'Klinghoffer' cancellation draws international criticism

The Metropolitan Opera's decision last week to cancel its planned international cinematic broadcast of John Adams' "The Death of Klinghoffer" has prompted harsh criticism from groups worldwide, which have asked the New York company to reconsider its decision.

"Klinghoffer" will still be staged at the Met in New York in October, but the scheduled Nov. 15 broadcast has been called off on concerns that the opera might foment anti-Semitism. The Met said its decision came after talks with the head of the Anti-Defamation League. 

The opera is a dramatization of the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 by Palestinian terrorists and the execution of Jewish American passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The opera has remained controversial since its debut in 1991.

Groups that have come together to collectively express their disapproval of the Met's decision include the PEN American Center, the National Coalition Against Censorship and the London-based human rights organization Article 19. They said in a joint statement that they want the Met to reconsider its cancellation of the cinematic broadcast.


"Cultural institutions can play a crucial role in promoting understanding and peaceful dialogue in a world of conflict, but only if they stand up to pressure groups from all sides," the statement read. "If they don't, they are likely to become either irrelevant or a tool in the hands of competing political interests."

It continued: "By agreeing to suppress the distribution of one politically controversial work, the Metropolitan exposes itself to future requests to suppress others, whether the 'Ring' Cycle or 'Die Meistersinger' by Wagner, or 'The Merchant of Venice.'"

The Met's decision was also condemned by the New York Times editorial board last week. The board called the cancellation a "step back" for the institution and its general manager, Peter Gelb.

"Many critics of this opera have not actually seen it, though they are certainly free to express their concern or even outrage," the editorial read.

"Their political and personal views, however, should not cause the Met to reverse its artistic judgment."

The Met's staging of "Klinghoffer" will be the first time the New York company has produced the controversial work. The staging is a co-production with the English National Opera, which unveiled the production two years ago.

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