Guardian

The Guardian vs Myron Kaplan on ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’


The New York Metropolitan Opera will open their production of ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ on October 20th, an opera based on the 1985 hijacking by Palestinian terrorists of an Italian cruise ship named the Achille Lauro, in which a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound Jewish man named Leon Klinghoffer was shot in the head before being thrown overboard.

leon

Leon Klinghoffer

Though the opera will be staged as planned, The Met recently cancelled plans for a cinema simulcast of the production, citing fears that it may inadvertently incite antisemitism due to what’s been characterized as its sympathetic view of the terrorists.

On June 18th, the Guardian’s classical music critic expressed his outrage at The Met’s decision in the following article, in which he dismissed  “concern in the international Jewish community” about the opera’s propensity to “fan global antisemitism”.

opera

So, we thought it would be helpful to reproduce an open letter written to the New York Metropolitan Opera by Myron Kaplan, a senior research analyst at CAMERA who also happens to be a serious opera fan.

Dear Mr. Gelb,

As a longtime fan of grand opera, I have attended numerous superb live Met performances both at Lincoln Center and via live Saturday matinée performance HD transmissions to theaters (not to mention listening to numerous Met Saturday matinée live radio broadcasts)—and have greatly admired your accomplishments at the Met. So it was with great dismay and disappointment that I learned that the Met had scheduled for the 2014-2015 season its first-ever performances of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Mediocre music is the least of the work’s problems. Even more serious is a tendentious story line and an inflammatory libretto that falsely maligns Israel and the Jewish people.

This story line can be characterized fairly as “Understandably aggrieved Palestinian Arabs wreak vengeance on disabled Jew standing in for all his perfidious co-religionists.” This is an obscene inversion of the reality that was the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking and subsequent terrorist murder of passenger Leon Klinghoffer. In this regard, it must be noted that the librettist, Alice Goodman, during the writing of the opera rejected her American Jewish heritage by joining the Anglican Church, the leadership of which is known for its hostility toward Israel. Goodman is now a parish priest in England.

The most troubling aspect of the Met’s scheduling of “The Death of Klinghoffer” is the live HD transmission of this opera, set for November 15, 2014—one of 10 such transmitted opera performances planned for the coming season—to more than 2,000 theaters in 66 countries (including more than 700 U.S. theaters). This would make the live performance immediately available to hundreds of thousands of people (and potentially millions according to the Met), giving wide international distribution to what is, at its heart, an anti-Jewish slander.

I’m aware that it may not be feasible at this juncture to cancel all or any of the eight performances of this opera scheduled during the period of October-November 2014, but in order to minimize the harm, the Met should substitute another opera for the HD transmission.

As alluded to above, the opera is based on the 1985 murder of a helpless 69-year-old American Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer, confined to a wheelchair—shot in the head while vacationing with his wife on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. He was murdered by Palestinian Arab hijackers belonging to the Palestine Liberation Front, a component of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, and his body dumped into the water. The choice of the title, “The Death of Klinghoffer” and not “The Murder of Klinghoffer,” signals the work’s moral evasion and misrepresentation. In a sense, it is consistent with the PLO’s 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, Adams/Goodman impart idealism to them.

The opera opens with these words sung by the Chorus of Exiled Palestinians: “My father’s house was razed—In nineteen forty-eight—When the Israelis passed—Over our street.” Here, Israelis are likened to the avenging Angel of Death in the biblical story of the original Passover, exacting punishment on the ancient Egyptians after Pharaoh, breaking a promise, refused to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. This amounts to an artistically licensed slander, falsely suggesting that the Israelis, besieged by the armies of five Arab countries and Palestinian Arab “irregulars” bent on driving them into the sea, exacted widespread revenge upon Arabs residing in the ancient Jewish homeland.

Hijacker Rambo invokes anti-Semitic canards: “Wherever poor men—Are gathered they can—Find Jews getting fat—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.” Rambo’s lyrics, with virtually no artistic embellishment, could have been lifted from Nazi publications like Der Sturmer, as even a casual glance at the archives would confirm.

Repeatedly, the Palestinians are portrayed as humane idealists. Hijacker Molqi sings: “We are—Soldiers fighting a war—We are not criminals—And we are not vandals—But men of ideals.”

Hijacker Mamoud appears gentle and grieving as he tells of his mother and brother: “She was killed—With the old men—And children in—Camps at Sabra—And Shatilla— Where Almighty God—In His mercy showed—My decapitated—Brother to me—And in His mercy—Allowed me to close—My brother’s eyes—And wipe his face.”

This tear jerker falsely implies that Israelis, rather than members of the Lebanese Christian Phalange militia, massacred hundreds of Palestinian Arabs on Sept. 16-18, 1982 in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee districts. It gives no hint that the Phalangists acted in retribution for massacres of Christian Lebanese by the PLO and the September 14 assassination of the country’s Christian president-elect, Bashir Gemayel.

Mamoud shows himself to be consumed with seemingly permanent hate and a vision of martyrdom: “The day that I—And my enemy—Sit peacefully—Each putting his case—And working towards peace—That day our hope dies—And I shall die too.” But even this negative portrayal is mitigated by Mamoud’s meditation on the birds in the air— which may encourage the viewer to sympathize with him.

Leon Klinghoffer’s aria expressing his humanity and railing against the terrorists is insufficient to mitigate the harmful impression left by Goodman’s biased libretto and may even be seen as unnecessarily agitating the terrorists: “I came here with—My wife. We both—Have tried to live—Good lives. We give—Gladly, receive—Gratefully, love— And take pleasure—In small things, suffer—And comfort each other—We’re human. We are—The kind of people—You like to kill—Was it your pal—Who shot that little girl—At the airport in Rome?—You would have done the same—There’s so much anger in you—And hate.”

Goodman’s biased libretto condemns Jews and Israelis as a group, while the Arab hijackers, when condemned, are characterized as violent or revengeful individuals without regard to their ethnic/religious group. If Adams/Goodman intended some semblance of balance in this respect then they would have included, as well as anti-Jewish canards, anti-Arab/Muslim charges such as “Muslims want to destroy all infidels—their Koran tells them to do this.” But there is no semblance of this in this opera.

Then there is the matter of the renewed cruelty this Met production, not so much fiction but rather propagandistically manipulated facts, is likely to inflict upon the Klinghoffer family. After the 1991 premieres of the opera, The Telegraph (London) reported that Mr. Klinghoffer’s two daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, attended a New York production of the opera in 1991, which they described as “appalling” and “anti-Semitic.” A New York Times article reported on the antipathy toward Adams/Goodman by Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer: “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.”

If it’s necessary to provide at least one first-time HD transmission of a modern opera composed after 1930, there are two excellent candidates already in the Met’s 2014-2015 schedule: Shastikovich’s ‘Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk” and Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress,” both of which, according to critics, have excellent productions, conductors and singers. The Shastikovich substitution would involve merely a replacement of November 15 on the HD schedule with November 29 currently scheduled as a Saturday matinée performance of this opera. The Stravinsky substitution would involve replacement of November 15 on the HD schedule with May 9, 2015 already scheduled as a Saturday matinée performance of this opera.

Otherwise, classic operas already scheduled at the Met in 2014-2015, but not scheduled for HD broadcast, include “Aida”—currently scheduled for a Met evening performance on the same day, November 15, as the HD transmission. Why not substitute it on that day with the Adams opera? This magnificent Verdi opera is one of the favorites of opera fans worldwide. Certainly it would be a much greater drawing card than the Adams opera in all or nearly all of the countries. Other possibilities include “La Traviata,” “Magic Flute,” and “Barber of Seville.” For “La Traviata,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with December 27, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera. For “Magic Flute,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with November 8, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera. For “Barber of Seville,” replace November 15 on the HD schedule with November 22, currently scheduled as a matinee performance of this opera.

Mr. Gelb, I trust that you will reverse an unfortunate decision just as you did in 2012 when, displeased with Opera News reviews of Met productions, you barred the magazine from subsequent reviews. Following an uproar from opera fans, you reversed the brief ban, forthrightly admitting to having made a mistake. Live transmission of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a slanderous anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli concoction, is much more grave than the contretemps over Opera News. Mr. Gelb, we urge you, for the sake of the Met’s reputation and the constant struggle against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, to at least provide an HD transmission substitution.

Sincerely,

Myron Kaplan

61 replies »

  1. The Guardian’s opera critic, just another middle-class English bigot, telling the Jews what they can and can’t be offended by. Shooting defenceless old Jews in wheel-chairs in the back of the head? Next stop, Treblinka’s lazarett, where the Guardian will be showing its humanitarian, liberal credentials by sympathising with the musical adaptation of the life of the ‘gunman’, Willi Mentz. The Guardian is truly a disgusting paper, dripping with visceral, sanctimonious prejudice.

  2. Let me assure Tom Service that in the event members of his family are murdered by terrorists, I shall show as little concern for them (“unfortunate, but the way the British have treated the Irish/Muslims, quite understandable”), as he does for the Jewish victims of terror.

    This article by Tom Service also serves as a fine example of the obvious but often overlooked point that simply because a person worships at the altar of high culture, this does not mean that he is inoculated against the disease of racism. After all, that most evil of institutions, the SD, which served as the security service of the SS, was largely staffed by many of the most highly educated and “cultivated” people then living in Germany.

  3. According to Haaretz Gelb responded to Kaplan’s letter (in part) as follows:

    “I have an artistic duty to present our audiences — both in the opera house and in movie theaters around the world — with this production of an opera that is a contemporary musical masterpiece,” Gelb wrote to Kaplan. “John Adams has said that in composing ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists, as well as in their victims. Tom Morris, the director of the Met’s new production, believes that the opera’s most important contribution is in providing an opportunity for the audience to wrestle with the almost unanswerable questions that arise from this seemingly endless conflict and pattern of abhorrent violent acts.”

    Kaplan failed to reply and refused invitations to be interviewed.

    For an alternative Jewish view of the opera Haaretz quotes Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, who works as vice president for philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism thus:

    “The opera should remind a new generation, or a generation that has become unaware, of the events of 1985 and the Achille Lauro and the Palestinian Liberation Front. Here was a wanton murder of a helpless human being. Trying to portray both sides and show they’re not monsters, but human beings who did foul, awful things to advance their cause, shows that it was a horrific event. If by producing this those questions are raised again, is that a bad thing? Discussions need to be had. …. I want to be provoked again, and see what my reactions are now, 11 years after I saw it last time….Great art has always raised questions. ….Art is not meant to soothe, it’s meant to provoke.”

    • The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers…
      Exactly this is the problem. As the unforgatbble Jorge Semprun wrote: There is no need to understand them, enough to shoot them.
      Trying to portray both sides and show they’re not monsters, but human beings…
      Terrorists who shoot a wheelchair bound old man just because he is a Jew are definitely monsters.
      Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor must bea selfrighteous asshole and a morally insane champion of postmodernist ethics.

      • Precisely. I would wish to make the same point. The same applied to Spielberg’s “Munich”. The athletes are killed, not murdered, and the film’s moral line is over the retribution and defence mechanisms Jews adopt that the viewer is asked to accept, as being morally corrupt at worst, or equivalent at best. When rockets pour on Israel and israel fights back the most sympathetic comment for Israel some come up with: “Ach! They are both as bad as each other.” “Neutral” indifference to Jewish suffering.

        And that’s sencar at best.Kaplan, who wrote most eloquently, “failed” to address Gelb’s response.What a repulsive person this sencar can be as are the people he chooses to support his argument for justifying murder.

    • I wonder, Sencar, do you ever try to “understand” Israelis?

      I mean, really understand them.

      Didn’t think so. Again, why do you post here? Other than craving the attention the you seek from the people you most despise. I should write a punk song about you. I’ll title it Because I’m a Fuck.

      You’re gong to love it. It’ll be like looking in a mirror.

    • “Art is not meant to soothe, it’s meant to provoke.”
      The rabbi and dadaism…

      • Art is not meant to do any one single defined thing. Anyone who makes a sweeping statement such as, “Art is not meant to soothe, it’s meant to provoke” is either a moron or has an agenda, and quite possibly both.

      • “Art is not meant to soothe, it’s meant to provoke.”

        Yes, when I look at the Mona Lisa, for example, what I think is, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SMILING AT, YOU CRAZED WOMAN WITH POSSIBLY MANLY FEATURES!!@!!1111!111!!!111!!1

    • “Gelb wrote to Kaplan. “John Adams has said that in composing ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ he tried to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists, as well as in their victims.”
      Perhaps Mr. Adams could tackle some other “humanizing” titles, such as “Mengele, a Healer’s Story,” “Auschwitz,” and “Black Slave Auction.”

    • “Great art has always raised questions. ….Art is not meant to soothe, it’s meant to provoke.”
      What bullshit!
      Great art???
      I forced myself to watch this interminable, pretentious rubbish in its entirety when it was shown on TV. It was devoid of any music….rather it was a collection of sentences accompanied by some sort of atonal ‘score’.
      It was an attempt at promoting thinly disguised anti-Semitism through supposed high culture. For any genuine opera fan it was unmitigated torture, musically speaking.
      And, by the way, I’m a great fan of Wagner’s operas….the work of a musical genius, if a vile anti-Semite.
      Now that’s great art!

  4. London’s leftist gliterati has been robbed of masturbating on an “artistic” vision of the murder of a Jewish capitalist by their terrorist pets. The indignation of the Guardian’s author is completely understandable.

  5. Social comment and art should be strictly separated from each other. People who have a message to send are forced to distort personalities and characterisations to convey an attitude instead of serving a higher cause: artistic truth.

  6. What amazes me most about the “search for Middle East peace” is that everytime the Palestinians do something extra nasty — blow up a pizzeria one month after rejecting a peace deal, shoot an old man in a wheelchair and dump him overboard because he’s the only Jew on a cruise ship, kidnap and murder athletes at an international competition — the people who should respond with disgust and utter contempt turn around and find reasons to justify these murders. And not just find some righteous indignation in support of these nefarious actions, but to then create a diversion that they can rally around. Considering the separation barrier to stop suicide bombers from destroying more lives as an Apartheid Wall is nothing different than the IOC refusing to publicly acknowledge the murdered (even on the 40th anniversary of the murders). The same goes for The Met even wanting to broadcast this opera worldwide to the masses — and in light of the shootings at Toulouse, the Mumbai Chabad, and the Brussels Jewish Museum. Just completely tone deaf AND YET they not only will refuse to be considered Anti-Semites, but won’t even consider THEIR OWN ACTIONS as indicative of how full of shit the pro-Palestinian contingent happens to be. The actions of these Palestinian supporters tells me that I should group cold blooded murderers along with their politicians and regular people of the street.

    Got it.

  7. Perhaps the Guardian’s music critic should stick to music rather than topics where he is out of his depth, such as anti-Semitism.

  8. Disclosure:
    John Adams and I have a couple of things in common. FIrst, we’re both musicians, second, we both dated the same woman. The differences are that I don’t write opera and when I dated the woman she was of legal age.

  9. If John Adams’s opera isn’t antisemitic how can it fan antisemitism? asks Tom Service.
    This is easy Tom – just read the antisemitic filth embedded in the BTL comments fanned by your extremely insensitive (and between us extremely stupid) rant.
    You will realize that your opus and Fink’s article are nothing else but the caricatures of good for nothing pseudo intellectuals’ musings about something what they are totally unable to understand due to their perfect lack of any moral compass.
    Anyway the question whether this piece of “opera” is antisemitic or not is irrelevant, The real problem is that it is a very rude and utterly needless violation of the sensitivities of Mr. Klinghoffer’s surviving family members and that it is an attempt to make understand even justify evil. If the authors’ intention was to research or demonstrate some philosophical/ethical point then they could have a huge choice of other – much better known literary/historical/mythological events and persons – naturally the audience and the royalties would have been much smaller not to speak about the missed opportunity of a good Israel bashing.

    • What could possibly be anti-Semitic about shooting a disabled American Jew in the back of the head and dumping his body in the sea? This is obviously an of act anti-Zionist resistance which has nothing to do with anti-Semitism (I swear), because anti-Zionists are not anti-Semitic, rinse and repeat ad nauseam.

      • As a commenterer put it on CIF:
        This opera, which I have seen in case you ask, makes fun of rich, elderly, sometimes disabled Jews and glamourises manly, noble, young Palestinians. No hint of anti-Semitism there.

    • Peter: “Anyway the question whether this piece of “opera” is antisemitic or not is irrelevant, The real problem is that it is a very rude and utterly needless violation of the sensitivities of Mr. Klinghoffer’s surviving family members”.

