I tried to go in with as open a mind as possible, but I couldn’t help being affected by my own beliefs about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as by the protesters. This is an account of the full night, including the opera itself:
To enter the Met plaza, I showed an officer my ticket (they were keeping the protesters out), and was confronted by a few people yelling “shame” and how anti-Jewish this show is. Worked my way up to the plaza, there were lines and the usual, until I walked to the other end and saw the huge crowd of hundreds of protesters, holding up signs and and being lead in “Shame” and “Gelb must go” chants.
I can’t describe the anger and shame I felt listening to the speeches. Quoting the Torah at me, comparing Gelb to Arafat and Abbas, saying things like “this isn’t art, it’s garbage,” shouting down anyone who had sympathy for Palestinians, and speaking as if they knew every Jewish person in the world. Well guess what, I (and other Jews mind you) were watching you, and you didn’t speak for me at all. You disgusted me by stooping to the level of extremist rhetoric. You are supposed to be better than this.
That being said, this is what art is about, right? Raising up the emotions and awareness of people, getting them to think and confront themselves. So I’ll try to comfort myself with that. But I feel like a very proud Jew today that needs to combat that rhetoric before it gets out of control.
The opera in itself wasn’t what either side was saying. Not anti-Seminitic in the least, but definitely with a pro-Palestinian slant. However, to me more than anything it was about how a blind hatred, however it starts, can overcome a person’s senses and make us forget that we are all human. That we can break the cycle but don’t, out of fear, resignation, or a desire for revenge.
The music was absolutely incredible, as were the singers, and the set was used in a very clever way. The most striking scene for me was an aria by what I’d call the spirit of hate from the Palestinian perspective, shown as a woman in a long abaya, pratically seducing our lead terrorist into committing the murder of Klinghoffer. She overwhelms him and he mimics her motions (amazing choreography). It was stunning.
The opera was pretty incredible, and I’m so glad I saw it. I wish more of the protestors would have seen it too. There were a few boos in the crowd, but those were drowned out by cheers. At least the people booing went to see the damn thing…”See it then decide” is about right.