The incident occurred during the opera Tannhäuser on Thursday, with the radical climate group Extinction Rebellion, NYC, claiming responsibility for the protest.
In the midst of the second act, several protesters rose from their seats, calling for an end to the use of fossil fuels. One protester admonished the audience to "wake up" to the "climate emergency," subsequently unveiling a black banner with the inscription, "No opera on a dead planet."
"Wake up! The stream is polluted! The stream is tainted! The stream is poison! This is a climate emergency! This is a climate emergency. There will be no opera on a dead planet!" he vociferously declared.
According to Extinction Rebellion, the initial disruption was strategically timed to coincide with a character's line in the opera. The group explained in a statement, "The disruption was timed to coincide with the main character’s declaration that ‘love is a spring to be drunk from,’ and highlighted the fact that, contrary to those words spoken on stage, springs are not pure now, because we are in a climate crisis, and our water is contaminated."
As security personnel escorted the protesters out, the audience responded with boos and jeers. The performance was halted once more when another activist from Extinction Rebellion stood up and echoed a similar message. This led to a heated exchange with the audience, with some members shouting at the woman to leave. One individual was even seen pulling at the protester's scarf.
The New York Times reported that some attendees left the performance, questioning the security measures in place at the venue. The Metropolitan Opera informed Fox News Digital that the performance was interrupted for a total of 22 minutes, and police were summoned to remove the protesters. "Our highest priority was the safety and security of everyone on site. The show continued with the lights at 25% to discourage any other protests," the Met stated.
Extinction Rebellion justified the disruption as a necessary measure to underscore the threat posed by the "climate and ecological crisis" to all aspects of life, including opera. The group argued in a statement that conventional methods of effecting change, such as voting, petitioning, and lobbying, have repeatedly failed. "Meanwhile, the science makes clear that we have only a very small time window in which to end fossil fuel use and halt carbon emissions," the statement read.
The activists emphasized their love for opera but insisted that public disruption was a "last resort" in response to the climate "emergency." Spokesperson Jack Baldwin warned, "We’re not going to stop disrupting, because nature is only getting started. The orange skies and the flooding in New York City this year are just the beginning." Fellow spokesperson Miles Grant added, "If XR doesn’t disrupt, the climate will. Violently. Activists are disrupting peacefully. Nature will disrupt violently."