      And that’s the point, the Guardian’s institutionalised Jew-baiting malice is exposed beneath the sanctimonious facade of fashionable anti-Zionism; a wheel-chair bound Jew murdered in cold-blood, the family members of the deceased have made it clear they find the opera depicting his death offensive and anti-Semitic. A no-brainer to keep out of this one, but who comes running to the defence of the opera? The Guardian baits Jews with a self-righteous pride, and rarely miss an opportunity to do so.

    • [If John Adams’s opera isn’t antisemitic how can it fan antisemitism? asks Tom Service.]

      That is what is known as a ‘hypothetical’: if x then y. Service doesn’t actually get down to +answering the question+ as to whether any part of the opera is problematical or antisemitic. But, hey, this is The Guardian.

  10. Creating sympathy for murderers of a disabled Jew, what an triumph for poststructural relativistic ideology, ‘anarchistic’ heir of maoism/stalinism, where truth is total, as everyone has democratically his/her own truth, wheras the so called binary/dual concept of truth and lie is repressive, and terror is everywhere and permanent, if you accept comsum and work as terror.
    Orwell`s prophesy fulfilled.

    • The construction of competing narratives makes it necessary to invent a level where to compare and equalise so called narratives/fairy tales/everybody´s individual truth, albeit in the case of Palestinians the individual truth is the collective one, to dumb down one side and to pimp up the other – and that`s called deconstructivism.

      • Care to elaborate on your claim “in the case of Palestinians the individual truth is the collective one”, and as to how ‘inventing a level’ to ‘compare and equalise’ narratives would not qualify as pimping?

        • That`s one way to construct a level – to dumb down one side and to pimp up the other.
          The individul ‘truth’ confirms the Palestinian narrative and vice versa,

  11. I haven’t seen or read the opera. While Myron quotes lyrics with what are explicitly antisemitic ideas, this would not necessarily make the opera antisemitic if it contains some kind of internal critique of those ideas. Even if it does (and Alice Goodman’s biographical trajectory makes me suspect not) that would not make it illegitimate to hesitate to stage it: I doubt any Guardian regular would instinctually deplore deferring a production in which Islamophobic memes were expressed, even if internally critiqued, especially if critiqued insufficiently strongly.

    I happen to think that, as a rule, free speech should win out over censorship however. It had been my previous understanding that Goodman includes choruses of both Palestinian and Jewish peoples, suggesting an equivalence as to states and hopes of restoration from exile, for instance. At some point I must read the libretto.

    Norman Lebrecht, music critic for the Jewish Chronicle praised the music but deprecated the words, saying that, while Goodman makes some kind of equivalence between Palestinian and Jewish exiles, overall she tips the scales in favour of the Palestinians.

    It is worthwhile reading this 2012 Telegraph review of the opera by (presumably culturally Muslim) Sameer Rahim

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/9119171/The-opera-novice-The-Death-of-Klinghoffer-by-John-Adams-and-Alice-Goodman.html

    I would say that in discussing any topic, and this opera is a kind of dialectical discussion, some kind of ambiguity or ambivalence is both necessary and inevitable. This after all the only way enemies can ever sit down to talk. Sometimes the ambiguity will tip more one way than the other, but that is the fate of all human discourse. For the sake of discussion some such element needs be tolerated.

    • This after all the only way enemies can ever sit down to talk.
      Klinghoffer already sat, but they didn`t talk to him, they murdered him. So the murder of a disabled Jew shall present the platform for discussion?

      • No, I agree that the use of this incident to stage such a dialectic is extremely problematical, based on my prima facie understanding of the opera. I think Goodman was trying to use the incident as a vehicle for a much a larger discussion which it simply could not hold. It may be her ego is too large to acknowledge this.

        I particularly object to her ‘Well, because the bad people in it are not entirely bad and the good people are not entirely good.'”

        That might be appropriate for a discussion concerning Israelis and Palestinians engaged in direct combat with each other, but not for an innocent bystander like Klinghoffer. That is where Rambo’s antisemitic speech about rich Jews exploiting virgins comes off so problematically. Lebrecht says that it redounds against him. But even if Goodman is not thereby drawing diaspora Jewish victims into the conflict, it seems to me potentially dangerous by the ambiguity as Rambo is not, I think, directly refuted. It also begs the question as to whether Goodman thought of herself as such an exploited one, wherefore she left Judaism for the Anglican church. Prima facie the whole thing looks dodgy to me.

        Spielberg did such a dialectic much better in Munich, when Eric Banner’s character has a conversation with a Palestinian opposite number when passing on the stairs.

  12. From Norman Lebrecht’s JC review

    I have recently reread the libretto and relistened to the opera. One aria by the most brutal of the Palestinians gives grounds for concern. “Rambo”, as he is called, sings that “wherever poor men are gathered, they can find Jews getting fat…” But the Jew he is taunting is helpless in his wheelchair, and midway through the aria Rambo veers off into a riff against the English that is, if anything, more vicious and racist than his bile against the Jews. The name “Rambo” suggests that this is not a rational or reasonable man. His rant rebounds, reducing him in our eyes.

    A Swiss passenger who sighs in relief, “at least we are not Jews,” summons sympathy for those who are, and the callousness with which the Palestinians dispose of their victim will repulse all who witness it. The opening of the opera, a chorus of exiled Palestinians, is balanced immediately by a chorus of exiled Jews.

