The most important thing to know about the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of the provocation piece “The Death of Klinghoffer,” is that the first of what should be many protests against it will be on Monday, Sept 22, starting at 4:30 p.m., at the Metropolitan Opera, which is nestled in the Lincoln Center Complex, at Broadway and West 65th Street in New York City.
The opera itself is still set to run at the Met for eight performances, starting on Monday, Oct. 20, running through mid-November. But in a concession that should serve as an admission, the Met pulled “Death” from its line-up of operas it simulcasts to theaters around the world.
Because as Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager admitted in a statement issued in mid-June, the international Jewish community is genuinely concerned that “the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.”
It beggars the imagination that Gelb and his board recognized and acted in deference to genuine concern about the effect the opera could have for Jews in Europe, but shuts his ears to the genuine concern and outrage over staging it in New York City, where there is one of the largest concentration of Jews in the world.
AMERICAN JEWS GETTING FAT WHEREVER POOR PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING
There are lines in this opera that are simply blatantly anti-Semitic. Lines such as this, sung by one of the terrorists to Klinghoffer: “wherever poor people are gathered they can find Jews getting fat. America is one big Jew.”
And then there is this line sung about the Jews: “You know how to cheat the simple, exploit the virgin, pollute where you have exploited, defame those you cheated, and break your own law with idolatry.”
Yes, those lines are both flat-footed and bigoted and should not have been written nor sung. If you think not, can you imagine an opera made about Ferguson in which Michael Brown and all black people are described with all the worst stereotypical insults leveled at African Americans? Of course not.
But the problems with the opera go far beyond several unforgivably offensive lines spoken by a romanticized Arab terrorist. And it’s even worse than the decision to title the opera using a magic wand that converts a pathological act of brutal violence into a passive act for which no one, at least not the actual murderer and his accomplices, are to blame.
KLINGHOFFER DID NOT JUST ‘DIE’
Leon Klinghoffer did not just “die.”
On Oct. 7, 1985, Leon Klinghoffer was murdered in cold blood by Arab terrorist members of the Palestine Liberation Front. Klinghoffer was shot point blank in the head and in the chest as he sat in his wheelchair on the deck of the cruise ship on which he was traveling with his wife to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary. Shot in the head and in the chest, and then thrown overboard, he and his wheelchair, simply because he was a Jew. A 69-year old disabled American Jew. It was murder, not death. If there must be an opera about this atrocity, at least have the decency to use the proper term.
ART MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY?
The opera begins with two choruses. The “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians” and the “Chorus of Exiled Jews.” The story of the “Exiled Palestinians” starts in 1948. It starts with the Jews arriving and destroying the homes of the “Palestinians.” Those homes where “no one was turned away” and the doorway had been worn down from all the guests. But then, as the crescendo builds, the chorus intones: