The Telegraph reports that Jewish groups have accused the English National Opera of “giving a voice to terrorism” and have threatened to mount protests after the company’s decision to stage the rarely-performed “The Death of Klinghoffer”. Based on the murder of a disabled Jewish tourist during the hijacking of a cruise ship by Palestinian militants, the opera company itself says the production will “shock” audiences.
Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old American, was celebrating his wedding anniversary in October 1985 aboard the Achille Lauro, when he was shot twice and thrown overboard in his wheelchair during the ship’s hijacking off the Egyptian coast by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front.
But according to John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, “one cannot shy away from the fact that this was the most brutal of terrorist attacks, and nor does the production, but the purpose of art is often to shock and challenge audiences. The story is handled with sensitivity and gives an even-handed portrayal of those on both sides of the conflict.”
Back in 1991, when the Brooklyn Academy of Music first staged “Klinghoffer,” Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa attended anonymously and were “disgusted at the idealistic portrayal of their father’s killers,” according to Reuters. They issued a statement that read: “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.”