Cher Public

Context unbecoming

Actual contextual advertising served with an anti-Klinghoffer screed. Click to embiggen.

  • ML

    Laugh out loud. So much for “AdChoices” and the Digital Advertising Alliance!

  • redbear

    And there is “A Blight at the Opera” in the New York Daily News,

    For those who live elsewhere than the US where this opera has been performed without uproar and are scratching their heads, Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” is fundamental to understanding the United States. No, nothing has changed in the half century since the book won the Pulitzer Prize.

    • eric

      “For those who live elsewhere than the US where this opera has been performed without uproar and are scratching their heads”

      We should be cautious about holding up non-Americans as exemplars of reason in this case. Let’s not forget that most of the world is a lot more pro-Palestinian (and anti-Israel and often antisemitic) than the United States. Why would they object to an opera that shows Palestinian terrorists as human beings? Their non-objection to the opera shouldn’t be ascribed to their tolerance for artistic freedom, but more likely to their tolerance for pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli points of view. They’re more likely to defend the Palestinians than the Israelis or the Jews.

      (To avoid misunderstanding, I’m not suggesting that the opera IS pro-Palestinian or antisemitic. But rather, that those who do think so would not consider this a reason not to perform it if their own views are sympathetic to Palestinians and possibly antisemitic.)

      • Indiana Loiterer III

        Wasn’t a film version of the opera actually banned from a Palestinian film festival as insufficiently pro-Palestinian?

        • manou

          Yes indeed:

          The Death of Klinghoffer has been attacked from both sides. When it was staged in San Francisco in 1992, the Jewish Information League mounted protests. A decade later, British director Penny Woolcock arrived at the Palestinian film festival, having been invited to screen her film of the opera – only to be told she couldn’t show it because the film was thought to be pro-Jewish and anti-Palestinian.

      • arepo

        eric: I never thought of it in that way. It makes such good sense though. I wonder what the reply would be to such an interesting idea.

      • BillyBoy

        It also played Brooklyn in September 1991!

    • CwbyLA

      Perhaps you should have said “for those who live elsewhere other than New York” since this work has been performed without much kerfuffle in other cities in the US, most recently in LA by Long Beach Opera.

      • Henry Holland

        I went to the Long Beach production, there was no kerfuffle I could see. From Wikipedia (bolding mine):

        The opera was originally commissioned through a consortium of five opera companies, including La Monnaie, San Francisco Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Los Angeles Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, as well as the Brooklyn Academy of Music

        LAO, of course, has never done a production of it. From what I gather, Jewish donors and board members made it clear that their financial support would cease if a production went forward and it quietly never happened.

    • DellaCasaFan

      Sorry, redbear, I believe your analogy is inept. This is not about pro- or anti-intellectualism (“the life of the mind” as Hofstadter put it) but about in/tolerance. But since you already brought it up, isn’t the fact that this same book got one of the most prestigious *American* awards also saying something about the US? The question is, of course, rhetorical…. no need to answer it.

      • ML


        • DellaCasaFan

          Typo/proof-reading police. Thanks, ML.

          • manou

            Well -- my input is that it could be inept as well as inapt.

            • DellaCasaFan

              Actually, manou, after replying to ML, this crossed my mind as well. Perhaps subconsciously I did mean inept… Hope redbear and others take it in good spirits.

            • ML

              Only Manou or Redbear or DCF or Cieca or, in rare circumstances, ML could be inept. An analogy could not be, lacking personality.

            • manou

              I would direct you to Websters which gives as an example “an inept metaphor”:


            • ML

              Quick reference:

              MW gives 4 uses, 1 taking an inanimate subject.

              AHD (ML’s favorite) gives 2, neither one inanimate

              Oxford gives 1, animate, then opens with 3 samples, 2 of them animate

              So, I guess you are right, at a pinch, but I would never use the word that way.

    • la vociaccia

      blah blah blah american inferiority blah blah blah. Do you have another channel besides “Americans are stupid and uncultured?”

    • I think the answer to this is quite simple. The Met is the largest and most high-profile performing arts organisation in the U.S. The production caught the attention of the Anti-Defamation League and everything else is a fall-out from that. Had the ADL not zeroed in on the production, it probably wouldn’t have attracted any protests.

  • “The demonstration at the opera’s Lincoln Center home that greeted those attending the Met’s opening night last week was the work of groups that are often considered right-wing.”

