BOYCOTT THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA!
- BOYCOTT THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has cancelled its scheduled performances
of the Choruses from the opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" by the composer
John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman. These performances had been
scheduled for Thursday and Friday, November 29 and 30, and Saturday and
Tuesday, December 1 and 4, 2001. In a time of war, and war-hysteria, the
performing-arts are always targeted for censorship or suppression!
Medium-grade bureaucrats aim to please the politicians and the generals,
far beyond the actual requirements of the politicians and the generals.
As a playwright and poet, I call for a boycott of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra and its management, a boycott of its season ticket-sales and a
boycott of its individual ticket-sales, a boycott of its CDs, tapes, or
other commodities sold by or for it. Acts of aggression must not be
tolerated against creative artists!
323 Fourth Street
55720 - 2051
OFFICIOUS VIOLENCE AGAINST CREATIVE ARTISTS!
The BOSTON GLOBE, on page D1 of its issue for November 1, 2001,
reported that the Boston Symphony Orchestra had cancelled its scheduled
performances of the Choruses from the opera "The Death of
Klinghoffer" by the composer John Adams. The BOSTON GLOBE reported that
both the composer and the librettist Alice Goodman "voiced their
disappointment." Adams and Goodman refused to cooperate with any attempt
These choruses are drawn from John Adam's opera that meditates on the
1984 hijacking of the cruise ship ACHILLE LAURO by Palestinian commandoes
and the murder of an American Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, whose
wheelchair-confined body was pushed into the sea.
The opera does not demonize the Palestinians but, instead, gives them
inner lives as complex as those of the American Jewish characters.
Nevertheless, the NEW YORK TIMES, on page 27 of the Arts Section for the
issue of November 25, 2001, reported that Americans are in no "mood, it was
said, for an opera that conveyed the brutality of hijacking but allowed the
terrorists to voice perceived injustices in their own words."
The original premiere of the opera in Brussels was surrounded by
protest from rightwing extremist groups; two of the companies that
co-commissioned the opera declined to produce it.
"Klinghoffer" has raw elements and violent language, despite its
undoubted artistic value. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, John Adams
"acknowledges that 'Klinghoffer' is an upsetting work, but argues strongly
that it offers the sad solace of truth." The choruses provide commentary
and context. The chorus of exiled Palestinians is balanced by a chorus of
exiled Jews. The effect has been likened to the J.S. Bach Passions, which
describe the narrative of crucifixion with specific and violent detail,
interspersed with choruses and chorales that foster public and personal
The Boston Symphony Orchestra programmed this work of art. However,
in a time of war, and war-hysteria, they have suppressed it! Instead, they
are substituting Copland's insipid First Symphony!
The NEW YORK TIMES indicated that - after receiving a letter from the
orchestra containing nothing but bromides - "Mr. Adams went public with his
According to the BOSTON GLOBE, John Adams responded by e-mail: The
Boston Symphony Orchestra felt that - at the present moment - their
audiences "need music of comfort and solace - these were their words -
something they felt the Klinghoffer Choruses would not provide."
John Adams disagreed. The Boston Symphony Orchestra presumes that
their "audiences only want comfort and familiarity during these difficult
times! According to Adams, the BSO "sets a precedent that there is poetry
and music that should not be performed at a given
moment because of its content"!
Adams refused to cooperate with any attempt at a substitute. Adams
said: "I feel that going along with it would be tacitly to agree to their
reasons for this cancellation."
John Oliver, director of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, said that he
"was personally unaware of any opposition from his singers."
Anthony Tommasini, writing for the NEW YORK TIMES, wrote: "But how
patronizing for the orchestra's directors to presume what audiences will or
will not find offensive. Art can also incense and challenge us, make us
squirm, make us think."
The librettist Alice Goodman, reached in England, opposed the BSO's
position. According to the BOSTON GLOBE, she said: "I don't think there is
anything harsh or insensitive in those choruses, anything that isn't true.
The time for escapism is past; I feel strongly the worst thing we can be
offered now is some placebo. I don't hear the BSO saying that what we have
done is false. What they are saying is that it is too hard for us to hear,
and instead we need something gentle. If they were saying this is an evil
and degenerate work and what it says is a lie, then there would be an
argument for not putting it on. To perform the choruses now would say
something about the kind of society we are, what we are capable of saying,
and what we are capable of hearing"!
This year there had been a production of "The Death of Klinghoffer" in
Finland, and - even after September 11 - there was a concert performance in
Amsterdam. The choruses have been performed in Italy, Australia, the
Netherlands, and England; in America, they have been performed by the
Cleveland Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota.
"The Death of Klinghoffer" has elicited a storm of
protest from rightwing militants, and even death threats. No fewer than
six opera houses agreed to mount the initial production by Peter
Sellars. But, after the premiere in Brussels, the Glyndebourne Festival
backed out, as did the Los Angeles Opera, where the sets were destroyed
under mysterious circumstances.
No one who looks at the Middle East with the slightest objectivity
would blame the opera for partiality. For such a stand, one has to be a
fanatic oneself! The message of "The Death of Klinghoffer" is undoubtedly
constructive: Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians [and Americans]
are on board the same ship,
and they must struggle to find a way to live together!
Against the suppression of the arts,
323 Fourth Street
55720 - 2051
We, the undersigned, writers and musicians and artists, endorse and
support the Call by Séamas Cain for a boycott of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra, a boycott of its season ticket-sales and individual
ticket-sales, a boycott of its CDs, tapes, or other commodities sold by or
for it. We will not tolerate acts of aggression against creative artists!
Protests against the management of the Boston Symphony Orchestra may
be directed to <webinfo@...> and/or <pkramer@...>. Phone protests
may be directed to 617.638.9270 and 617.638.9377 and 617.638.9375.
[Devil's Lake, North Dakota]
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