In response to my teacher and friend who posted a comment on my last submission on “The Death of Klinghoffer”
My quarrel is with the Met not the writer of Klinghoffer.
I am a defender of free speech even when that includes writing something reprehensible. I recall the Nazis marching in Skokie and the right of these evil hate-mongers to spout their bile. My commitment this core constitutional and human value required I defend the right to march in the public space of the town even though the march was designed to promote hate and incite anger due to the venue. But the Met is different.
The Met has selectively and deliberately decided to produce Klinghoffer. This season there are 24 productions, six (6) new and 18 revivals. The names include: Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Donizetti, Wagner, Lehar and Offenbach. Englebert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is also on the schedule for a bit of fun and amusing fare. And then there is John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer.” It is outrageously conspicuous. For an institution of the Met’s esteem, the choices it makes for its productions are important sending a message to the world. The Met sullies her reputation and gives an imprimatur of respectability to this work by producing it without regard to the repercussions.
I do not usually stand on the side of censorship. And in fact, I am not. I would be deeply offended if some lesser institution, the off-Broadway equivalent of the Met, were to produce Klinghoffer. But I probably would not be adamantly opposed. I am struggling with the fact that I have not actually seen Klinghoffer and yet I have taken a stand against its’ production. I accept the inherent problem with my situation.
I guess the immediate contrast would be to argue that I would see Richard Strauss’ Salome at the Met. It too has outrageous and highly provocative material. For a substantial amount of time, it was banned- sometimes due to the sexuality involved sometimes due to the depravity involved, sometimes due to a combination of both. Ultimately, Straus’ gravitas forced people to give it the benefit of the doubt. Adams has a few noted pieces in his repertoire and has earned critical acclaim. However, at this stage, I am not prepared to put John Adams and Richard Strauss in the same category.
So I conclude that this is a very bad misstep for the Met. It is inappropriate and unworthy. The subject is vile and contemptible. The production almost seems like a gratuitous attempt to be controversial and relevant. But it is not. It is merely offensive, inappropriate and wrong. I understand that Peter Gelb (the Met) and Abe Foxman (ADL) have been working together to lessen the impact of this production. I probably will need to experience this opera to better understand it, which may alter my opinion. But for now, the Met would have served all of us including itself better were Klinghoffer not part of this season’s lineup.