Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a host of elected officials opened a protest with about 400 people Monday against the Metropolitan Opera hours before the first performance of its controversial show, "The Death of Klinghoffer."
More than 100 people sat in wheelchairs that were lined up in front of the opera house with signs that read "I am Leon Klinghoffer," the Jewish New Yorker whose 1985 murder by terrorists is depicted in the show.
During last night's performance, several audience members booed at the beginning of show. During the first act, someone repeatedly yelled, "the murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven." As intermission began, there was a call for a kaddish -- a prayer of mourning -- for Klinghoffer.
Giuliani, former Gov. David Paterson, and other groups from different backgrounds said the show is tasteless and presents an anti-Semitic message.
"It's factually inaccurate and an extraordinarily damaging piece to an appropriate description of this problem. It did great damage to the relationship between Israel and Palestine. It supports terrorism," said Giuliani, who is a patron of the opera house.
The protesters directed shouts of "shame on you" at ticket holders and the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb.
Giuliani reiterated that Gelb had his right to run the show under the First Amendment and wasn't calling for a ban, but added that New Yorkers have the right to voice their concern against the opera house.
The 1991 opera, which was written by John Adams, recounts the hijacking of an Italian cruise liner by Palestinian terrorists who shot Klinghoffer in the head because he was Jewish and dumped him overboard.
Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters during an unrelated news conference that he never saw the "The Death of Klinghoffer," but argued that even though anti-Semitism is a major problem around the world, people should respect the freedom of speech.
The Met, which canceled its televised and radio rebroadcasts and altered the libretto in response to concerns about anti-Semitism, defended its decision to run the opera. It called for the protesters to be mindful of the show's patrons.
"The safety of our audience members, performers, and staff is our priority, and we are confident that all those present at tonight's opening of 'The Death of Klinghoffer' will have a safe and stimulating evening," it said in a statement Monday.
The hundreds of people who lined up outside Lincoln center, however, felt the show should not reach those audiences.
"I don't think they are being sensitive to the effect that this project that is supposed to be art [can have] and the consequences of it. It's glorified terrorism," said protester Ruth Couch, 35, of the Bronx.