Opera is full of melodramatic tales of revenge and forgiveness. Although these themes are universal and remain relevant to modern audiences, often the plots of the operas we know and love seem, well, a bit contrived, unbelievable, and out of date. Contemporary composer John Adams, however, brings these universal themes to the stage with a context that is very much relevant to our world today.
Adams' 1981 opera /The Death of Klinghoffer/ chronicles the true story of a Mediterranean cruise ship that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists, resulting in the murder of a disabled American Jewish man named Leon Klinghoffer. The opera is a poignant examination of the feelings of hatred and grief on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. And while it seems that the terrorists and passengers come to a greater understanding of one another and even feel sorry for one another, the opera concludes with a rage-filled aria by Mrs. Klinghoffer having just learned of her husband's death from the ship's captain. It is clear that there will be no forgiveness.
"You embraced them! And now you come, the captain, every vein, stiff with adrenaline, the touch of Palestine on your uniform, and offer me your arm. I would spit on you, but my mouth is dry. I have no spit and no tears yet . . . If a hundred people were murdered and their blood flowed in the wake of this ship like oil, only then would the world intervene. They should have killed me. I wanted to die."
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