New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Met) canceled an HD transmission of the anti-Israel opera The Death of Klinghoffer following widespread outreach efforts that began with a letter from a media watchdog organization, but eight live performances of the opera will proceed as scheduled this fall.
The opera, about the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and Palestinian terrorists’ murder of one of its Jewish passengers, has been heavily criticized for its sanitization of Palestinian terrorism and invoking of anti-Semitic canards. Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, have written regarding the opera for the New York Times, “We are outraged at the exploitation of our parents and the cold-blooded murder of our father as the centerpiece of a production that appears to us to be anti-Semitic.”
Myron Kaplan, an opera expert and a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), was the first commentator to publicly criticize the Met’s planned Nov. 15 simulcast of the anti-Israel opera. In an open letter to Met General Manager Peter Gelb that was published by JNS.org, Kaplan wrote that the HD transmission would give “wide international distribution to what is, at its heart, an anti-Jewish slander.”
“The choice of the title, The Death of Klinghoffer and not The Murder of Klinghoffer, signals the work’s moral evasion and misrepresentation,” he wrote. “In a sense, it is consistent with the PLO’s (Palestine Liberation Organization) initial comments on the murder, that either Klinghoffer had died of natural causes or his wife pushed him overboard to be able to claim life insurance. The title’s sanitizing of murder is, however, also consistent with the opera’s anti-Jewish tone. Instead of properly characterizing the Palestinian hijackers of the cruise ship as permanent prisoners of their own rage originating from cultural indoctrination, [composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman] impart idealism to them.”
Kaplan’s letter sparked a broader Jewish community campaign against the Met’s simulcast and live showings of the opera. The Met then announced Tuesday that it would pull the simulcast, but not the eight live performances from Oct. 20 to Nov. 15, citing discussions on the issue between Gelb and Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman.
“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.”