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Photo: Sakari Viika
The Finnish National Opera

Adams, John

The Death of Klinghoffer (1990)

Duration: 140 minutes
Opera in two acts

Libretto by Alice Goodman (E)

soloists: S,M,C,T,3Bar,B; chorus(min:24 singers); dancers
orchestra: 2(I,II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2(II=dbn)- MIDI mallet controller/timp-2kbd samplers-harp-strings(

NOTE: The hiring of a sound designer is a condition/requirement for permission.

For complete technical specifications go to: mhgrey.wordpress.com.
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels
Peter Sellars, director/Mark Morris, choregrapher
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Company: Théâtre de la Monnaie


Austrian WomanMezzo-soprano
British Dancing GirlMezzo-soprano

Time and Place
1985, aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro, a few hours out of the port of Alexandria

The Death of Klinghoffer offers a fictionalized account of the infamous Achille Lauro incident of 1985, in which Palestinian terrorists boarded an Italian cruise ship, held its passengers and crew hostage, and killed an elderly, Jewish, wheelchair-bound American named Leon Klinghoffer. As the opera opens, the terrorists have hijacked the ship a few hours out of Alexandria, shutting down its engines and seizing the First Officer at gunpoint. The Captain urges the passengers to remain calm. They are herded together and sometimes taunted by their captors. On the deck, the Captain is being guarded by the terrorist Mamoud. As the boat drifts, the two men exchange reflections. Leon Klinghoffer is taken below decks and shot; the terrorists announce his murder to the Captain, who must inform the authorities on shore that additional hostages may die. Another terrorist, Molqi, decides that no other passengers will be killed; it is agreed that the Captain will take the ship to Cairo, where the terrorists will be allowed to disembark. The ship docks in Cairo; the Captain informs Marilyn Klinghoffer of her husband’s death. She pours out her outrage and grief.

Repertoire Note
The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams's second opera, travelled widely in its 1991 premiere production by Peter Sellars, and was recorded by Nonesuch. Subsequent productions have included a staging by Tony Palmer for Finnish National Opera in 2001. The work effectively crosses boundaries between opera and oratorio, resulting in part from the influence of the Bach Passions. This ritualised quality has brought the work equal success in concert performance. Running through the opera is a series of choruses, which can be performed in concert in their own right.

Press Quotes
"A work that fires the heart... Adams creates a revolutionary, continually shifting tapestry."
-- Katrine Ames, Newsweek

“Here is what [The Death of Klinghoffer] does do: Explore the roots of a conflict that has shaped our era, demonstrate the common humanity of all those involved in it, condemn violence and shine a light on the everyday heroism of ordinary people ... The music in "Klinghoffer" varies from lyrical to edgy, mechanistic to ecstatic.”
-- Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Death of Klinghoffer ripples, sways and flows, exerting a melancholy undertow ... the work deals openly with political and spiritual crises that are still very much a part of everyday life. … what the opera has to say is worth hearing…”
-- Steve Smith, The New York Times


Contemporary, Ethics, History, Religion, Politics

Recommended Recording
Sanford Sylvan / James Maddalena / Sheila Nadler /
The Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon / Kent Nagano
Elektra / Nonesuch 7559-79281-2

Click here to purchase this CD from our online shop

Christopher Maltman/Sanford Sylvan/Yvonne Howard/Tom Randle
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/John Adams, cond/Penny Woolcock, dir
Decca DVD Video 074 189-9

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