    Indeed, a mob carrying Meir (“They Must Go”) Kahane signs could be “considered right-wing.” But Commentary is right that this is a problem that extends beyond the far right — though of course Commentary does not think the attack on Klinghoffer is a problem at all.

    It is amazing the degree to which the attacks on this opera have exactly reproduced classic anti-Semitic slanders: The notion that effete, rootless cosmopolitan elites are making obscenities in the guise of hoity-toity art, all offensive to the sensibilities of right-minded people in the heartland, etc.

  • arepo

    Ironic that instead of lauding the actions of Gelb in acquiescing to the ADL’s strong-arm commands to remove the HD of Klinghoffer, they now actually want his hide for not deleting the entire production from the rep.
    If you knuckle under to any factions and give an inch, they’re gonna want to take a yard.

  • operaassport

    Friends of mine are often stunned when they return from trips to Europe at how much overt anti-Semitism they find there. It’s often casual and rampant. And lets be frank. Much of Europe’s pro-Palestinian feeling is thinly veiled anti-Semitism. They don’t seem to care about displaced people anywhere else in the world so why Israel? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

    I remember when Arafat -- one of the worst murderers in history -- was dying, the French govt send a military plane to fetch him. After he died, he was given a French military escort and Pres Chirac stood by his coffin for 10 mins with head bowed and called him “a man of courage.”

    It makes your stomach turn.

    • ML

      The above may take a while to play but is worth the wait.

      In Europe it is important not to confuse the anti-Semitism of the past with the anti-Israel sentiment of today. The first involved Christians, the second is felt by Muslim immigrants.

      It is also necessary to distinguish between views held in Germany and those experienced in France.

      The eloquent speaker in the video, a French government minister, addresses the issue of Jews leaving France on account of rising anti-Semitism.

      • operaassport

        There is endemic anti-Semitism at all levels of French culture. Left, right doesn’t matter. It’s the same anti-Semitism that existed there in 1939. If anything, now it’s given more of an “intellectual” rather than religious underpinning.

        No amount of rationalizing can change that.

        • ML

          I wasn’t rationalizing, just providing information. Here is more:

          1968: Muslims in France = 600,000
          2009: Muslims in France = 8,000,000

          I don’t where it will end, Operaassport, but play the speech. I assume you understand French since you comment on the country.

      • 98rsd

        But pretending it’s the native Europeans and not the Arab immigrants involved in the much publicized incidents doesn’t suit the convenient “the sky is falling” fundraising machine.

    • 98rsd

      Really, Arafat? You’re comparing him to Stalin, Mao and Hitler?

    • 98rsd


      “Much of Europe’s pro-Palestinian feeling is thinly veiled anti-Semitism.”

      Or, perhaps, disgust at the tactics of Israel is breeding anti-Semitism.

    • Maybe a rocket scientist would realize that anecdotes reported by your (like-minded) “friends” is not quite the same thing as proof.

    • I was in London a few weeks ago and in Paris two years ago. From neither trip did I return to with any strong impression of “overt anti-Semitism”. I’m not saying that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist. Of course it does, just like intolerance of all kinds exists to some degree or other in all parts of the world.

      As for why there’s so much attention paid to Palestinians/Israelis vs other displaced people, that’s a good question. But I think the answer has to do with the fact that the conflict has been so high-profile and in the news that everyone has heard of it and usually in great detail. And the number of U.S. presidents who have tried to negotiate peace has also brought attention to the issue.

      • armerjacquino

        It’s also to do with government support, both financially and in the sale of arms. Yes, there are displaced people all over the world, but in most cases my tax money isn’t helping to displace them.

  • redbear

    All this proves my point. I was making a specific reference to anti-intellectualism as part of American culture and assport, for example uses it to show how blindingly intolerant he is. Anti-Intellectualism as a concept is not pro- or anti-Israel, it is about people who have no willingness to understand issues such as an opera which contains a controversial subject. Nobody here, so far, is actually interested in the facts of the opera or what the opera actually says. Anti-intellectualism.
    It is one of the weaknesses of opera as an art now that it ignores social issues. Opera as entertainment is the overriding topic of this and any other opera forum and it is, for me, a dead end. It was not the case for Mozart or Verdi but it is now.
    America, oddly, is exploring social issues on television, not opera. Orange is the New Black, Weeds, Breaking Bad etc. is exploring the new reality in the US: the immoral jailing a large part of the population and an ecomomy which funnels all money to the .01 percent and forces middle class families to crime to stay upright.

