Tonight is the opening night of The Death of Klinghoffer, the Metropolitan Opera’s production of the controversial opera about the 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship by the Palestinian Liberation Front and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger. The lead-up to the Met’s production has been met with protests and condemnation, particularly among Jews, and objections to the opera’s depiction of the murder and its motivations.
A protest outside Lincoln Center on the Sept. 22 opening night of the fall opera season drew more than 1,000 people, and a planned demonstration for this evening (the show begins at 7:30 p.m.) will likely draw a similarly large crowd.
Prominent objections have come from across the political spectrum—speakers at the September protest included Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, former New York Governor George Pataki, and Catholic League President Bill Donohue. Judea Pearl, the father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, offered a particularly moving objection in a letter to the New York Times, writing, “There is nothing more enticing to a would-be terrorist than the prospect of broadcasting his ‘grievances’ in Lincoln Center, the icon of American culture.”
A statement from the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League, also condemns the opera that depicts the murder of their father nearly three decades ago.
We are strong supporters of the arts, and believe that theater and music can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events. The Death of Klinghoffer does no such thing. It presents false moral equivalencies without context, and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew. It rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father. Our family was not consulted by the composer and librettist and had no role in the development of the opera.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be leading tonight’s protest.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.