Across from the Metropolitan Opera house last night, Rudy Giuliani told me that he owns “something like 800 operas” on CD. “I think I own every opera imaginable,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an opera I don’t have.”

The subject arose after America's Mayor noted in his fiery denunciation of The Death of Klinghoffer that he possesses the opera in question on CD—and rather enjoys it. "The music and the chorus are quite excellent," Rudy allowed.

I found this somewhat strange, because the whole point of the raucous street protest held at Lincoln Center yesterday was to repudiate the opera's allegedly vicious anti-Semitic message. And yet here was Giuliani admitting that he was able to appreciate the work and that he'd given its creators financial support by purchasing the CD.

"I actually didn't know what the opera was about when I bought it," he clarified to me. "I bought it 20 years ago. I didn't know how it would portray the situation, and I listened to it and realized how it portrayed it, read the libretto three times, and came to the conclusion that I came to."


Everywhere one turned at the street protest, there was another emblem of absurdity. Being that this was a Rudy-approved event, the NYPD of course were out in full uncompromising force. Supervising was the notorious Daniel J. Albano, a top man in the NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau who repeatedly violated the NYPD's own departmental regulations during Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Bomb-sniffing dogs galore.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a “money manager” and former executive assistant to Gov. George Pataki, served as lead protest emcee and agitator, and repeatedly referenced some kind of nebulous threat (perhaps terrorism?) which required the organizers to secure tens of thousands of dollars in police protection, and blamed these accrued costs on Bill de Blasio.

“We didn’t pay the bills yet,” Wiesenfeld told me. “The bills are coming in for the wheelchairs, for the sound, for the signs that you’ll see—everything.” The previous protest, held on September 22, “cost about 27 or 28 thousand,” Wiesenfeld disclosed. “This time might be a little bit more.”

When asked to name donors footing the bill, Wiesenfeld said, “I can mention one. His name is Leonard Weiss, he’s the founder and principal owner of Sylvan Parking—owns about 3,000 parking spaces. He will be here; he will speak tonight. His money was given to us for this year. He denied the Met his annual membership.” As for the other donors, Wiesenfeld declined to identify them. “It’s a private matter,” he said.

“When this type of problem reaches a high cultural level, it has to be dealt with,” Wiesenfeld informed me. (A representative statement of his during the rally: “the Metropolitan Opera advocates terrorism and incites violence.”)

Bill Kristol had also come up from D.C. to attend the anti-opera protest, according to his similarly well-dressed handler, Noah Pollak, who heads the “Emergency Committee for Israel.” (Yesterday’s emergency was evidently the performance of an opera in Manhattan.)

Kristol smiled toothily as he surveyed the scene, and didn’t seem to be doing much in particular, so I gingerly approached and let Bill know that I had just been thinking about George W. Bush’s 2004 inaugural address, which he and fellow pundit Charles Krauthammer reportedly authored. I apprised him of my theory that this address will probably go down as one of the worst speeches in US History, as it served as airy justification for Bush’s incomprehensibly disastrous “Freedom Agenda”—the fruits of which we are now seeing play out in the form of the mayhem unfolding across Iraq and Syria. Bizarrely, Kristol denied authorship of the speech. (He later trolled me on Twitter.)

Anyway, just ponder for a moment one farcical element of all this: Bill Kristol, who would probably never get caught dead at a protest under typical circumstances, jetted up from D.C. to attend a street protest headlined by Rudy Giuliani, himself no stranger to leading invective-filled rallies. And the impetus for this protest was that they objected to the content of an opera. What?

The elected officials on hand all insisted that they weren’t calling for censorship or the curtailment of the First Amendment, but Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) demanded that the Met “should not put on the The Death of Klinghoffer” out of respect to the Klinghoffer family, and then she invoked the specter of the Third Reich.

Apparently the spectacle of Rudy's fiery condemnation did not deter Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who attended last night’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer.

Michael Tracey is a journalist in New York. Follow him on Twitter