The Metropolitan Opera has an interesting choice in its repertoire for this year's season.
It's the debut of its production of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer on October 20, just under a month from now. The opera is fairly controversial, because of the way it treats the victim of a heartless atrocity and the terrorists who committed it.
Leon Klinghoffer was a 69-year-old American Jew who was a decorated American World War II veteran, wheelchair bound and was taking a cruise in 1985 with his wife and 11 friends to celebrate his 36th wedding anniversary on the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
The ship was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists from Black September, and Klinghoffer was taken aside and shot to death, murdered on the direct orders of Yasser Arafat. His body and his wheel chair were then thrown into the sea. He was no physical threat to the terrorists and was murdered simply because he was a Jew.
An opera based on these events was composed by John Adams with the libretto written by apostate Jew Alice Goodman, a convert from Judaism who's now Anglican.
The opera was apparently designed to 'equivocate' the Arab terrorists and their victim morally and show the 'humanity' of both sides. The very title, using the word 'death' rather than 'murder' is a good indication of where this opera stands.
Needless to say, given the expansive growth of Jew hatred, including the recent beheading of a Jewish journalist by Islamic State, this drew some major flak, to the point that last June the Met cancelled a gala worldwide HD broadcast of this performance scheduled to stream to theaters and on radio.
But they are still putting on the opera.
Actually, the opera itself doesn't merely 'morally equivocate' an old, harmless Jew in a wheel chair and his murderers. It comes down squarely on the side of the Arab terrorists.
It openly refers to the Israelis as the new Nazis. The opening scene shows graffiti on a wall, “Warsaw 1943, Bethlehem 2005,” while Jews wearing kippot are shown planting trees and building on 'plundered Arab territory'. The Palestinian chorus sings, “My father’s house was razed in 1948 when the Israelis passed over our street.” The Palestinians sing, “We are soldiers fighting a war. We are not criminals and we are not vandals but men of ideals.”
Yes, brave soldiers fighting one unarmed 69-year old Jew in a wheel chair. How heroic!
And the rest of the libretto is riddled with typically anti-semitic stereotypes and slurs. At one point, the principal terrorist says, “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.” Later, he yells at Klinghoffer, “America is one big Jew.”
That of course reveals the truth of the relationship between a crippled American Jew and Palestinian hatred. It has never been about Israel per se, but about the Jews. All Jews, where ever they are, no matter how Left-leaning and 'anti-Zionist' they are, not matter how self-degrading.
And the music itself deliberately underlines the superiority of the viewpoint of Arabs as freedom fighters and victims. The Palestinian choruses are strong, virile and filled with emotion, especially as the opera progresses and more of their grievances against Jews are revealed and explored in the opera and the libretto. The Jewish choruses and lyrics are flabby and vague..exactly the way Adams wanted the two sides portrayed.
It is the Palestinian who are shown throughout the opera as heroic with justifiable anger while the Jews are shown as money grubbing and exploitative, always in an unfavorable light. What the music and the libretto both underline in a particularly sick way is that Leon Klinghoffer's murder was justified, because his death was a sacrifice for the 'crimes' of his fellow Jews.
Needless to say, both the Met and the New York Times are beating the drum of 'artistic freedom' to justify putting this propaganda - because that's exactly what it is - on stage. The Times in particular praised Met general manager Peter Gelb for being “true to its artistic mission.”
Now I wonder...what would happen to a composer who wrote an opera about KKK members in the South during the Reconstruction lynching a negro who was a tool for their carpetbagger oppressors and attempted the same sort of 'artistic statement' that John Adams and Alice Goodman put together, showing moral equivalence of murderers and victim? Would the Met stage that opera? And would the New York Times laud it as 'artistic freedom'? Would the composer ever get another commission to compose anything? I think we know the answers to those questions.
Does the Met have the right to put on this anti-semitic work in a mainstream cultural arena that justifies violence against Jews? Of course they do. Did John Adams have the right to compose it? Of course he did. Was a it a moral and decent thing to do? Are they being sympathetic and respectful of the feelings of the Klinghoffer's children? Do they bear some responsibility for violence done to Jews as a result of what amount to a justification for it.
Absolutely. And no amount of rationalizing about 'artistic freedom; cleanses that guilt, before G-d or man. To even try to do so is to reveal oneself as morally dead.
Peter Gelb can be reached at email@example.com or call (212) 799-3100.