    Goodman – born Jewish, now an Anglican vicar – employs Bible stories to elucidate the historic animus, on the whole ineffectually. She, along with Adams and Sellars, has spoken of the need to understand the motives of terrorists. Adams, who is by some distance America”s foremost living opera composer, has argued that his country deserves better “than comfort and familiarity in these difficult times”. None of this bilateralism makes them, or the opera, antisemitic.

    http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/analysis/63670/artistic-licence-or-did-they-hijack-truth

    Here is Stephen Pollard’s 2012 JC review

    http://www.thejc.com/arts/theatre/64356/review-the-death-klinghoffer

    • Sounds like the opera has morphed Leon Klinghoffer into a Shylock-type character. He carries the face of the Cruel Mean Money especially in respect to those Pitiful Palestinians who know only Terror.

      But here’s the thing. Leon Klinghoffer himself was the only male Jewish passenger on the Achille Lauro. Leon Klinghoffer only represented the Cruel Mean Money Jew in the eyes of his murderers…. and, apparently, the Met. So his person, which has been dead for 30 years, is now a symbol of what he never was because he’s, y’know, Jewish American Male on a cruise ship?

      What I’m saying is, When does LK get to defend his character assessment? If the Met wanted to make a story where I’m supposed to feel for the Palestinian murderers, then don’t use a real person murdered inhumanely and in cold blood for some stupid opera. Did the family agree to this portrayal? NO. Are they getting paid for using LK’s name? DOUBT IT.

      Ann Goodman is a bitch. She can defend herself right here if she wants, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s a worthless hate mongering hag. Poor LK and his family have no chance to stop this insult to them.

      • [Sounds like the opera has morphed Leon Klinghoffer into a Shylock-type character. ]

        Not really: Norman Lebrecht explains how Rambo’s antisemitic rant to that effect actually redounds adversely, as I quoted but which you clearly didn’t read, again:

        “I have recently reread the libretto and relistened to the opera. One aria by the most brutal of the Palestinians gives grounds for concern. “Rambo”, as he is called, sings that “wherever poor men are gathered, they can find Jews getting fat…” But the Jew he is taunting is helpless in his wheelchair, and midway through the aria Rambo veers off into a riff against the English that is, if anything, more vicious and racist than his bile against the Jews. The name “Rambo” suggests that this is not a rational or reasonable man. His rant rebounds, reducing him in our eyes.”

        http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/analysis/63670/artistic-licence-or-did-they-hijack-truth

    • As for the charges of anti-Semitism that you’re wringing your hands about, the concern is a simulcast broadcast of glorifying the murder of Jews to be shown in 66 countries a few months after the Brussels Museum shooting, which came a few weeks after the Kansas City Jewish Community Center shooting, which is similar to the shootings at JCC’s in Seattle and the San Fernando Valley, which are eerily similar to the Toulouse schoolyard shooting as well as the attack at the Mumbai Chabad house. All of these attacks WERE anti-Semitic. That’s what the complaint about the opera was trying to stop. The Global simulcast of this shitty opera that pegs Jews as logical targets for inhumane scumbags that have nothing but death and murder on their mind.

      If you really want to be taken seriously in your defense of this shitty production, then at least get OUR concerns straight. (Of course, this is the least of your worries.)

      • If you had bothered to read me, I say at the outset why I understand why the Met hesitated to stage the production.

        Try reading what people actually write, dear.

        • Let’s see. I do believe you said the Opera itself wasn’t Anti-Semitic and I said that the complaint is the simulcast of the shitty opera in a world that has seen 7 deadly attacks at Jewish sites around the world. Attacks based completely on a irrational hate, i.e. anti-Semitism. But you didn’t want to READ that part of my comment, so, I guess, it’s ME that didn’t read YOUR comment.

          Zac dear…. Little Punim…. Get over yourself.

          • [Let’s see. I do believe you said the Opera itself wasn’t Anti-Semitic]

            Actually, I said that if Norman Lebrecht, distinguished Jewish music critic for the Jewish Chronicle, doesn’t think it is antisemitic, I doubt it is.

            [and I said that the complaint is the simulcast of the shitty opera in a world that has seen 7 deadly attacks at Jewish sites around the world. Attacks based completely on a irrational hate, i.e. anti-Semitism. But you didn’t want to READ that part of my comment,]

            I did.

            [so, I guess, it’s ME that didn’t read YOUR comment.]

            You didn’t pay attention to this

            “I haven’t seen or read the opera. While Myron quotes lyrics with what are explicitly antisemitic ideas, this would not necessarily make the opera antisemitic if it contains some kind of internal critique of those ideas. Even if it does (and Alice Goodman’s biographical trajectory makes me suspect not) that would not make it illegitimate to hesitate to stage it: I doubt any Guardian regular would instinctually deplore deferring a production in which Islamophobic memes were expressed, even if internally critiqued, especially if critiqued insufficiently strongly.”

            This is in fact +stronger+ than hesitating to simulcast it, since I would hesitate even to +stage+ it.

      • Norman Lebrecht’s Jewish Chronicle review, again:

        It is easy to understand how violated the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer must feel every time they read of his death being commented upon in the press or exalted as art. Their pain is genuine and, regrettably, without remedy. Once a tragedy enters the public space, nothing can restore its privacy.

        The only consolation they can draw that this opera is far from being a tawdry exploitation or an insignificant work of art. Its score is subtler and emotionally more layered than the post-minimalism of Nixon in China, while the drama affords viewers time and space to relate the events to their own moral compass.

        http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/analysis/63670/artistic-licence-or-did-they-hijack-truth

  13. This interview strongly suggests Goodman views the founding of Israel as the crucifixion of the Palestinian people, who receive the most beautiful music even as Bach so glorifies Christ. I have no problem with ‘understanding’ terrorism, that is to say, humanizing them, nor even with understanding the Palestinian national narrative, so long as a far stab (to use a phrase) is made at the Jewish or Zionist.

