Controversial ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ to finally get L.A. debut


This post has been updated.

“The Death of Klinghoffer,” the controversial 1991 opera by John Adams, is scheduled to make its much-belated Los Angeles-area debut in March 2014. But the producing company won’t be L.A. Opera, which was one of several groups that commissioned the piece.

Long Beach Opera said it will present the work as part of its season next year, in a staging directed by James Robinson. The dates and venue for the performances have not been announced. In April 2014, the production will be part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s recently announced “Minimalist Jukebox” festival.


Robinson directed a new production of “Klinghoffer” in 2011 for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, where he is artistic director. It’s unclear if Long Beach Opera will present the same production.

Long Beach Opera has confirmed that its artistic and general director Andreas Mitisek will conduct. The scenery will be designed by Allen Moyer, costumes by James Schuette and video by Greg Emetaz.

Adams’ opera was inspired by the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 by Palestinian terrorists. Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish American passenger, was killed and his body was dumped overboard.

The English-language opera features a libretto by Alice Goodman.

“Klinghoffer” had its world premiere in 1991 in Brussels, in a production directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Kent Nagano. The same year, the opera had its U.S. debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The opera quickly became engulfed in controversy after some claimed the piece was sympathetic to the Palestinian characters and that it contained anti-Semitic content. Planned productions in L.A. and by England’s Glyndebourne Festival never materialized.


The other co-commissioners were the San Francisco Opera and Lyon Opera in France, both of which have staged the opera.

Controversy continues to linger over “Klinghoffer” more than 20 years later, though the intensity of the debate surrounding its alleged anti-Semitism has abated.

“Klinghoffer” has never been performed in its entirety in the L.A. area. In 2009, the L.A. Master Chorale performed selections from the opera in a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.


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