The Death of Klinghoffer

December 3, 2003, December 5 – 6, 2003

Premiere US Premiere
Production Language English
Country of Origin United States
Description "It was just after 1:15." This outwardly mundane refrain, sung with great poignancy by the ship's Captain in John Adams' moving and controversial The Death of Klinghoffer, chronicles the moment in 1985 that Palestinian hijackers seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro, terrorizing its passengers and crew for two days and murdering the wheelchair-bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer.

In this staged concert version of the 1991 opera, which premiered at BAM just as the first Gulf War was ending, the tragic events come to vivid life through a prismatic mix of historical narrative, recollections, and commentary. Performed by Robert Spano and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and directed with a delicate balance of boldness and restraint by Bob McGrath of the New York-based Ridge Theater, Klinghoffer opens with a stunning prelude during which two choruses, one representing exiled Palestinians, the other, exiled Jews, establish the music's daring complexities.

Like Adams' first opera, the politically astute and melodically luminous Nixon in China (1987/1999 Next Wave), Klinghoffer is both musically lush and rife with risky observations and symbolism. And given this singularly fraught time in our own history—as illustrated by the capture of the architect of the Achille Lauro hijacking plot this April—it continues to stand out as a prescient, even audacious, work.
Identifier 2003f.00774