Letter to the Editor: Climate Crisis Showmanship

by EMA Staff
Published May 26, 2024

A reply to John Mark Rozendaal’s guest editorial “An Early-Music Climate Activist on Disrupting Performances”

By Catherine Turocy

I was offended that EMA would give publicity to the climate-change activism of John Mark Rozendaal, a Baroque cellist, viola da gamba player, and EMA member. In his “guest editorial,” he bragged about interrupting a performance at the Metropolitan Opera for some 22 minutes (EMAg, January 2024). EMA gave voice to disturbing protest methods and, I believe, condoned this behavior. I value journalism that presents more than one side of an issue and would have liked to see a companion article with comments from the Met and from audience members who had to sit through Rozendaal’s protests.

Catherine Turocy: ‘We don’t need more destructive protests’ (Photo by Alexis Silver)

I feel strongly that using anarchy, chaos, or violence as a protest technique adds to the self-destructive nature of our society and raises fear. In the U.S., gun shootings can occur in schools, stores, and other public places. Shouts and confusion rippling through the audience during a performance might signal immediate danger. Imagine one’s state of mind when sitting in a dark theater, immersed in the performance. It is Act II of the opera. For at least 40 minutes, one’s defenses are down and one is in a vulnerable state of openness. The panic of hearing screaming voices, with security rushing down the aisles, leads to a sense of intense helplessness. It’s a moment of emotional violence.

And I wonder about the effectiveness of Rozendaal’s protest. Was it a mere publicity stunt? He and his cause were mentioned in the New York Times’ review of that opening-night performance. He got the attention he craves. But has anyone’s opinion about our very real climate crisis altered? He annoyed many people, set a terrible precedent, and probably convinced no one.

We don’t need more culturally destructive protests. We need practical ways to fight climate change, and we need to elect politicians that care about the planet. 

Catherine Turocy is founder and artistic director of the New York Baroque Dance Company.

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