act of terrorism by four Palestinians." The school's president, Joseph Polisi, responded with his own letter, stating that conservatories "have to be responsible for maintaining an environment in which challenging, as well as comforting, works of art are presented to the public."

The Met production arrives from the English National Opera, where it was mounted in 2012 and after an initial outcry by columnists, a single protester showed up on opening night.


More in:

Comments [29]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

"TO BE OR NOT TO BE" letting the terrorists spout their hatred and scorn as realistically one should expect from idealogues whom no amount of discussion would dissuade them from uttering their true beliefs is a lost cause.
Judge everything and everyone by their actions rather than their "spin." CIVILIZATION takes a giant step backward when one cannot trust in their own articulation of grievances, real or imagined, to strike out at cultural institutions or any non-combative force. Observe the discontent, HORROR, of the world situation where lives and property are dismissed as necessary collateral damage to achieve an end, a goal, benefitting only the aggressor. Everyone deserves to be heard no matter how outrageous to others that person's comments are, but violence and destruction should not become the trigger happy preemptive "reasoning judgment" allowable by society. One can only hope that logic and society's rebuke to hatred provoked vandalism will ultimately prevail. It will be a better world for all of us if common sense takes hold.

Jun. 29 2014 09:19 PM
Floria from NYC

I never saw the opera when it was first done in the 90's.... and still have no desire .....Adams reminds me of an ambulance chaser lawyer.....the spectacular of the moment....Nixon in China, Death of Klinghofer; Dr. Atomic......there were a few disaster-related compositions, too. Get the people when their emotions peak. I'm glad he hasn't done a 9/11 opera yet. Sorry if I'm being harsh; maybe if I enjoyed his style of composing I would feel different.....don't know.

Jun. 24 2014 01:20 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Ms. Roberta, guess you must use name calling against someone who has a difference of opinion. Poor form to resort to name calling. Maybe you should get a job at Fox or MSNBC. A pox on Israel and the Palestinians because of their unwillingness to really find a peaceful solution. Listeners of WQXR are supposed to be a better class of bum, to borrow Robert Mitchum's comment when he was released from prison.
Dear Carol, I believe we have another kerfuffle going on. Rather enjoying this. Gets the blood flowing for a rather old lady who is still full of piss and vinegar. Please join in. This is getting to be fun.
Best wishes to all, even those who don't agree with me.

Jun. 23 2014 08:01 AM
Roberta from Plymouth Meeting, PA

Four terrorists took over the ship, shot Klinghoffer in cold blood, dumped him and his wheelchair overboard -and their motivation can be understood?

Four months before this atrocity Palestinian terrorists hijacked TWA 847. They beat passengers indiscriminately, but discovering U.S Navy sailor Robert Stethem was on board he was savaged.

Screaming "AMERICAN PIG" he was blindfolded, bound, gagged, kicked in the face, knee caps, jumping on him repeatedly they broke all of his ribs. Then, they threw him down to the tarmac below.

Screaming " AMERICAN PIGS - YOU WILL ALL DIE" - these are the acts of barbarians. Would this make a good opera? Only to morons and haters.

Jun. 22 2014 05:11 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

The Lobby also tried to block Hagel's nomination for Defense Secretary because he dared to criticize Israel. Gore Vidal had trouble getting some of his novels published. Now to add fuel to the fire, I would love to see an opera about Palestine refugee camps, farmers who cannot get to their fields because of the barricades, the ethnic cleansing of those people. I know horrible things have and are being committed by both sides. When Israel has tried to do some good things for the Palestinian people, Israel territory was greeted by missles, etc. Let the truth ring out.

Jun. 22 2014 02:28 PM
Ernst from Brooklyn

Foxman is a fraud. ADL is now a cudgel for fanatical Zionists that tries to intimidate individuals and institutions in silence regarding the on-going atrocities committed against Palestinians and theft of Palestine generally.

Because the truth about Palestine is becoming increasingly known around the world,(and specifically because the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement has been gaining more and more momentum), Zionist fanatics are increasingly desperate to tar any and all perceived opponents as "anti-Semitic."

I'm glad Gelb's cowardice has come to light as I just received the catalog for next season. I certainly won't be buying any tickets fir the Met while Gelb is still employed there.

Jun. 22 2014 01:42 PM
Juden Rein

The Jewish lobby is strong.