    I paste a long section from a 2012 Guardian interview with Goodman, which shows where she is coming from, however flawed her conclusions may be. She clearly also blames a Zionist reaction for ending her career.

    “This, she argues, was her mistake: to depict terrorists as human beings and their victims as flawed. In one particularly caustic attack in the New York Times in 2001, Richard Taruskin denounced the opera for “romanticising terrorists”. Taruskin noted that Adams had said the opera owed its structure to Bach’s Passions. But in Bach’s Passions, argued Taruskin, every time Jesus is heard, an aureole of violins and violas gives Christ the musical equivalent of a halo. Klinghoffer has no such halo, while the Palestinian choruses are accompanied by the most beautiful music in the opera.

    “What upset Taruskin was giving beautiful music to terrorists,” snaps Goodman. “They have to sing ugly music. There has to be the equivalent of a drumroll when [1960s cartoon villain] Snidely Whiplash comes in because – God help us – we can’t have complexity. People will love evil if we give terrorists beautiful music to sing and we can’t have that, can we? Sorry, I can hear my voice becoming high-pitched and irritable.

    “There’s a certain romanticism to the hijackers and that’s something, again, that Taruskin picks upon. But the trouble is they think romanticism is good. Romanticism good, romanticism attractive. I don’t think that. I actually think the most dangerous thing in the world is romantic nationalism. Not religion, but romantic nationalism. And if it’s true, it’s also true for Israel. Israel is not exempt from the problem I have with romantic nationalism. If it’s an evil, it’s an evil all over the world.”

    She wrote Klinghoffer at the suggestion of Sellars, and with some trepidation. “It was made more difficult, if you like, because my parents were still alive – very strong people with strong opinions. My family is observant and I had a proper Jewish upbringing and education.” She says that, while she stayed away from the more difficult ramifications of that upbringing, she nevertheless plunged right into the “hot quicksand” of the Arab-Israeli conflict, right down into the Biblical roots of Jewish-Muslim conflict in the story of Abraham, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael (which she meditates upon in the opera’s Hagar chorus), and into the vortex of questions about Israel’s right to exist and what motivates terrorists.

    Writing the libretto was the culmination of a spiritual and ethical journey for Goodman. “The Judaism I was raised in was strongly Zionist. It had two foci almost – the Shoah [the Holocaust] and the State of Israel, and they were related in the same way the crucifixion is related to the resurrection in Christianity. Even when I was a child, I didn’t totally buy that. I didn’t buy the State of Israel being the recompense for the murder of European Jewry, recompense not being quite the right word, of course. The word one wants would be more like apotheosis or elevation.””

    http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/jan/29/alice-goodman-death-klinghoffer-interview

    I think defining and explaining Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalism in terms of Zionist Jewish and vice versa is actually quite a good idea, in the interests of making both mutually intelligible, to the Other and to the world.

    But it does have to be done right. A Christian, whose Christianity, especially in its Palestinian form, has defined, and to some extent maintained, Jews as a people exiled and dispossessed for near 2000 years ought to understand this better than anyone.

    • Well, she’s so sane. After all, she’s only exploiting the murder of a man killed on a cruise ship for being the only male Jew around….. even if he posed no threat to anybody SINCE HE WAS IN A FUCKING WHEELCHAIR.

      • Well, I think she is pretty clear that his murder was abhorrent. She argues that, since his daughters had already participated in several documentaries, the story was in the public domain. I am not entirely sure that is the case, but she is explicit that K. was innocent:

        “But her libretto gave voice to his murderers’ motives. “Yes. It was suggested that I was making excuses for murder.” Which she wasn’t? “No, I don’t think there’s any excuse. All the hostages had been moved on to the top of a covered swimming pool. Mr Klinghoffer’s wheelchair would not go up there. He was shot below decks and his body thrown into the sea. I think in many ways he was killed as a wheelchair user more than anything else.””

        http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/jan/29/alice-goodman-death-klinghoffer-interview

        If Norman Lebrecht doesn’t think the opera is antisemitic I doubt it is. Problematical perhaps, but not necessarily antisemitic.

        • How abhorent can murder be when

          1. The word Murder is replaced by Death
          2. The murderers are philosophical giants
          3. If she really cared about not exploiting Leon Klinghoffer, she would have created a character not named Leon Klinghoffer.

          Ann Goodman has her opinions of Israel, and I’ve got my opinions about Ann Goodman.

          • [1. The word Murder is replaced by Death]

            St Matthew’s Passion is not called St Matthew’s Murder (of Jesus Christ): it is called St Matthew’s Passion, since the stress, in the title at least, is less on the action of the alleged murderers than on the experience of suffering of the murdered.

            [2. The murderers are philosophical giants]

            ???

            [3. If she really cared about not exploiting Leon Klinghoffer, she would have created a character not named Leon Klinghoffer.]

            So Nixon in China should have been called and about who or what, exactly?

            • Sorry. I forgot that Leon Kilinghoffer was elected by the public to be the lone Jew on the Achille Lauro that summer in 1985. He was re-elected, even, with the help of a committee of interns who, y’know, broke into the Watergate Hotel and stole the other potential tourist’s campaign plans. If you don’t understand the difference between Leon Klinghoffer, Jewish American tourist in a wheelchair, shot in the head and dumped overboard, and Richard Nixon, twice elected president of the United States, infamously known for being impeached due to “masterminding” a breakin of opponent’s campaign headquarters, then I don’t know what to tell you. Other than if you would, indeed, pause twice to produce this opera due to the sick and twisted morals of Ann Goodman’s story, then what the fuck are you doing whining and complaining about other people’s complaints that Ann Goodman’s storyline is being played at the Met and was scheduled for simulcast in 66 countries?

