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The Death of Klinghoffer

  • Music, Classical and opera
  • Recommended

Time Out says

An operatic retelling of a terrorist murder is bound to cause some unease, which is why this work has been talked about more than heard since its 1991 premiere. But on its recent opening night at the Met, protesters outside Lincoln Center—most of whom had not seen the work, and pledged not to—advanced a critique that the subsequent performance of the opera showed to be misguided. By giving Palestinian terrorists more “backstory” than the cardboard-cutout villains tend to get on 24, composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman have not “glamorized” or “rationalized” or “excused” the horrifying murder of Leon Klinghoffer (who was killed by hijackers of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985). Instead, they, and the director of this grimly compelling new production, Tom Morris, have made the breakdown of humanity inherent in this story feel all the more tragic. The artistic crew on hand is formidable. Conductor David Robertson is a master at painting with Adams’s varied, postminimalist palette. The Met’s brilliant orchestra and chorus command all the dizzying textures, sounding brooding and profound in one moment, and then insanely raging in the next. Vocal standouts include baritone Paulo Szot as the Captain, and mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens as Marilyn Klinghoffer—two roles that occupy the work’s moral center.


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