The Death of Klinghoffer: English National Opera

By Benarroch, Eduardo | Musical Opinion, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

The Death of Klinghoffer: English National Opera


Benarroch, Eduardo, Musical Opinion


The operatic repertoire is full of examples of leaders being killed, it is a never ending rich vein which is constantly exploited. Leon Klinghoffer was neither a statesman nor a world personality, neither a religious leader nor even a very rich man. He was killed because he was a Jew. And here ends the similarity and the vein becomes narrower, it is suddenly more difficult to extract the mineral and it comes mixed up with all sorts of other things, what to do? How to get to it? Of course this is not about minerals but about people who suffer, the Jews and the Palestinians, the Palestinians and the Jews, and who are so intrinsically united that it is difficult to distinguish who is who. The suffering of the Jews did not start with the Holocaust but because of it the world felt they needed a state where they would not be persecuted. The suffering of the Palestinians did not start because the State of Israel exists, but because of the way partition was executed. And to this day the world has closed its eyes to this problem and to this day the Palestinian people feel that nobody cares for them. I remember very well when the Achille Lauro was hijacked, I was on the front line condemning these barbarians who had done the deed, and when Klinghoffer was thrown overboard a sense of repugnance came over me. How could they do that? Today I am wiser, many things have happened which should not have happened, and all in our name, the same name which was invoked when the terrorists killed Klinghoffer, things such as Iraq have happened, Afghanistan, the killing of civilians by US pilots ... and the same question I asked myself then comes back how could they do that? The opera does not take sides and this in itself may irritate some who feel it should. But by doing this one can try to understand why it happened and try to avoid committing the same errors so that it never happens again. Sadly we have not reached this point yet and it is much easier to point the finger than talking. Alice Goodman's libretto is at times too intellectual, the choice of words convoluted, it distracts from the central issue, but on the whole it conveys both messages very well: the rage inside the terrorists and the pain inside Mrs Klinghoffer, to name but two. Adams has never been a strict minimalist and never less than in this work. It is a triumph of clarity, of expression, of feelings which provide the perfect tranquil framework for this opera to unfold. …

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