How's this for bad taste?
And, the play was packed, unfortunately.
Although the Achille Lauro sunk in flames nine years after its hijacking in 1985, an opera about the most shocking event to have taken place aboard the ship is still afloat. In fact, Death of Klinghoffer concluded a successful four-show run with the Scottish Opera at the Edinburgh International Festival on Monday night.
John Adams's two-and-a-half-hour stage production revolves around the murder of wheelchair-bound Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists aboard the cruise ship. It has sparked controversy since it was launched in the United States nearly 15 years ago, with critics accusing Adams of romanticizing the terrorists as "Robin Hoods" and bemoaning the author's attempt to show the hijackers in as evenhanded a light as possible.
The opera's theme is established with the following explanatory words from an exiled Palestinian: "My father's house was razed/In 1948/When the Israelis passed/Over our street."
In one version of the opera, Klinghoffer, after being shot at point-blank range, is thrown overboard, and audiences are treated to a seven-minute-long "Aria of the Falling Body" sung by the corpse as it descends, in slow motion, to the sea.
Ahead of the opening of the opera several days ago, Klinghoffer's daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, issued a protest through the Anti-Defamation League.
"Once again the opera The Death of Klinghoffer has resurfaced," they said. "Our family feels compelled to react to the statements of the Scottish director, Anthony Neilson, who said: 'The opera takes an objective and evenhanded approach in an attempt to understand the human motivations behind such terrible acts. The production is well balanced.'
"It is those words – 'objective,' 'even handed,' 'human motivation' and especially 'well balanced' – that we find offensive and appalling," the women continued.
"Those words and sentiments cannot be used in relation to the murder of our father Leon Klinghoffer. He was killed in cold blood aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro, October 8, 1985, by Palestinian terrorist thugs.