    • DellaCasaFan

      Redbear, sorry that I didn’t see your reply sooner. It showed up somewhere else on this thread… I was responding to your reference to Hofstadter’s notion of anti-intellectualism in American life, which had more to do with the resentment toward intellectuals as “eggheads” and the pressures to be conformist, mediocre, and think strictly practically (not that these preclude chauvinism or racism as a byproduct of ignorance).

      Of course, intolerance blinds people, but this is universal, unfortunately. I don’t see how it is more typical for the US than other parts of the world.

    • liza

      Although the world of idea is a better fit in theater than literature it is still an uneasy fit. I would recommend a conversation with Iris Murdoch found in a book of essays “Existentialists and Mystics”. I’ve never read Murdoch but she was a professor of philosophy at Oxford before she became a novelist. Her interlocutor insists on the relevance of ideas in literature. She does a very nice job deconstructing that proposition articulating the difference in idea (philosophy) and literature. Outstanding literature (including stage) is about the creation of magnificent character. The best writers give their characters the freedom of self-creation, and there is the brilliant moment when the character, after necessary and perhaps tedious exposition, begins speaking to his creator. Writers that are capacious enough include the political and social as part of the character’s cosmos and this has on rare occasion led to reform (ex Dickens). But when the writer wants to educate the audience, beware. I’ve always liked the novel of ideas and my favorite playwright was Shaw of whom Murdoch says naughtily ‘his volcanic expression of idea didn’t have a deleterious effect on his writing’ (paraphrase) which I found amusing. Murdoch renders a precise explanation of the generally accepted rule that a writer should not use fiction as a vehicle for politics. ‘Raising social awareness’ makes the audience feel like they are being lectured, characters and plot become vehicles for a non-literary end and you end up with the second rate product. Unless of course you are a literary genius and then, like Shaw, you can get away with it.

    • DeepSouthSenior


      I’m always interested in knowing the facts behind sweeping generalizations.

      Could you please answer the following questions regarding your claims about “the new reality in the US”?:

      (1) “the immoral jailing a large part of the population.” What is this “large part of the population”? How great is the number? Is it a certain ethnic or social group? What is the “immoral jailing”? Are you suggesting that this large group is not guilty of the crimes of which they were convicted?

      (2) “an economy which funnels all money to the .01 percent.” (I assume you meant to say 1%, not 1/100 of 1%.) What do you mean by “funnels all money”? Is this more than a tautology -- They have more money because they have more money? Please explain. Does the fact that the top 1% of wage earners pay around 35% of the income taxes have any relevance to your statement?

      (3)”an economy which . . . forces middle class families to crime to stay upright.” Again, what exactly do you mean by this? Examples and statistics, please. I am about as solid middle-class as they come, and I’ve never been “forced to crime” to “stay upright.” Of course, there are many middle-class people who have committed crimes for various reasons. We may call them bad people, or . . . criminals.

      • luvtennis

        Sir, with all due respect I must say that I strongly disagree. But more importantly, this is probably not the best forum for this discussion.

        • luvtennis

          Told you so…..

      • DellaCasaFan

        Your #2 question -- actually 1/100 of 1% (that is, .01) owns 11% of the country’s wealth, for the first time since the “roaring twenties”. As for the richest 1%, you are correct that they pay ca. 35% of the income taxes, but it is also true that their income accounts for 40% of the total wealth.
        More here:

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          Thank you, Della Casa Fan (of course I AM she); I am sorry to see DSS (“we are made in the image of god” as though anyone KNOWS there is such a thing and that that thing takes a personal interest in us worms and even wants to look like us) and his (?) ludicrous propaganda here. Yes, the veiled racism and homophobia are all there but why would this person and the incoherent, selective and finally addled “liza” select THIS board to make their [self redacted] statements?

      • DeepSouthSenior

        Please let it be noted that I did not make the original statements -- “redbear” did. If those can be included, without moderation, surely I can simply ask for clarification. That’s all I did. And it’s pretty unkind to assume a lot of things about me and pour on inventive when I just asked someone to explain what they meant by their statements.

        If La Cieca wants to forbid all social or political comments at Parterre, that’s fine with me. What’s allowed for one, though, should be allowed for all.

        • Clita del Toro

          DDS Some people here have no time to write a book for your enlightenment on these questions. This country and the world are in deep shit because of the GOPiggers, the religious right, and the greedy corporations.
          Just one little point: Why do these good “Christian,” American Republicans want and try to limit the voting rights of the poor, black, brown, the old and students? One guess! (Answer: because that’s the only way they can win.) How un-American can you get! Ah do declare.

