Congratulations, John Adams: You Got CUNY’d

On Twitter tonight, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, whose book The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century I discussed on Memorial Day, was tweeting about the protests that greeted the Met premiere of John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer.

Here are just some of Ross’ tweets.



I feel like John Adams and the Met just got the kind of treatment that we at CUNY get whenever we raise the issue of Israel/Palestine. The same gang mobilizes to shut us down. Indeed, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who until recently was on the CUNY Board of Trustees and tried to deny Tony Kushner an honorary degree because of his stance on Israel, was at the protests tonight, leading the charge.

Here are some more Ross tweets.



Congratulations, John Adams: you just got CUNY’d.


  1. adam3smith October 21, 2014 at 12:17 am | #

    “This is not art. This is crap, this is detritus, this is garbage.” is really just inches away from calling it degenerate art… it’s really breathtaking.

    • yastreblyansky October 21, 2014 at 8:03 am | #

      But if you all Giuliani a fascist he’ll accuse you of anti-Italian racism. Instantly.

      • Snarki, child of Loki October 21, 2014 at 8:12 am | #

        That’s because he makes the insult trains RUN ON TIME!

  2. PAK October 21, 2014 at 12:38 am | #

    Adams et al. could have found a way of commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without apparently publicly reminding Klinghofer’s daughters of their father’s murder whenever the opera is produced. Is it too much to ask that salt not be rubbed into the wounds of those who have not actively placed themselves in the public eye and are still alive? p.s. Your blog is evidence that no one has or can shut you down. So please, stop with the “they’re out to get me” meme. It’s disingenuous.

    • utopian (@utopian_01) October 21, 2014 at 7:35 am | #

      if you were to extend the same privilege to the family of anyone killed in that conflict, you would never be able to write a tweet about it, much less an opera.

    • yastreblyansky October 21, 2014 at 8:01 am | #

      The opera is not a commentary on the Iraeli-Palestinian conflict any more than King Lear is an editorial on outdated inheritance laws. It is a classical tragedy. (Saw it at BAM in 2003 and will see it again in November.) Do we say films on the death of John Kennedy shouldn’t be made because he has living relatives?

    • calling all toasters October 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm | #

      What lovely concern trolling. Kudos.

  3. joel in Oakland October 21, 2014 at 1:25 am | #

    The tweets make a kind of chorus of their own in the key of Full Reactionary State of Mind where there’s pretty much only attack and retreat (not to be confused with re-tweet) – no other notes or shades possible.

  4. Gil Gamesh (@OuchoSparks) October 21, 2014 at 9:44 am | #

    John Adams, right on.

  5. jonnybutter October 21, 2014 at 10:30 am | #

    Adams and Goodman should be thankful that they have an audience at all. Rather than being upset about this they should use this as an opportunity for self-reflection. Then they should feel grateful. Then they should feel humbled. Then they should feel….

    But seriously folks, it’s too bad the opera isn’t very good, because this cabal – led by Benito himself! – is just awful and must be vigorously opposed. The problem is not the opera’s politics, but rather politics’ willful and conspicuous absence. It’s tasteless in that special, humorless, empty, post modern way. A high-browish ‘Miss Saigon’ sort of effect. Just listen to that music for a moment – simultaneously self-effacing and absurdly pompous and self important.

    Please note that humorlessness and politics-lessness go together here. Just as humorlessness is not a lack of ‘jokes’, but rather the absence of perspective – the deliberate exclusion of naturally-occurring humor and scepticism, so the lack of politics here is not the failure to ‘choose sides’. It’s the pomo trick of simply not grappling with – skating over – an issue and calling it ‘dispassion’.

    Politics is removed, not from an ancient story retold many times, but from a current event. In a saner world, Israel fanatics would be quietly pleased about this (notwithstanding the use of Mr Klinghoffer’s real name in the title, which is indeed tasteless and artless). But since the opera isn’t explicit cartoon manichean good/evil politics, the bullying fleck-spittle crowd is howling.

    I see that some are calling this opera a ‘tragedy’. I think that shows a low-rent understanding of the word. But there is a real tragedy going on here: the ongoing destruction of the country they mean to defend by fanatics – the ones in the street in NYC and the ones in the government in Tel Aviv.

    • yastreblyansky October 21, 2014 at 11:14 am | #

      I didn’t say it was a good tragedy, and what you say about the removal of politics from the story is valid, and I didn’t think the music was at all interesting last time. But Doctor Atomic somewhat changed my opinion about Alice Goodman and Adams both, and then I finally saw Nixon in China, and really thought it was wonderful. I bought tickets for Klinghoffer only after yesterday’s twitterstorm for the reasons you suggest, but I do mean to give it another artistic chance.

      • jonnybutter October 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm | #

        i’ve heard some Adams that I like more than others. Not familiar with Dr Atomic. Not meaning to be reductive about his or anybody else’s art. The art (esp. music) can trump any ideological constraint if it wants to. Adams sometimes seems to want it to, so that’s good. Can’t say I’m a fan regardless, but de gustibus..

  6. Ken Sherrill October 21, 2014 at 11:56 am | #

    Most of these guys have the political instincts of thugs even if some merely are cowards. We’ve seen it before. I wish they had been in the house to see the way the work held the audience

    S attention and to hear the thunderous ovation at the end.

  7. calling all toasters October 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm | #

    This was actually (unintentionally) the best tweet: “What’s really stupefying is the apparent involvement of Engel, Paterson, and Katz, all Democrats.”

    I guess opera critics have damn little idea about how New York works.

  8. zjb October 22, 2014 at 10:45 am | #

    People have the right to protest, and they exercised their right. And in the end, thank god, nobody actually gets shut down, and the show goes on. The protest blends into the event as background noise.

  9. Claude Horvath October 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm | #

    Bringing up some shabby treatment of Tony Kushner really rattles my cage. Sadly, I’m progressively forgetting the name of the fellow-student *he* treated shabblily. She probably clued him in to the concepts that made his career possible. Badly injured in a car accident, her name is largely (though unjustly) forgotten. (I don’t even know if she survived.)

    P.S. It’s just come back to me — Kathy Flynn (probably).

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