Few weeks ago a woman in audience was asked to leave an opera house in France because she was wearing a veil. Ironically nearby in another opera house some actors were wearing veil on stage in a scene of the play.
In New York many Jews, including prominent politicians, are protesting in front of Met Opera to close a play “ Death of Klinghoffer “ because it is anti-Semite, especially the line “ America is a big Jew” and supports terrorism. Alex Ross of The New Yorker writes about Met Opera controversy;
At the rally, people carried signs reading “The Met Opera Glorifies Terrorism,” “No Tenors for Terror,” “Snuff Opera,” and “Gelb, Are You Taking Terror $$$?”—the last a reference to Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met. A leaflet from the Zionist Organization of America described the opera as “anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-British, anti-gay, & anti-western world.” A hundred demonstrators sat, symbolically, in wheelchairs. An array of local politicians, both Republican and Democratic, lined up to attack the piece. Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, said that she was “personally offended by the play.” David Paterson, the former governor of New York, called the work “loathsome and despicable.” A New Jersey state senator wondered whether Hamas had funded the Met production. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took a more conciliatory tone, conceding that Adams is “one of our great American composers.” Giuliani was the only speaker who seemed to have heard the music. Nonetheless, he concluded that the opera “supports terrorism.”
The protest failed because it relied on falsehoods: the opera is not anti-Semitic, nor does it glorify terrorism. Granted, Adams and his librettist, Alice Goodman, do not advertise their intentions in neon. The story of the Achille Lauro hijacking is told in oblique, circuitous monologues, delivered by a variety of self-involved narrators, with interpolated choruses in rich, dense poetic language. The terrorists are allowed ecstatic flights, private musings, self-justifications. But none of this should surprise a public accustomed to dark, ambiguous TV shows like “Homeland.” The most specious arguments against “Klinghoffer” elide the terrorists’ bigotry with the attitudes of the creators. By the same logic, one could call Steven Spielberg an anti-Semite because the commandant in “Schindler’s List” compares Jewish women to a virus.
In the opera, the opposed groups follow divergent trajectories. The terrorists tend to lapse from poetry into brutality, whereas Leon Klinghoffer and his wife, Marilyn, remain robustly earthbound, caught up in the pleasures and pains of daily life, hopeful even as death hovers. Those trajectories are already implicit in the paired opening numbers, the Chorus of Exiled Palestinians and the Chorus of Exiled Jews. The former splinters into polyrhythmic violence, ending on the words “break his teeth”; the latter keeps shifting from plaintive minor to sumptuous major, ending on the words “stories of our love.” The scholar Robert Fink, in a 2005 essay, convincingly argues that the opera “attempts to counterpoise to terror’s deadly glamour the life-affirming virtues of the ordinary, of the decent man, of small things.” Moreover, subtle references to the Holocaust suggest that a familiar horror is recurring. “At least we are not Jews,” an old Swiss woman says. “I kept my distance,” an Austrian frigidly intones. The mellifluous, ineffectual Captain indulges in fantasies of appeasement, conversing under the stars with a silver-tongued terrorist named Mamoud.
Posted by F. Sheikh