At the Met, A Convenient Bigotry

What does it say about our culture when the esteemed Metropolitan Opera succumbs to the most comfortable form of bigotry?

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

They’re protesting today against the Metropolitan Opera, but these are not the usual crowds. There won’t be riots. There will be speeches.

There will be rabbis, ministers, priests and 2,000 citizens like you and me who’ve come to tell Peter Gelb what he can do with his farcical opera.

The event will may get loud, but it will be peaceful.

Along with the clergy, physicians, physicists and accountants are unlikely to smash windows. But here is the question:

What does it say about our culture when the esteemed Metropolitan Opera succumbs to the most comfortable form of bigotry?   

If bigotry is to be your life or your art, pick the safest bet, the Jews. Right, Jews don’t make trouble. We’re easy. We’re used to getting bullied.

Now even in New York.     

So the opera that’s the hottest ticket in New York is not “La Boheme” but rather “The Death of Klinghoffer,” and if you are new to this story let’s just say that this is a nasty piece of work that the Met is scheduled to stage in a few weeks. Proponents argue that it gives voice to the “other side,” those Palestinian Arab murderers. Their grievances must be heard and understood.

Only a few blocks from where the Met stands at Lincoln Center the Twin Towers fell in the name of Radical Islam...
So a line like this is to be understood: “Whenever poor men are gathered they can find Jews getting fat.” Gelb understands.

Where I come from to understand is to justify.

The composer says he needed to give the other side a chance to express itself. Murder, he says, is good. The composer justifies.

Recall…back in 1985 Palestinian Arab terrorists, the ISIS of yesterday and still today, hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship. They tossed Leon Klinghoffer overboard, a Jewish New Yorker, 69, and World War II hero -- while he was on deck sunbathing from his wheelchair. 

Their grievances? Infidels must submit.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis told a group of Jewish leaders, “First it was your turn and now it is our turn” in reference to the slaughter of Christians at the hands of ISIS and other Islamic fanatics. He is calling it World War III. The Pope gets it and so does Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) as follows:

“How can the Metropolitan Opera see fit to stage a performance that fuels the fires of anti-Semitism, a performance that romanticizes and glorifies terrorists? I’m beyond shocked. This is an insensitive, morally bankrupt act that hurts everyone.”

So into the teeth of worldwide Islamic brutality comes this musical interlude…against the Jews. 

Presenting this opera is an act of moral and physical cowardice. It plays to the lowest, most depraved instinct.

But Gelb, general manager at the Met, insists that the show will go on despite pleas to make it stop.

The timing says something about Gelb and the tone-deaf people who run the Met. Only a few blocks from where the Met stands at Lincoln Center the Twin Towers fell in the name of Radical Islam. Where is the Verdi for this? Where is the Beethoven to cry against inhumanity as he did in “Fidelio?”

Instead, this farce names as its “composer” someone named John Adams, accompanied by Alice Goodman as “librettist.”

What were they thinking? More to the point, what did this man Gelb have in mind from the moment “Klinghoffer” was brought to his attention?

At some point he must have scratched his head when he came across the stanza, “America is one big Jew.”

Congratulations? The next Puccini has arrived?

This is certain. Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker and other operatic giants who made the Met a towering citadel of culture would have taken no part in this travesty. The men and women bringing it low, Peter Gelb and the members of his management team, fell for the most convenient type of bigotry.

If you need some form of bigotry to sustain you, do not choose those people who will come to chop off your head. There will be blood.

Instead, choose as your victims the most vulnerable. Use them as prey, people who already suffer crimes of hatred more than all other groups combined.

There can be no harm, no consequences. The Jewish people are accustomed to taking it on the chin in Israel, in Europe, so why not New York?

Worst they’ll do is write letters and give speeches. Do not touch groups that fight back with stampedes of violence. This why John Adams and Alice Goodman felt comfortable declaring, “Whenever there is misery, you’ll find Jews getting fat.”

Unless, for once, as forcefully as possible, we say no.  This show will not go on. We do not understand. We do not justify.

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. New from the novelist, the Middle East/media thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” Engelhard wrote the int’l bestseller “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore.  Website: