Death of Klinghoffer, Metropolitan Opera (photo by Ken Howard)
The reviews are in for the Metropolitan Opera's production of The Death of Klinghoffer, which opened on Monday night. The commentary (not to say, the reviews), polarized in an unappetizing political way, has been difficult to read. The excesses of both sides are absurd: "Putting on this opera is equivalent to a second Holocaust!" just as much as "No one has any right to criticize this opera for romanticizing terrorists!" Of course, John Adams, Alice Goodman, and the Metropolitan Opera have the right to produce the work -- we live in a free society. Just as obviously, Leon Klinghoffer's daughters are understandably dismayed at the way their father's murder was connected to the political grievances of his murderers.
As I wrote this past summer, if the story were rooted in another conflict but in everything else parallel, the reaction would have been different. Imagine an opera about the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria that opens with a chorus laying out the political and religious grievances of the Boko Haram militants, calling for the establishment of Sharia law. Imagine an opera about the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl that opens with a chorus describing the causes behind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's hatred of the United States. Imagine an opera about the murder of Matthew Shepard that opens with a chorus about the need to defend the American family from homosexuality. If any of those imagined operas were real, the family members of the victims would be upset -- and many other people would not only feel sympathy for those family members but also would feel outraged themselves.
"Terrorism is irrational," write Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer. "It should never be explained away or justified. Nor should the death of innocent civilians be misunderstood as an acceptable means for drawing attention to perceived political grievances. Unfortunately, The Death of Klinghoffer does all of this and sullies the memory of our father in the process."
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