Et tu, Wall Street Journal.
Heidi Waleson opens her review of the controversial opera: “The Death of Klinghoffer” thusly:
John Adams’s opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” (1991) is not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. It does not condone terrorism. Tom Morris’s powerful production that opened at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday (it had its debut at the English National Opera in 2012) makes those things eminently clear by delving beyond the sometimes obscure, baroque text of Alice Goodman’s libretto to arrive at the musical heart of the work, which is about the depth of historical resentment, and how it drives people to commit heinous acts. The crowd of ranting protesters corralled by police barricades in the park opposite Lincoln Center had clearly never heard the piece, and the tacky disruptions inside the theater—a few shouts—seemed irrelevant to what was happening onstage.
One wonders what makes Waleson such an authority on the subject of anti-Semitism.
Commenters on the Journal website were not fooled by her naïve pronouncement. They immediately identified Waleson’s own anti-Israeli bias. You can see it yourself in her opening paragraph.
She says that the “crowd of ranting protesters” was “corralled by police barricades….” Not only is the word "ranting" highly derogatory. It does not describe the attitude of the demonstrators, led by numerous distinguished public officials. And then, doesn’t the verb “corralled” give it away? The protesters were the kinds of animals that needed to be “corralled.”
Surely, reducing human beings to out-of-control, dangerous animals is an old anti-Semitic trope.
Dare we mention that if the opera was about the Prophet Mohammed, the Met would NEVER have allowed it to be performed.
Somehow or other Waleson believes that “historical resentment… drives people to commit heinous acts.” What makes her an authority on human motivation?
As it happens, and as many of have noted, the opera’s title is not The Murder of Klinghoffer or The Execution of Klinghoffer. By calling it The Death of Klinghoffer the composer has whitewashed the fact that a Jewish man was executed because he was Jewish.
One is appalled to see this sleight-of-hand in a newspaper where Daniel Pearl used to work.
The fault for Palestinian terrorism, Waleson suggests, lays with the Israelis. Waleson says not a word about the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries and who do not bear any resentment for the nations that stole their property and forced them to leave. She has not a word for the Palestinian leadership that, most recently, has preferred to spend international aid money on rockets and terror tunnels, rather than for the benefit of the Palestinian people.
With her opening paragraph Waleson has revealed her own bias. She has, dare I say, been seduced by the anti-Israeli propaganda represented in this opera.
Evidently, Waleson is incapable of seeing propaganda for what it is. For that we turn to someone who is a great opera lover, but not an opera critic. That would be Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus professor who is, dare we say, biased in favor of Israel. One needs to say it that way, but it is a bad sign that we feel compelled to say that someone who defends the state of Israel against anti-Semitic propaganda and terrorist actions has a “bias.”
As I said, Dershowitz is not an opera critic. Nevertheless, his comments ring more true than those of addled opera critic Waleson.
By any standard, The Death of Klinghoffer, is anything but the “masterpiece” its proponents are claiming it is. The music is uneven, with some lovely choruses—more on that coming—one decent aria, and lots of turgid recitatives. The libretto is awful. The drama is confused and rigid, especially the weak device of the captain looking back at the events several years later with the help of several silent passengers. There are silly and distracting arias from a British show girl who seems to have had a crush on one of the terrorists, as well as from a woman who hid in her cabin eating grapes and chocolate. They added neither to the drama nor the music of the opera.
In the opera there are dueling choruses, expressing the Palestinian and Israeli points of view. Apparently, these choruses are not equivalent; they do not even draw a moral equivalence. As Dershowitz puts it, they demean and diminish Jews while glorifying the Palestinian point of view.
The Palestinian chorus is beautifully composed musically, with some compelling words, sung rhythmically and sympathetically. The Jewish chorus is a mishmash of whining about money, sex, betrayal and assorted “Hasidim” protesting in front of movie theaters. It never mentions the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, though the chorus is supposed to be sung by its survivors. The goal of that narrative chorus is to compare the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians—some of which was caused by Arab leaders urging them to leave and return victoriously after the Arabs murdered the Jews of Israel—with the systematic genocide of six million Jews. It was a moral abomination.
Dershowitz adds, importantly, that the opera does not portray Klinghoffer being executed because he was Jewish. It shows him being murdered because he was a loudmouth who spoke ill of Palestinians.
We give the last word on this subject to Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl:
I submit to you that there has never been a crime in human history lacking grievance and motivation. The 9/11 lunatics had profound motivations, and the murderers of my son, Daniel Pearl, had very compelling "grievances.”
In the past few weeks we have seen with our own eyes that Hamas and ISIS have grievances, too and, they, too, are lining up for operatic productions with the Met.
There is nothing more enticing to a would-be terrorist than the prospect of broadcasting his "grievences" in Lincoln Center, the icon of American culture.
Yet civilized society, from the time of our caveman ancestors, has learned to protect itself by codifying right from wrong, separating the holy from the profane, distinguishing that which deserves the sound of orchestras from that which deserves our unconditional revulsion. The Met has smeared this distinction and thus betrayed their contract with society.
I submit to you that choreographing an operatic drama around criminal pathology is not an artistic prerogative, but a blatant betrayal of public trust.
We do not stage operas for rapists and child molesters, and we do not compose symphonies for penetrating the minds of ISIS executioners.
No! Composer John Adams, some sides do not have two sides, and what was done to Leon Klinghoffer has one side only.
What we are seeing here in New York today is not an artistic expression that challenges the limits of morality, but a moral deformity that challenges the limits of the art.
This opera is not about the mentality of deranged terrorists, but about the judgment of our arts directors. The New York Met has squandered humanity's greatest treasure — our moral compass, our sense of right and wrong, and, most sadly, our reverence for music as a noble expression of the human spirit.
We might be able some day to forgive the Met for de-criminalizing brutal minds, but we will never forgive them for poisoning our music -- for turning our best violins and our iconic concert halls into mega-phones for excusing evil.