          Also, btw: “Trickle down,” my foot!

          • Clita del Toro

            DDS =DSS

      • redbear

        Dear Sir: I live on planet called Earth. If you ever visit our planet and want to know more, find something called a computer and locate the program Google. Just type in the words “America Incarceration Rate.” You will have what is called on this planet, “facts.” Then type in “America concentration of wealth.” More facts like “United States is Now the Most Unequal of All Advanced Ecomonies” will appear. You can return to your planet then with a great sense of relief.

        • Clita del Toro

          Or, maybe watch the right TV shows, not Faux News and the 700 Club!

        • Stop being such a smug jerk or you’ll go on moderation.

          • Clita del Toro


  • Jamie01

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Kahanists decided to attend Klinghoffer in large numbers in order to disrupt the performances. But at least that would mean ticket sales.

    • eric

      That’s what I’m expecting.

      Pickets outside, and demonstrators inside the house, repeatedly disrupting the performances.

  • liza

    Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter’s somewhat humorous statement on obscenity ( I can’t define it but) ” I know it when I see it” is actually a colloquialism by which a speaker attempts to categorize an observable fact or event even though it is subjective or without clear parameters. (See Wiki) The subject of decency is subjective and was traditionally thought of as ‘extra-constitutional’ meaning it was beyond the scope of the Constitution and should be left to the locality to decide as community values vary. This seems a more rational position than the resultant P.O.V. established by the Skokie decision which seems to make almost any expression, however reprehensible, a matter of free speech. In fact our true rights of free speech (speech against the government in which the individual or group does not have a profit motive) has been seriously restricted in the US and is under threat of being gutted under the weight of security interests. Where first amendment rights are evoked it is rarely a matter of intellectual or artistic expression but rather cases of pornography or other commercial interests that bear little in common with the original intent of the first amendment. This legal evolution makes matters of taste and decency almost impossible to discuss because these are nuanced issues in which community sensitivities should not be ignored. I, for example, find any female nudity on stage cheesy and distracting. But I also will not support any arts organization that exploits young women by asking them to appear undressed. Even the comment in JJ’s review on the MET’s opening night left me cold. However subtle, I find nudity on stage degrades a typically formidably trained performer and my support ends. And this is, for reasons that are not always obvious, doubly true with female nudity. Judea Pearl’s statement eloquently summed up a sentiment I’m sure many have about the arts. The arts and philosophy are both in declension. After the mid 20 cent technology became our ascendant god and something in our cultural and intellectual life died. It is now hard to name a great philosopher, artist or composer that has enough gravitas to be revolutionary enough to inflame the hearts and minds of young and old. The public understands the difference between greatness and mediocrity, as a simple example, Shakespeare, despite arcane language, is still loved, studied, produced, and discussed as if he was our contemporary. What contemporary playwright evokes even a sliver of his cultural relevance? Much of today’s art seems dated as if our artistic life came to a halt circa 1950. We now seem to spend our time arguing over a certain mindlessness, offense as political pretense, political art as hectoring, the rest as vapid entertainment. This anti-intellectualism and stagnation of the arts infects not only the US but the whole of the West. You hang in their for arts sake and then one day for perhaps some obscure reason you hang it up, again for the sake of art. I appreciate Mr. Gelb’s concession on the HD and realize he is in a difficult position. But his first job is to produce the best opera he can with the resources that are mostly provided by the public. Even if can’t understand the complaint, if something gives insult to a particular population, it would be wise to consider that significant art has always survived censorship while the tastelessness that degrades simply sets itself on fire and digs art’s grave.

    • ” This anti-intellectualism and stagnation of the arts infects not only the US but the whole of the West.”

      Out of curiosity, where in the non-West do you currently find unparalleled intellectualism and growth?

  • Interesting.

    I note (but perhaps these notes are not relevant?):

    1. When Auber and Scribe wrote “Gustave III,” Madame Anckarstrom, the assassin’s widow, who was still alive, protested bitterly that she had only met the king at public functions, to shake hands; the love affair was entirely in Scribe’s mind and a bitter libel to her. (Gustave appears to have been something of a eunuch; no lovers of either sex have turned up, and the existence of his son is … puzzling.) She was ignored, and Verdi re-used the libretto with few changes.

