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February 06, 2009

NY Times’ Biased Review of the Politicized Opera The Death of Klinghoffer


Jan 31, 2009 concert performance of composer John Adams’ opera "The Death of Klinghoffer"

Anthony Tommasini’s Feb. 2, 2009 NY Times music review, “In a New Generation, a Searing Opera Breaks Free of Polemics,�? in praise of the Adams opera, contains an anti-Israel message as does the highly politicized opera itself. The opera characterizes the Arab/Israel conflict through use of an actual murder that took place in 1985 following the Palestinian hijacking of a cruise ship. Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew, had been shot and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by members of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Army.

While Tommasini’s text is more nuanced than the headline which falsely states that the opera is suddenly now free of polemics, his bias is indicated in describing an anti-Israel polemic contained in the opera:

One scene seemed especially timely in the face of the roiling Gaza war. Mamoud tells the captain of the brutality his family has faced, his mother driven away during a raid, his brother decapitated.

Thus, Tommassen is able to present, without challenge, a baseless accusation - that Israeli solders commit decapitations of Palestinians - and even link it to the current conflict in Gaza thereby echoing the mainstream media’s tendency to accept wildly unsubstantiated claims by Palestinians of brutality perpetrated by Israeli soldiers.

Tommasini, while mentioning what some critics said of the opera at its American premiere performance (the hijackers were given “sympathetic voices�? while the passengers were depicted as “stereotypical self-absorbed Westerners�?), could have gone further as did a March 16, 2003 Newsday article:

When it opened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991, Newsday's Tim Page protested that it treated the Palestinian thugs as "real men - Rousseau's noble savages made flesh - as opposed to the opera's nattering, ineffectual Jewish characters." Alice Goodman's libretto was widely denounced as naive at best and anti-Semitic at worst, and Adams was cast as her musical enabler.

The opera has not fared well since its debut in 1991, seldom being performed especially in major venues.

Posted by MK at February 6, 2009 03:24 PM


This so-called "opera" is a glorification of murder. What happened to the "innocent civilian" and all the concern that he gets ---- if he is an Arab? Is it fair to call this an example of cultural Nazism? Why should it be allowed in any publicly-owned place??

Posted by: Eliyahu [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 8, 2009 10:59 AM

If someone ever decides to follow the logic of the Mel Brooks classic, "The Producers" (get people to invest in a "guaranteed flop" and keep the cash), the "Klinghoffer" opera would be an ideal candidate. The only difference is that "Springtime for Hitler" was written by a Nazi "nut case" for the sake of the comedy, while this bone-head opera was written by musically talented idiots.

Posted by: ben at February 10, 2009 03:01 PM

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