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Climate Protesters Disrupt Christian Gerharher’s Metropolitan Opera Debut

By Sara Schabas on December 4, 2023

Tannhäuser, Met Opera. (Photo courtesy of the MET Opera)

Climate protesters from the group Extinction Rebellion interrupted the Metropolitan Opera’s opening performance of Tannhaüser on November 30.

What happened? On November 30, climate protesters from the group Extinction Rebellion interrupted Act II of Wagner’s Tannhaüser at the Metropolitan Opera. The group interrupted Wolfram’s description of love as a miraculous spring, shouting from the audience, “The spring is tainted.” Others held a banner reading “No Opera On A Dead Planet.” The Met’s curtain was quickly lowered before security arrived. Met General Manager Peter Gelb apologized for the disturbance before the performance restarted, only to be quickly re-interrupted.

Refresher: The climate protests came in the middle of baritone Christian Gerharher’s Metropolitan Opera debut as Wolfram. Gerharher has been described as “one of our finest living lieder singers” (NYTimes), who brings the subtlety of art song to his operatic depictions. The performance was conducted by Donald Runnicles in a 1970s production by Otto Schenck.

Digging deeper: Frenzy at performances of Wagner operas is far from unprecedented. In Alex Ross’ 2020 book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Ross reports on numerous duels between Wagner-lovers and their opponents. As Ross’ publisher describes, the staunchly antisemitic Wagner’s name is now “almost synonymous with artistic evil.” Despite the unfortunate nature of disrupting this performance, let’s see if these climate protests provoked any good.

Sara Schabas
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