The opera The Death of Klinghoffer is causing all kinds of drama in NYC. I just read the following New York Times article about it:
If you want to read a basic description of the plot and what people find controversial about it you can find it on Wikipedia:
I am not going to pretend that I understand the opera having not seen or heard it. I do think Rudy Giuliani is an ambulance chaser, but that can be a conversation for another day.
Here is my question: When is the last time that a pop song, let alone an opera, started a serious political discussion? This is what art is supposed to do, to bring up subjects in a way that get people discussing things in a peaceful manner. The opera may be great or it may be terrible, but it has gotten people talking about an important political topic, one of which there isn’t enough discussion on. It doesn’t seem as it is, by design, meant to anger or offend people. It seems like it is the work of a serious artist that is trying to get people to think.
People have the right to peacefully protest anything they want. If they find the opera offensive it is their right to stand outside and provide people with an alternative viewpoint, as long as they do not threaten or harass those that want to see it.
However, when it comes to art I would rather see a free exchange of ideas. I would rather see some kind of in depth and honest criticism of the work than a protest.
However, in this case, I think the protestors lose in two ways. First they are meeting complex ideas with something simple. Second, they are drawing attention to something that they don’t want people to see. That never works. Protests are a a great way to bring attention to things that aren’t receiving enough attention. Let’s face it, operas have about 0% effect on popular culture in America. I don’t even know the names of any newer operas other than this one and I listen to a ton of music, including on occasion opera. Now I am interested in seeing this one at some point just to see what all the racket is about.
I remember when The Passion of the Christ came out. There was a lot of controversy over that. I don’t like to let others make up my mind for me, so I went to see a movie that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, because I wanted to decide for myself what I thought about it. I did not like the movie, because I thought it dwelled on all the wrong aspects of Jesus, but I was glad I went because it was a large part of the cultural conversation at the time. In my opinion anything that makes one think is a good thing, even if at the end of the day what you think is that you don’t like it.