The Death of Klinghoffer: A Brief Reception History
Buller, Mark Andrew
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This essay examines the reception history of the first production of The Death of Klinghoffer, an opera by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, and with significant input by director Peter Sellars. I will begin with a brief overview of the historical events on which the opera is based. A description of the genesis of the work will show the creative team's original conception, especially in terms of ideological subtext. After describing the critical reception of the first production, making particular note of the discussion surrounding accusations of anti-Semitism in the opera, I will examine how the controversy surrounding the work continued as various revivals took place around the world. Data have been collected mainly from newspapers and magazines as well as a few academic journals. Research from reception of more recent productions takes into consideration the proliferation of discussion in online sources, including social media. This controversy provoked an unprecedented amount of scrutiny in the press, as well as from musicologists; given the various recurrences of this topic, it is important to understand how the controversy has played out since the opera premiered. I will conclude that the aforementioned criticisms will likely follow the opera wherever it is produced, at least for the foreseeable future.