The national director of the ADL admits he's never seen the opera—which, according to many critics who have seen it, is a masterful, piercing, and responsible look at the Israel/Palestine conflict and the 1985 murder of a Jewish-American tourist during the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro—but fears it might fan anti-semitic flames abroad.
The Met's director, Peter Gelb, says: "I’m convinced that the opera is not antisemitic," but that screening it would be "inappropriate at this time of rising antisemitism."
This would have been the best shot for Seattle audience, among others, to see the piece and the NYT calls the decision "a dismaying artistic cave-in."
Check out two of Adams's stunning choruses from the opera—Chorus of Exiled Palestinians and Chorus of Exiled Jews—to see for yourself. (Be warned: They're brilliant, but they're not light viewing.)
The choruses, says Josef Krebs—Seattle arts advocate and director of advancement and sustainability at Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (the largest youth orchestra organization in the US)—"pretty much set the tone for the narrative in the work that follows, and it's what pisses off some people—that Adams would have dared to even mention the suffering of the Palestinians in a work about a terrorist hijacking that climaxed in the murder (about which Adams is not conflicted—this was cold murder) of a Jewish-American in a wheelchair."
"Adams is the greatest living opera composer," he adds. "The Death of Klinghoffer is a masterpiece... It is tough, but it's an extremely important work that needs to be seen by as many people as possible."
But it looks like we won't, at least not for awhile.
If you're hungry for a deep, scholarly examination of the opera and its mixed reception, check out Robert Fink's 2005 essay Klinghoffer in Brooklyn Heights:
This opera does not romanticise terror. It tries for something much more difﬁcult, so difﬁcult that its failure has been splattered for decades over the pages of the American press. The Death of Klinghoﬀer attempts to counterpoise to terror’s deadly glamour the life-affirming virtues of the ordinary, of the decent man, of small things.
The Met's simulcast of Wagner's Die Meistersinger, which the Times describes as having "not-so-hidden elements of anti-Semitism," is still scheduled for broadcast later this year.