NEW YORK — Some big-name politicians are joining Jewish protesters in a growing firestorm against an opera they say glorifies Palestinian terrorists.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Gov. George Pataki and two U.S. congressmen are among hundreds expected outside the Metropolitan Opera on Oct. 20 to protest the Met premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer.
It’s based on the 1985 murder of a disabled Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, on the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship hijacked by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front. The 69-year-old New York retiree was shot in his wheelchair and pushed overboard.
Organizers plan to bring 100 symbolic wheelchairs to the rally at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.
The Met already has canceled its planned November movie theater and radio broadcasts of American composer John Adams’ 1991 work amid pressure from Jewish groups — especially the Anti-Defamation League — whose members say the music romanticizes Klinghoffer’s killers, along with the opening Chorus of Exiled Palestinians.
Met General Manager Peter Gelb warned the broadcasts could trigger anti-Semitism overseas. But opera expert Fred Plotkin says the work depicts the Klinghoffers as the moral backbone.
“Does this opera present the killers in a favorable light? No,” he says. “Are the Klinghoffers far and away the most sympathetic characters in the opera, the ones we care about most? I believe so.”
The opera has been a lightning rod since February, when it was first scheduled for this season. The opposition is now reaching fever pitch, with word spreading that protesters may try to disrupt the performance.
It’s the second large New York demonstration against the work since the Met’s Sept. 22 season opening night, when protesters carried signs that read Klinghoffer Opera/Propaganda Masquerading as Art and jeered at arriving spectators.
Plotkin notes that many Klinghoffer opponents have never seen the work. The Met is advertising it with the slogan: “See it. Then decide.”
The Death of Klinghoffer was first premiered in Brussels in 1991, with little controversy, then in various European cities as well as at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was greeted with both praise and anger — especially from Klinghoffer’s two daughters.
The Death of Klinghoffer runs through Nov. 15 at the Met.