Critic: Canceling the Met’s “Klinghoffer” HD simulcast was a missed opportunity

Posted on: June 20, 2014

John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer “is a raw, brooding work that in its brutal honesty provides a kind of tragic consolation,” writes Anthony Tommasini in Thursday’s (6/19) New York Times. “For me, it is Mr. Adams’s musically richest opera, with a stronger score, overall, than those for ‘Nixon in China’ and ‘Doctor Atomic.’ ” The Metropolitan Opera will present the work this October, but “general manager Peter Gelb, bowing to intense pressure from some Jewish groups that oppose the work, particularly the Anti-Defamation League, has canceled the ‘Live in HD’ simulcast…. The Met’s decision … represents a dismaying artistic cave-in. ‘Klinghoffer’ has always drawn criticism by some for what is judged to be an anti-Semitic slant: The Jewish vacationers are caricatures, it is said, while the Palestinians are veritably sanctified by the opera’s attempt to explore their suffering. It is in the nature of art to provoke disagreement. Fine. So, simulcast ‘Klinghoffer’ and let audiences grapple with the piece…. This ‘Klinghoffer’ production could have been an invaluable teaching moment for the Met and its audiences. Mr. Gelb could have assembled Middle East historians, religious leaders and the ‘Klinghoffer’ creative team to have a public dialogue, culminating in the simulcast.” The cancellation has stirred wide controversy with a variety of opinions pro and con, including a Thursday (6/19) WQXR radio segment in which Tim Smith, classical music critic of the Baltimore Sun, noted that in a political climate “that is so dangerous for Jews right now,” the opera could be “exploited by people who are already looking for excuses anyway.”

Posted June 20, 2014