              You berate people for supposedly not reading your comments (comments that were quotes of other people, actually) and then you perform some stupid hypocritical maneuvers like you are doing this fine day. That’s some great stuff, Zac. If I was in Med school, I’d be interested in looking inside that brain of yours.

              • [Sorry. I forgot that Leon Kilinghoffer was elected by the public to be the lone Jew on the Achille Lauro that summer in 1985. He was re-elected, even, with the help of a committee of interns who, y’know, broke into the Watergate Hotel and stole the other potential tourist’s campaign plans.]

                No, on reflection, I agree that Goodman is using the incident for much more than it is capable of holding. There are other historical incidents which would much better hold a discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. She might even have did so with this one, had she done it more sensitively, though I cannot pronounce the precise extent to which she may have done so here, because I have no read the libretto. At the very least Lebrecht says it is problematical.

                [If you don’t understand the difference between Leon Klinghoffer, Jewish American tourist in a wheelchair, shot in the head and dumped overboard, and Richard Nixon, twice elected president of the United States, infamously known for being impeached due to “masterminding” a breakin of opponent’s campaign headquarters, then I don’t know what to tell you.]

                You are right: there is a difference, a massive one, between using an elected politician’s visit and the unappointed murder of a private citizen as a vehicle of political discussion. I do not rule the use of such, since it may simply be in the public sphere. But I agree it should be done especially sensitively, and I am far from convinced Goodman has done so here. I am disturbed by her seemingly implying Klinghoffer is a (supposed) ‘good guy’, who is flawed, as opposed to a Palestinian terrorist (supposed) ‘bad guy’, who is not entirely without virtue.
                Klinghoffer was not a combatant: making any kind of equivalence with his murderers qua national combatant is wrong and immoral, so far as I can see. I do not see why Lebrecht cannot see this, as he is normally very sensitive to this kind of thing. It may be because Goodman is sufficiently sensitive contextually, and, without reading the whole libretto, I cannot be sure, but prima facie it looks to me problematical, at best. Broadcasting at all gives me cause for concern.

                I do not see how I am being hypocritical but, hey, it’s your right to fling out insults as you please.

        • “I think in many ways he was killed as a wheelchair user more than anything else.”

          I think this woman is completely confused, f____ up and in denial more than anything else.

        • He was shot below decks and his body thrown into the sea. I think in many ways he was killed as a wheelchair user more than anything else
          I doubt that she thinks in many ways, as this crazy argument has only the motives of denying antisemitism as THE reason for the murder and, by this deflection, putting the disabled in the front, saving her own skin from the legitimate reproach og antisemitism, following the updated rules of minority politics and multiculturalism, so closely observed by what is left, the inclusion.
          She is a despicable person in all aspects, I regret to have to say.

    • Zaccaerdydd you can explain, you can twist and you can quote anything, this “piece of art” clearly makes fun of an elderly Jewish person, tries to explain and understand the motivation of an idealist Palestinian who brutally murdered him and turns this event into a Greek (or as the Guardian critics said a Shakespearean) tragedy. As the honorable (or not) Rabbi Bretton Granatoor wrote:…Trying to portray both sides and show they’re not monsters, but human beings…”. Do you get it? Not monster but human being. What will be the next artistic piece of the author? “The childhood of Julius Streicher”? explaining his tragic misunderstanding of the Jews’ role in twentieth century Germany showing rich, long-nosed Jewish capitalists and hungry German gentiles? I don’t give a flying semi quaver about performing it in the MET, if people are ready to pay a lot for spending some hours with fighting against death by boredom, this wouldn’t make any difference there regarding the security and well-being of the local Jewish population, but simulcasting it worldwide when antisemitism even violent attacks against Jews is on the rise? Have you ever heard of the idea of “unintended consequences”? Obviously you, the authors and the management of the MET don’t give shit. Royalties and making household names out of obscure musicians – known only by a minuscule number of opera lovers- beat common decency, moral, ethics and anything else. And the Klinghoffer family? Go and fuck themselves… they are only an insignificant obstruction on the way to the artistic freedom of these heroes of modern opera.

      • [Zaccaerdydd you can explain, you can twist and you can quote anything, this “piece of art” clearly makes fun of an elderly Jewish person,]

        Not according to Norman Lebrecht, music critic of the JewishChronicle, no antisemite.

        [tries to explain and understand the motivation of an idealist Palestinian who brutally murdered him]

        Much art tries to understand murderous acts. Not condone necessarily, certainly understand.

        [and turns this event into a Greek (or as the Guardian critics said a Shakespearean) tragedy.]

        Much Greek tragedy does exactly that.

        [ As the honorable (or not) Rabbi Bretton Granatoor wrote:…Trying to portray both sides and show they’re not monsters, but human beings…”. Do you get it? Not monster but human being.]

        Human monsters are human beings.

        [What will be the next artistic piece of the author? “The childhood of Julius Streicher”?]

        Such things have been done.

        [explaining his tragic misunderstanding of the Jews’ role in twentieth century Germany showing rich, long-nosed Jewish capitalists and hungry German gentiles?]

        That’s different. You’re confusing portraying even Nazi German human beings as human beings with endorsing their antisemitism.

