USA: Opera composer says he is ‘blacklisted’ by US authorities



Opera composer says he is ‘blacklisted’ by US authorities

Interviewed on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Music Matters’ on 18 October 2008, composer John Adams said he was now ‘blacklisted’ and followed by US security forces, supposedly because he composed ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’ — a controversial opera about the Palestinian Liberation Front’s 1985-hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

“I can’t check in at the airport now without my ID being taken and being grilled. You know, I’m on a homeland security list, probably because of having written ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’, so I’m perfectly aware that I, like many artists and many thoughtful people in the country, am being followed,” he told the BBC presenter, Petroc Trelawny, and BBC Radio 3’s listeners. The interview was broadcast on national radio in the United Kingdom on a Saturday afternoon.

The suggestion that John Adams does not feel welcome in his own country will send shock waves through the musical world, commented The Observer’s arts and media correspondent Vanessa Thorpe. She noted that the impact of his remarks would be amplified by the fact that John Adam’s opera ‘Doctor Atomic’ from 2005 had its New York premiere at the Metropolitan Opera the day after his interview was broadcasted on BBC.

‘Musicians are often watched’
During the interview, presenter Petroc Trelawny asked John Adams if he felt that America was living through an age of paranoia that resembled the McCarthy era of the 1950s. John Adams replied:

“Well it is, and of course Congress has continued to sign off on these Patriot Acts that continue to clip the wings of human rights”, adding that poets, novelists and musicians with left-wing leanings are often watched, including, he said, the American composer Aaron Copland, who was ‘hounded’ all his life.

“I’m sure the FBI had a large file on him. So we artists assume that we are being followed.”

About John Adams
61-year-old American composer John Adams is one of America’s most often performed composers, often referred to as one of the most revered living classical composers. He has repeatedly used opera to convey some of the major contemporary themes that have engaged him: ‘Nixon in China’ (1987) focused on market economy versus socialist ideology, ‘The Death of Klinghofer’ (1991) explored terrorism and ‘Dr. Atomic’ (2005) deals with the creation of the atom bomb.
John Adams’ musical autobiography ‘Hallelujah Junction’ is published this month.

John Adams


Petroc Trelawny’s radio interview with John Adams on 18 October 2008 can be heard on BBS’s website until 25 October 2008:


BBC ‘Music Matters’: – 19 October 2008:

‘I’m blacklisted, says opera maestro’

John Adam’s offical website:

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