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A Night of Opera and Activism: Unrest at the Met During Wagner’s ‘Tannhäuser

Met Opera

The Met’s revival of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” in New York faced unexpected drama as climate protesters echoed their concerns, leading to a temporary halt in the performance.

A Stirring Evening at the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City recently witnessed an unusual interruption. The opening night of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” revival was momentarily paused when climate activists voiced their concerns loudly, disrupting the usual tranquility of the opera house. As the second act unfolded, members of Extinction Rebellion NYC made their presence known. They unfurled banners from the balconies, proclaiming “No Opera On A Dead Planet.” This bold statement caused the Met officials to momentarily lower the curtain around 9:30 p.m., pausing the performance mid-scene.

Audience Reaction and Delay

The unexpected interruption lasted about eight minutes. Security swiftly escorted the protesters from their balcony perches. Despite initial jeers, the audience soon erupted into applause as the performance resumed. However, the calm was short-lived.

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Another protestor stood up in the orchestra section, halting the opera once again. This time, as security escorted her out, Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, discussed the next steps with officials. Some audience members vocally expressed their frustration, while others chose to leave. After a 22-minute delay, Gelb informed the audience that the house lights would stay on for the remainder of the opera. This decision was made to ensure any further disruptions could be quickly addressed, allowing the four-and-a-half-hour performance to continue with heightened security.

Star-Studded Cast Amidst Unrest

The opera featured notable performances by Christian Gerhaher, making his Met debut, and Andreas Schager in the title role. Elza van den Heever and Donald Runnicles also graced the stage, adding to the evening’s allure. However, the night’s excitement extended beyond the stage, as the protesters aimed to highlight the pressing issue of the climate crisis.

Extinction Rebellion explained that their demonstration was intentionally timed with a key moment in the opera. They highlighted the contrast between the opera’s themes of purity and love and the harsh reality of the ongoing environmental crisis.

Mixed Emotions in the Audience

George Chauncey, a history professor at Columbia University, shared his surprise and the general uncertainty among the audience. While some were concerned for their safety, others were upset about the disruption of a much-anticipated performance.

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