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Reader Post: A Letter to “Klinghoffer” Composer John Adams About My Hot New Opera

Klinghoffer-review-2You don’t know me, Mr. Adams, but we have much in common when it comes to our taste in art. I am writing an opera that I think you will appreciate. It will be a sensitive portrait of murderous thugs who abduct your elderly father and blow his head off. I plan to call it “The Death of Adams.”

This work is bound to be controversial – what great art isn’t? – but I am sure you will agree that there is a need for an unsettling but illuminating look at why so many people in the world hate folks like your dad and would like to see them die.

To provide the proper context, the opening chorus will denounce the nasty deeds committed by your father’s kind while emphasizing the simple purity of the Adamses’ supercool enemies (“Coolness rose like a wave/From our pure well”).

Then, before putting your crippled father out of his misery, the cool guys with the guns will tell him just why he deserves to die (keep in mind that the following speech will sound better when set to hauntingly beautiful, yet fashionably minimalist music):

“Wherever poor men/Are gathered they can/Find Adamses getting fat./You know how to cheat/The simple, exploit/the virgin, pollute/Where you have exploited,/Defame those you cheated… You are old and ugly./Not for one day/Will your children miss you” (that includes you, John!).

This passage is very important. If I may borrow from NY Metropolitan Opera manager Peter Gelb’s New York Post op/ed defending the “Klinghoffer” libretto, it “attempts to explore the motives of the criminals… something we should all strive to understand.”

The motives of the criminals are dauntingly complex and multilayered. They hate the Adamses because, rightly or wrongly, they see them as fat, ugly, lying, cheating, moneygrubbing parasites who exploit virgins. If people would only make an effort to understand that, the world might be a better place!

Some dunderheaded critics may jump to the conclusion that I wish to glorify the murderers as heroes. In reality, my opera will take a much subtler and more nuanced stance – one directly inspired by “The Death of Klinghoffer.” Let me quote from the New York Observer review of the production that the Met is currently mounting right in the city where Leon Klinghoffer grew up:

“If the lion’s share of stage time and the best music end up assigned to the Palestinian characters, that’s only fair: they are the conflicted protagonists of the drama. Whether they are also the heroes is up to the spectator to decide.”

I too will let the audience decide whether the unprovoked shooting of a helpless old man is a heroic act. Naturally, the best venue for such a challenging and thought-provoking debate would be the depicted victim’s home town. You will be pleased to know that I plan to stage “The Death of Adams” where your dad’s friends and neighbors will be able to attend.

Tell me, Mr. Adams, may I count on your support?

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