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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Music (M.M.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The issue of anti-Semitism in John Adams’s 1991 opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, has been widely discussed by scholars such as Richard Taruskin, Robert Fink, and others. For instance, Taruskin asserts that Adams favors the Palestinians through musical grandiosity and by describing them as “men of ideals.” However, this fails to consider the possibility that Adams intended to portray an evenhanded view of diverse religious groups. Through close readings of the libretto and select numbers from Klinghoffer, such as the “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians,” the “Chorus of Exiled Jews,” and the “Aria of the Falling Body,” my thesis maintains that Adams treats both sides equally. Although he depicts each group differently through a contrasting approach to text, orchestration, and texture, he nevertheless does not favor one group over the other. Additionally, a close reading of the “Aria of the Falling Body” provides Adams’s possible solution to this conflict – reconciliation between religious communities. Adams does so through portraying Leon Klinghoffer as a scapegoat. This aria is sung by Leon Klinghoffer’s body after he is sacrificed by the Palestinian hijackers – his sacrifice ensured the safety of the remaining passengers on board. Adams thus presents Klinghoffer as religious commentary – not only by vividly depicting the warring religious communities – but also by offering a solution to a centuries-old conflict.


First Advisor

Erinn Knyt

Second Advisor

Ernest May May

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Musicology Commons