Jun. 22 2014 09:28 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Just heard radio news this morning that Jewish groups are urging that no donations be given to the Met opera. No donations should be given because of the really awful productions. Nothing like using money as a weapon. What's next? Book burning? Let's have another bonfire of the vanities.

Jun. 22 2014 07:04 AM
Robert P. Cohen from Port Washington,N.Y.

If the Met is so concerned with the lack of support among the current population, then why waste its money on buying full page ads in the New York Times crying poverty. Nothing turns a free society off more than cencorship. The decision not to broadcast "Klinghoffer" at the behest of a religious organization smacks of the worst betrayal of our constitution and does little to inspire conributions from the young audiance the Met hopes to access. We cannot take the separation of church and state for granted as evidenced by this action by a world famous American opera company that according to them, sets the standard for the world. If you want to take a stand for world peace, Mr. Gelb, broadcast "Klinghoffer" as a token of a truly free society and let the bigoted chips fall where they may.

Jun. 21 2014 02:01 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

The tiger has crossed the gate. We have more than one tiger trying to destroy our freedoms. We have head in sand. Too busy watching Real Housewives, Honey BooBoo and other c--p. Glad I will not be here in this wonderful world of the future. Also a government that continues to spy on us rather than trying to catch our enemies and stop them from entering. Where are the feminists when news is announced that Sharia is on the way? Or is the only thing important to them are abortion rights. Yeah, let's kill each other before we are born.

Jun. 21 2014 09:17 AM
Tabitha Korol from Beachwood, Ohio

Canceling the simulcast is not cancelling the opera. It's let's allow the jihadists to win, Jews be damned. So what if we get all the good technology, advances in medicine from Israel? We get bloodlust, burqas, beheadings from Arabs, much more fun to watch. They have arrived and the public is comatose. They are working to change the mindset of the ignorant masses so that when they finally do replace our Constitution with Sharia law; remove our rights, our guns, our speech, our newscasters who tell the truth, it'll be too late to fight for our freedoms, and our America. By then, the mentally crippled will be watching the Caliphate go up and we'll all get prayer mats and learn to face Mecca. They've done this before, why not again? It's a process and it worked in the past. Look at the Middle East, almost all Islamic; look at Europe falling, look at our borders and see the burqa'ed women in the malls. Look at what they're teaching our children in the schools - Islam! yes, Islam!! Do you get it yet?

Jun. 20 2014 10:26 PM
Frances from NYC

It's difficult to have an opinion with so much unrelated discussion going on. I have no desire to see the opera, but I think that those who wish to should have t he opportunity to do so and the Met is giving them this.

Jun. 20 2014 11:51 AM

The main objection of the Klinghoffer daughters seems to be that the Palestinian terrorists are depicted in Adams's opera as human beings with real (however misguided and perverse) motives, and not as soulless, inhuman monsters. What they're looking for is not art, but propaganda. Good theater tells the stories of real people--characters, not caricatures. Its strength is in its ability to explore human motives and passions, even those that lead to horrific acts. It's a sad state of affairs when one of the world's leading arts institutions shies away from this important mission, especially in such a halfhearted, compromising fashion. Now, only those who can afford the price of a ticket will have the opportunity to see a rare performance of this important work, and the very audience the Met claims to want to attract will be left out of the conversation. Is this really the result the Klinghoffers wanted? This is the very opposite of a "thoughtful" decision; it's a reactionary and political one.

Jun. 20 2014 12:56 AM
francis booth from new york city

it all depends upon whose ox is being gored.. is the met really that hard up that it must cave in so cravenly to a vociferous political pressure group?
it is somewhat ironic that the met will produce lady macbeth of the mtsensk district which itself was withdrawn due to political pressure.

i suppose that the berlin philharmonic should now withdraw the "st matthew passion" performance as well

Jun. 19 2014 09:48 PM
Sue from NYC from Westchester County

Thank you, Mr. Foxman and Mr. Gelb for reaching a humane and decent decision. Too bad that many of these responses reflect the short-sighted view and willful blindness of so many among us.

