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Opera Theatre to Lead Community-Wide Civic Dialogue for Landmark Production of The Death of Klinghoffer

April 1, 2011

Contact: Linda Schulte, Manager for Media Relations
(314) 963-4225,

gerald-early  St. Louis, MO — In collaboration with the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) announces, “A Work that Fires the Heart:” Exploring Darkness and Light in The Death of Klinghoffer, a panel discussion including interfaith leaders and featuring remarks by Dr. Gerald Early, Director of The Center for Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis.  The event will be held on Thursday, May 26 at 7 p.m. at the Ethical Society of St. Louis (9001 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63117).

Based on the true story of the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of a Jewish American passenger, The Death of Klinghoffer represents a chilling moment in recent history.  This spring, OTSL will present the first U.S. staged production of Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Adams’s landmark opera since the original 1991 production.

“This deeply moving tragedy is about senseless violence against one innocent person,” said OTSL General Director Timothy O’Leary, “It is about both the danger of extremism and the common humanity of ordinary people of all faiths and nationalities.  Now more than ever, I believe the arts must play a critical role in our world by promoting informed, respectful discussion to help build understanding across all peoples and all cultures.”

In addition to Dr. Early and Mr. O’Leary, panelists will include:

  • Batya Abramson-Goldstein, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Dr. David Greenhaw, President of Eden Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Ghazala Hayat, St. Louis University neurologist and former chairwoman of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis

OTSL, with the guidance of an interfaith steering committee which includes leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities, is organizing this symposium as the centerpiece for a series of community events.  Among these additional events is a program with the JCRC coordinated Sidney and Anna Frager Jewish/Muslim Teen Dialogue Group — this group of 22 high school students is called JAM for short, which stands for “Jews and Muslims.”  This activity is designed to introduce the visual and performing arts into their on-going activities.  After a special tour of the Saint Louis Art Museum to view art inspired by war or conflict, members of JAM will attend The Death of Klinghoffer.  Based on this interdisciplinary experience, JAM alumni will then lead a one-of-a-kind discussion with Klinghoffer audiences following the Tuesday, June 21st matinee.  This unique youth-led conversation will frame the conflict in Klinghoffer from the perspective of the first generation born since the events of the opera.  Members of the interfaith steering committee are also preparing a discussion guide which examines the sensitive issues raised by the opera. 

“I have found my engagement with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis on behalf of the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations, to be both productive and gratifying,” said Ms. Abramson-Goldstein.  “We have spoken in depth about the power of this opera to launch a broad-based series of conversations in St. Louis that can build understanding, respect, and community.”

Added Dr. Hayat, “It takes wisdom and courage to address a sensitive issue and be objective as much as possible.  These endeavors help understanding and bring communities together.”

Dr. Greenhaw said, “I’m pleased to have an opportunity to call on longstanding friendships and engage the community in what I think will be sensitive conversations about a very terrible and violent act.  I think art ought to provoke and there is an opportunity with that provocation to engage us in conversation.”

Educational events in conjunction with The Death of Klinghoffer are made possible by





Opera Theatre’s  production of The Death of Klinghoffer is made possible with a leadership gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and with generous support from Whitaker Foundation.  Major production support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.  Special thanks to The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Opera Theatre is a sustaining member of the Arts and Education Council of Greater Saint Louis and receives major support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council.