    It is unfortunate Goodman and Adams did not use some invented name and an invented incident, but they didn’t, and I’m sure the daughters will survive (and receive only sympathy for their suffering).

    2. When the Met revived La Juive for the first time since Caruso died, a dozen years back, the performances were PACKED, it was the toughest ticket in years, the only one easy to get in to was Friday night. Never saw so many kipas at the Met. Everyone wanted to see this opera they’d all heard of but had never heard. Of course, it has a Jewish composer as well as a Jewish main character, who was played by a cantor’s son. But the composer was entirely secular, and Eleazar is a rather hateful character, shown as gloating on the fakeries he is putting over on Christian clients, and as willing to sacrifice his daughter’s life to his hatred of Christians. He is not an easy Jewish hero at all. (If anything, the Cardinal is the only really admirable character, besides the ladies.) But there was not a single protest. (I wish they’d bring it back; I wished then that Domingo or Carreras would take up Eleazar’s role. Not today of course. But JH Morris could do a number on it.)

    • Milady DeWinter

      I was at one of those “Juives”. When Shicoff took his shoes off and began the “Rachel, quand du seigneur” the pathos was almost unbearable.
      BTW, Rachel is not Eleazar’s real daughter, but actually the Cardinal’s.

      • Bill

        Milady -- the Met production of La Juive, which
        originated at the Wiener Staatsoper with Shicoff and Isokoski is being revived again in Vienna for 4 performances end of Feb 2015,early March with
        Shicoff and Isokoski again in the title role.
        It coincides with Shicoff’s 40 anniversary celebration at the Wiener Staatgsoper for which
        a special gala is planned. Stoyanova also sang
        the title role in Vienna. Shicoff’s gala is May
        3rd and some of his partners are also scheduled
        includimg Baltsa, Fulaenetto, Anja Silja, Stoyanova so perhaps scenes from La Juive,
        Pique Dame -- could Baltsa still be attempting something from Carmen ? I have not seen the
        planned program yet, but it is planned scenes from Hoffmann. Pique Dame, Carmen and Juive.
        Shicoff also does Kalaf at the Volksoper again. Gruberova’ 45th year Gala at the Staatsoper is February 7th with excepts from Lucia, Puritani,
        Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux also with some other singers where necessary. Silja has sung at the Staatsoper since at least since 1959 (Queen of the Night) but after a gap from 1962 (Senta) and 1965 (Salome) so something may be up for her eventually as well though she was more of a guest there than a regular ensemble member with only one Elektra. Her main roles there being Salome and Lulu with a stab at all 4 roles in Hoffmann circa 1966. Much later in Pique Dame as the old Countess

        • Milady DeWinter

          Thank you, Bill! Vienna really knows how to honor singers of veteran status who still have much to offer, but maybe not chez Met. That performance I saw of ‘Juive’ at the Met, btw, is the one that made me a huge fan of Furlanetto. The voice really ‘traveled’ into the auditorium with much gravitas and command. Isokowski was also a revelation in a role traditionally assigned to somewhat heavier voices.

        • Henry Holland

          I went the Staatsoper Billy Budd in 2011 and Shicoff was a fantastic Captain Vere. I was so glad they did the original two act version, as Vere gets a great scene in Act I that Britten cut because Pears couldn’t sing it.

          Shicoff got a great reception during the curtain calls, it was obvious he’s a big favorite there.

  • liza

    Very relevant! More to consider and discuss.

  • arepo

    A prediction:

    I believe that many dissenters will buy tickets to the normally light ticket sell due to all the negative publicity of this production, making it another fabulous advertisement to help fill normally empty seats.
    It will be interesting to watch at the Prima when the production people come out at curtain calls to hear the boos erupt in fury.

    • eric

      My prediction is more disturbing. . .

      The protesters will buy tickets to the performances, and then will repeatedly cause disruption and stop and even ruin the performances. Not only at the opening, but throughout the run.

  • liza

    Speaking of technology…I apologize for writing via I-Phone where editing is impossible. Among my errors…”rights of free expression.. HAVE been…”

  • liza

    @ M.Croche: Frankly I have no idea.

  • Daniel

    “Arafat — one of the worst murderers in history.” As usual, you go for effect over substance and veracity. Congrats on keeping up the fatuous game.

  • ML

    Justin Davidson, below, tackles the Klinghoffer controversy better than others I have read.

    Apologies if his piece has already been discussed.

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    “…the willingness of the arts world to accept the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews as legitimate fodder for art.”

    Uh, Nabucco???