        [ I don’t give a flying semi quaver about performing it in the MET, if people are ready to pay a lot for spending some hours with fighting against death by boredom, this wouldn’t make any difference there regarding the security and well-being of the local Jewish population, but simulcasting it worldwide when antisemitism even violent attacks against Jews is on the rise?]

        I already said, at the outset, why I understood the Met’s decision.

        [Have you ever heard of the idea of “unintended consequences”?]

        Yes.

        [Obviously you, the authors and the management of the MET don’t give shit.]

        Er…

        • Not according to Norman Lebrecht, music critic of the JewishChronicle, no antisemite.
          So what? Since when is a music critic the definitive authority on antisemitism?

          For the second time in a month Manchester graveyard is daubed with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti

          The non-existent graveyard of Leon Klinghoffer has been vandalized too by the MET. The difference is that in the Manchester case the perpetrators have been called criminals, in the Klinghoffer case the perpetrators have been called non antisemitic artists.

          • You’re right, Lebrecht’s is not a definitive authority. However, he does have a decades-old reputation for sensitivity to antisemitism in the arts as I am sure Adam Levick would witness to, his being familiar, I am sure, with Lebrecht’s reviews in the British Jewish weekly, the Jewish Chronicle. And, unlike any commenter here, Lebrecht has actually read the libretto several times.

            But, prima facie, like most people here, I am concerned with the opera’s being staged at all. Nor am I convinced the Guardian is remotely sensitive enough to its promblemata.

    • zacc: “I have no problem with ‘understanding’ terrorism, that is to say, humanizing them, nor even with understanding the Palestinian national narrative”.

      Nothing unreasonable with that, but the point here is that Mr Klinghoffer’s children feel that this empathy does extend to their murdered father, whose human tragedy has been debased in the form of a Jewish caricature, and true to type, the Guardian reveals, once again, its inability to accept the humanity of the Jews who are living in Israel, the human tragedy of Jews who have been murdered in Israel (such as the Fogel children), and now, random, defenceless Jews from around the world, who have no connection to Israel, but have been murdered in the name of the Guardian’s most celebrated ‘humanitarian’ cause.

      • that should read; Mr Klinghoffer’s children feel that this empathy does not extend to their murdered father

      • Lebrecht thinks that the effect of Rambo’s antisemitic rant is to redound against him, contextually. That is perfectly possible in a work of art. My concern is that Goodman may be effectively rendering Klinghoffer as a (supposed) ‘good guy, albeit flawed’ versus a Palestinian terrorist (supposed) ‘bad guy, albeit with some virtues’. Klinghoffer was not a combatant directly engaged in this conflict. His death may be quite the wrong vehicle to bear this particular discussion. I cannot be certain because I have not read the libretto. But even Norman Lebrecht, who finds as many redeeming qualities in it as he can, says it is problematical. And I agree.

        As I said at the very beginning, I suspect most Guardian reviewers would think twice about work of art which included an Islamophobic rant, +(seemingly) without any explicit internal critique+.

  14. From all the reactions here only Kouf caught what is really the wrong in this opera.
    It is the abuse of a person who cannot defend himself (since he was murdered) and was not a public figure like JFK for example.

    Further more, that person has living relatives which explained that they found the opera disturbing at the very least and do the memory of their father a terrible diservice.

    If the writer wanted to his at the subject they could have at least made up a scenario rather than use an existing murder.

    this is just contemptious.

    • I agree that Koufaxmitzvah’s comments were especially strong and moving, but I think you might have missed some similar comments made by PTH and GroovyTimes.

  15. Zac: If you don’t mind leaving your full name, I’d like to title a short story after you. It’s going to be great. You may not like my portrayal of you, but I am sure you won’t be so narrowminded as to take my efforts to paint your inner emotions negatively.

    • Better yet, Zac, I’d like to learn a little bit about your dead grandfather so that I may exploit his name for my own personal gain. It’s okay, because I will choose to cloak myself with a personal quest for ultimate justice.

      • If I were part of an incident of public record, I am not sure I could object +provided+ I or he were not being slandered.

        I am not sure Klinghoffer is being slandered here. The problem is with how his death is being contextualized. I am sure his relations have explored all legal angles on this front.

        The issue with ‘inner emotions’ is irrelevant, since I do not think they are being negatively portrayed, so far as I can see. What might be an issue is how his political views may be portrayed: that might constitute a de facto defamatory misrepresentation, but, as I said, I am not sure that is necessarily the case and his relations have probably explored this angle.

  16. A further thought. There have been plays about Rachel Corrie, but always from the Palestinian perspective. She’s a tragic figure herself. An emotionally charged young sprite with, as my grandfather used to say, eyes bigger than her head. Enamored by the idea of settling conflict, she dies in a far-off land having misunderstood her own true powers. A young lady can not stop a 3-ton bulldozer by running out at the last minute to stand in front of it. This isn’t Tiannamen Square. Those aren’t tanks. Nothing here was a show of force. What happened was an avalanche of action.

    If I write this script, I immediately change my character name to Corrine, and maybe she dies at some other demonstration, via a shot canister of choking gas clanking her in the head. Although as the writer, I would want to first draft the actual happenings, I know those who are interested can investigate the real situation themselves. That my ACT OF FICTION is based on a REAL EVENT for STUDYING PURPOSES.

    Naturally, in the death scene, I will follow my gut and show how the Palestinians around Corrine’s dead body are actually invigorated in someway. That the only people in the area showing any sadness for this girl’s death are, ironically, the Israelis.

    That scene alone would cause riots.

  17. A very simple email cifwatch could write, is whether Goodman herself agrees with Rambo’s antisemitic views, wholly or in part, and, if not, how precisely did she see the opera as countering them internally. I would be interested in her response.