At the Metropolitan Opera’s first performance of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer” on Monday night, men and women in evening attire walked through a maze of police barricades, while protesters shouted “Shame!” and “Terror is not art!” One demonstrator held aloft a white handkerchief splattered with red. Others, in wheelchairs set up for the occasion, lined Columbus Avenue.
Political figures, including former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, joined a rally, several hundred strong at Lincoln Center, to denounce an opera that has become the object of a charged debate about art, anti-Semitism and politics.
But after months of escalating protests, including threats of opera officials and online harassment of the cast, “Klinghoffer” finally went on, only a few minutes late. There were cheers when David Robertson, the conductor, arrived in the pit and a few boos after the opening “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians” ended.
to a limited extent
So, then, free speech may be limited?
to a limited extent
So does your extent extend to this particular demonstraion?
The 1991 opera, by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, portrays the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestine Liberation Front terrorists, who demanded the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. They then murdered wheelchair-bound 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer, a Jewish New Yorker, by shooting him in the head and chest, dumping his body and wheelchair over the side of the ship. The opera had its worldwide debut in Brussels, and then its American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in 1991. Performances slated to take place in Boston and elsewhere shortly after 9/11 were cancelled.
Klinghoffer’s daughters, Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer, have vociferously objected to the opera, which they have call a “perversion” of their father’s murder that “attempts to romanticize, rationalize, legitimize and explain it.” A program note from them was distributed to those attending the Met Opera production.