Climate protesters twice interrupt Wagner's `Tannhäuser' at Metropolitan Opera

NEW YORK — Climate protesters caused a pair of interruptions totaling 22 minutes during the opening night of a revival of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” at the Metropolitan Opera.

Christian Gerhaher, a German baritone making his Met Opera debut, was singing Wolfram’s second-act aria on Thursday night in which he says “und sieh, mir zeiget sich ein wunderbronnen (before me a miraculous spring appears)” when people on either side of the balcony unfurled long vertical banners with white capital letters on a black background.

“NO OPERA ON A DEAD PLANET,” read the one on the north side of the 4,000-capacity auditorium. Met general manager Peter Gelb said Friday the other banner had the name of the group, Extinction Rebellion NY, which took responsibility.

“Wake up! The spring is polluted,” one protester shouted. “The spring is tainted! The spring is poisoned! This is a climate emergency! This is a climate crisis! There will be no opera on a dead planet!”

Yelled another: “There is no art, there is no anything on a planet that is dying! We must end fossil fuel!”

The curtain came down as people booed and some yelled “Shut up!”

Security removed three protesters, and Gelb addressed the audience, apologizing for the stoppage.

The performance resumed after a delay of about 8 minutes as the audience applauded, but after the resumption protesters in the orchestra section started shouting. That caused a delay of about 14 minutes as Gelb spoke to the audience again and said the performance would continue with the house lights on at 25% so security could quicky identify any additional protesters.

“Members of the company were somewhat shaken by this, including the performers,” Gelb said. “I consulted with Donald Runnicles, the conductor, and the soloists and explained to them they should just keep going because we would be able to remove people as we were able to see them with the lights on. At that point there was no further demonstration.”

The performance continued and ended at about midnight

“The brief half-hour delay was less serious and less inconvenient than the severe weather delays that are now becoming more and more frequent,” Extinction Rebellion NY said in a statement. “Today’s action highlights government and corporate neglect of climate and ecological breakdown. …

“Our key institutions, corporations and governments, function according to quarterly profits and the election cycle, respectively, without regard for the long-term dangers to our survival. This system is designed to steal from future generations, in order to maintain a lifestyle that benefits the `1 percent’ to the detriment of everyone else.”

Gelb said the protesters were handed over to police.

There are seven additional performances through Dec. 23 of the 1977 Otto Schenk production, which stars Andreas Schager in the title role in a cast that includes Elza van den Heever as Elisabeth, Ekaterina Gubanova as Venus and Georg Zeppenfeld as Hermann. The final performance will be broadcast on radio worldwide.

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