Jun. 19 2014 06:39 PM
Jerry from US

Fact: A tourist in a wheelchair is held hostage and dropped over the side of and ocean liner in his wheelchair into the ocean and dies. And is it your understanding that the hijackers and killers have their nationalist yearnings aired in an attempt to be open minded? Hmmm. Picture this. A gay man is chained to a car and dragged to his death in the dust of the roadway. And an opera is composed in which the unhappy plight of the killer-- socially disadvantaged, mistreated, with all the ills of his miserable upbringing are aired so that the audience can leave with a more balanced view of the unfortunate plight of folks who commit hate crimes. No. Picture this: A bunch of housebreakers enter your home, rape and sodomize your mother in front of your traumatized family and the social ills which led the marauders to exact such vengeance on you and yours are presented to give a balanced picture of why such atrocities occur in these times. And let's, by all means, have free speech in artistic expression. Isn't it about time the Imams finally get the right to express their views on why Shia/Sunis, Jews, Christians and other infidels ought to be finally exterminated?
Oh, that lady from my beloved Brooklyn... you have a lot to answer for. You didn't exempt a single Jew from your general censure did you? And I'll bet some of your best friends are Jewish.... We never learn, do we?

Jun. 19 2014 05:06 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

I understand the Klinghoffer family wants all performances of this opera cancelled. A bit much. Everything has to go through a screening process. Opera has to be politically correct like everything else. Also love of country is frowned upon if publically displayed, etc. etc.

Jun. 19 2014 01:14 PM
Dawn from Brooklyn, NY

Why is this a time of "rising antisemitism, particularly in Europe," as Mr. Gelb says? Because of activism like this. Jews, as well as Americans, must begin to learn that antisemitism isn't provoked by some mystical pathological or religious mania, but because of the antisocial behavior of Jews? Sorry to be so blunt, but there you are.

Jun. 19 2014 11:35 AM
Avery M. from Kent, CT

I just received a call from the Met asking me to donate money. Is anyone else receiving calls today? I hope they're not using this announcement as an opportunity to raise money. I certainly won't be giving money to them any time soon.

Jun. 18 2014 03:13 PM
beachsiggy from NYC

Ok, so why don't we do a production where the guy who gets tossed off the ship is the mayor of Boston? It worked for Un Ballo en Maschera. We're so afraid (or bullied) that we no longer can say anything about anything without fear of offending someone. Freedom of speech my tuchas.

Jun. 18 2014 01:32 PM
Dharma Dog from Vancouver, BC

In response to concerns expressed by the Roma, Mr. Gelb has agreed to no longer produce Carmen, as it portrays Gypsies as thieving smugglers with loose morals. The Met will also cancel all productions of La Boheme and La Traviata, due to concerns expressed by the Tuberculosis Foundation and various anti-vaccination groups. And last I heard, both the Japanese-American Citizens League and the US Navy are in discussions with Mr. Gelb concerning depictions of Japanese people and US Navy officers in Madama Butterfly...

Jun. 18 2014 11:29 AM
Michel Roussin from Montréal

Any community can criticise any opera for being anti something on their culture, their people, their ... just for being alive. Where is it going to stop ? There is not just the Jewish community in the world.

Jun. 18 2014 11:05 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

How can an opera about a poor invalid who was thrown overboard in his wheelchair inspire anti-Semitism?

Jun. 18 2014 10:12 AM
prosemite from nyc

A bad, bad day for the Met. If the purity and/or primacy of art is to be upheld anywhere, it ought to be at this institution. Yielding to a frightened segment of their audience won't stop anti-Semitism; it may incite it further. This is a dumb dumb dumb move and a real slide down the slippery slope. I believe the Met will rue the day.

Jun. 18 2014 09:03 AM

@ Sarah
They can probably substitute a recording, though there would probably still be some contract negotiations/payments to be dealt with.


Jun. 17 2014 10:05 PM

I wonder if the Met will consider adding a different opera to its broadcast schedule. Though I assume that these matters are worked out so far in advance that it would be difficult or perhaps even impossible to do that.

Jun. 17 2014 08:04 PM

"The Met says it will include a message from the Klinghoffer daughters both on its Playbill and on its website during the eight stage performances of the opera." So why not include the same message in the movie theater programs so that "the Klinghoffer family's perspective is clearly heard" by a million HD audience members as well. What a short-sighted and stupid decision by Gelb, and what a hollow victory for Klinghoffer's survivors.

Jun. 17 2014 07:18 PM

If the Met is so concerned, why aren't they canceling the eight performances? We know that people will be commenting on this website as well as through other social media.

Where do they draw the line?


Jun. 17 2014 06:46 PM
Bernie from UWS

So the opera isn't anti-Semitic but it might inspire anti-Semitism? I'm not getting the logic here from the Met. Either it is or isn't.

Jun. 17 2014 06:38 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Operavore


Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream and devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns, Amanda Angel and others. The music stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings.

Follow Operavore