No Guarantees
Wed, 07/02/2014

“The Murder of Emmett Till” might, if properly constructed, be a true work of art.  But if canceled [because it portrayed a lynching in the South], Anthony Thomassini of the New York Times would probably lament that it “could have been an invaluable teaching moment for the Met and its audiences.”  That’s what he wrote about the cancellation of the simulcast of “The Death of Klinghoffer.” (“High Drama Over ‘Klinghoffer’ Opera,” June 27.)  It would have been a valuable opportunity to consider the feelings of the white supremacists and “explore their suffering.”

Composer John Adams is free to write whatever he chooses, but the Constitution does not guarantee him the production of his work or its toleration by critical audiences who recognize it for what it is.  The idea that it is long after the fact [of the 1985 Klinghoffer murder], a justification of the opera that has been voiced, should be taken with some skepticism since this criticism doesn’t seem to have played a large part in the discussion of the Mohammad cartoons that had appeared in a Danish newspaper many months earlier than the controversy they caused.  Neither was artistic merit or license an especially important consideration of those organs, like, among others, The New York Times and Yale University Press, that refused to publish the cartoons out of fear. 

In that instance self-censorship was not frowned upon by them.  An important difference between that episode and the current one is that the current protests are peaceful while over two hundred people were killed in the riots that followed the incitement prompted by the cartoons.

We should not regret the cancellation of the simulcast of the opera – but the production itself.

Mount Vernon, N.Y.

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