November 07, 2014
Opera has been in the news lately, in Paris and New York, that is. And no, this doesn”t mean things are culturally looking up; on the contrary, I”m afraid. Let’s start with the City of Light, where millions of Muslims surround the capital (most of them in the suburbs) waiting for the day they can sweep away the fuzz, burn down the cathedrals, and establish Sharia law. Mind you, it’s an Islamic dream that won”t happen in my lifetime but might take place in some of you younger readers” life. During a performance of La Traviata at the OpÃ©ra Bastille, the capital’s hulking modernist opera house, a woman in the front row was asked by an attendant to remove the covering over her face. The performers had spotted her and had warned the conductor they would not sing if the woman kept her face concealed. Rack one up for the singers. The woman refused to uncover her face, and the camel slob from the Gulf who was her husband (a particularly ugly man) and she were shown the door. End of story, but not quite.
The French law is clear: No wearing of clothes that conceal the face in public places. Masks, balaclavas, niqabs are all forbidden, but since when did a European country’s law matter where Muslims are concerned? The pig”and I apologize to our porcine friends for the comparison”who brought the woman to the opera is likely a male chauvinist, who boozes and whores but is pious where women’s correct dress is concerned. And the couple immediately found supporters among the “bien-pensant””i.e., the politically correct, “It’s all the West’s fault!”-screaming feminist mongrels.
“It’s vigilante justice,” howled one Elsa Ray, spokeswoman for the Collective Against Islamophobia (whatever that means) in France. (Some women in Europe, not all, like Arabs because they pay well for services rendered, despite the fact the oily Ay-rabs are rumored to be rough with the fairer sex because they possess very small willies.) The good news is that opera got some headlines for a change, instead of the diet of Hollywood blood and violence that dominates news nowadays.
Over on this side of the pond, opera hit the headlines in New York when the Metropolitan Opera House staged The Death of Klinghoffer, American composer John Adams” work about the murder of an American Jew by Palestinian terrorists on board the Achille Lauro, a cruise ship seized by four hijackers in 1985. The Palestinians demanded the freedom of Israeli-held prisoners in return. Leon Klinghoffer was a crusty old man in a wheelchair who swore at the commandos, a brave but foolhardy act, and they shot him dead in his wheelchair and then threw him overboard.
Adams” operas include Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic, poetic explorations of recent historical events. He is no Palestinian apologist, but in Klinghoffer he attempts to understand the seemingly endless conflict between the dispossessed Palestinians and the Israeli conquerors. This has made all hell break loose, with protesters threatening death to Peter Gelb, himself a Jew and general manager of the Met. The fact that the opera, one I have not seen and do not plan to see, is in complete sympathy with the Klinghoffers, does not register with the protesters. The fact that the Palestinians are allowed to sing their complaints about living under the Israeli yoke is enough for them to see it as sympathetic to the killers while portraying the Jews as greedy. The 1991 opera does nothing of the kind, according to my research. It presents the argument of the bad guys, or freedom fighters, take your pick, and that’s simply not good enough for Noo Yawkers bent on an ever expanding Israel. The fact that a work of art about a subject, such as the Palestinians versus Israel, exists, does not mean it’s in favor of any side of that fight.
Be that as it may, there were angry speeches outside the Met, major disruptions inside the hall, and headlines in all the newspapers and network news. What struck me was the absolute conviction of the protesters that any word uttered giving the Palestinian point of view in New York means that one is giving the green light to storm troopers to go out and murder Jews.
The Klinghoffer opera is more of an oratorio than an opera, with the chorus of exiled Palestinians and the chorus of exiled Jews. However touchy the subject, it should not have received the opprobrium it did from some not very serious pundits. Palestinians are shot and killed daily by the Israeli army, and I have yet to hear about any operas written about the stone throwing victims. Robert Stethem was a navy man who was murdered by Palestinian hijackers on a plane they had seized but no opera was ever written about him. Yet there have been three movies about the hijacking in Uganda and the death of Netanyahu’s brother while rescuing the Israeli hostages. Movies, operas, surely our Jewish cousins cannot complain, but they do, they certainly do protest, a bit too much.