Adams: The Death Of Klinghoffer (DVD)


Adams: The Death Of Klinghoffer (DVD)
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Adams: The Death Of Klinghoffer (DVD)


“Klinghoffer has yet to be performed in the US, and Penny Woolcock’s live-action film, shot on location, won’t do much to quieten the controversies that have kept it off the stage. She fleshes out the opera’s philosophies, inasmuch as the composer conducted and discussed production details with Woolcock, and was thereby at least complicit in the choice of images. Klinghoffer is more an orato- Opera Adams rio than an opera, and she uses the choruses and non-dramatic stretches to fill out the characters with flashbacks to 1940s Palestine and even historical footage of Nazi Germany. This is Adams’s slowest stage piece, and Woolcock’s close, hand-held camerawork tests severely the singers' acting, particularly when they aren’t singing. The singers were actually recorded live during the on-location filming, after the orchestra was recorded. The payoff is immense: synchronisation is perfect, and what we hear goes believably with what we see. Even in these trying circumstances, the vocalism and acting are outstanding.

So, does the film show librettist Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars’s scenario to be anti-Semitic and sympathetic to terrorism, as some of its American critics claim? The film does round out the terrorists' characters, but there’s a balanced portrayal, showing the good and the bad of both Jews and Palestinians. The terrorists show regret after the killing, but there is also a stoning where a Palestinian mob gets drunk on its own brutality. Some of the Jewish tourists are parodies early on, but Marilyn Klinghoffer comes to take on towering dignity and strength. Most of those who’ve criticised the politics are responding to what they want to see in the opera than what’s actually there.

Woolcock has turned Klinghoffer into a fairly gripping visual drama; but her success shows up the musical deficiencies: encountered as an opera rather than a film, it may be of no more than topical interest.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2010


Sanford Sylvan (Leon Klinghoffer), Christopher Maltman (Captain), Yvonne Howard (Marilyn Klinghoffer), Tom Randle (Molqui), Kamel Boutros (Mamoud), Leigh Melrose (Rambo)

London Symphony Orchestra, John Adams, directed by Penny Woolcock




This is a very confronting story, without the operatic music by John Adams. It’s based on the true events of 1985 when the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked a passenger liner and ended up killing a Jewish-American man, Leon Klinghoffer. Lots of controversy surrounded the original performances of this opera, particularly in the US. So for many fans of Adams, this UK performance was the only way to see it. I am so thrilled to see what a good job they have done of presenting it. The cinematography is entrancing and with Adams distinctive rhythmic counterpart it creates tension throughout the whole opera.

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