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Renowned conductor allows climate activists to address crowd at Swiss music festival

Jack Guy and Inke Kappeler, CNN

(CNN) — A famed Russian conductor allowed climate protesters who disrupted a performance at a classical music festival in Switzerland to address the crowd, despite grumbling from some members of the audience.

Vladimir Jurowski, director of the Bavarian State Opera, “made a deal” on Friday with two protesters from Renovate Switzerland, an environmental campaign group that is pushing the Swiss government to declare a climate crisis, in a moment that was captured on video.

The protesters entered the stage as the orchestra was playing the third movement of Bruckner’s fourth symphony, according to a press release from the group, and Jurowski responded by granting them an opportunity to speak.

“We have made a deal: The young people say their word now. We all listen without commenting. I promised them, gave my word of honor, that there would be no commentary,” Jurowski said, during the performance at the Lucerne Festival.

“We let them finish and then they let us play the fourth movement. That was the deal. Please help me,” he continued.

One of the activists then started to speak.

“Anthony and I are here today because we are very concerned. We are very sorry that we have to interrupt this concert. But we have a climate emergency that we really need to get a handle on,” she said, as shouting and whistling can be heard from the audience.

“Stop it! Let them talk,” said Jurowski.

“Let them talk for once and then we will play our symphony. Otherwise, I’ll leave the stage now. And if you don’t let them finish, then I have broken my word,” he adds, before sitting cross-legged on the podium.

Following their brief intervention the two activists then left the stage, according to a press release from Renovate Switzerland.

Renovate Switzerland later thanked Jurowski for his support in a post on X, and festival director Michael Haefliger also released a statement on social media.

“We very much regret that yesterday’s concert was unexpectedly interrupted by two climate activists from Renovate Switzerland. In general, we support standing up for environmental issues. However, we have no sympathy at all for the way the two activists acted last night. They disturbed our audience as well as the artists,” said Haefliger.

“Conductor Vladimir Jurowski reacted calmly and very constructively and gave the activists the opportunity to briefly express themselves. In order to avoid escalation, they were not forcibly removed from the hall. In this way, it was possible to continue the concert after only four minutes,” the statement continued.

Climate protesters are increasingly targeting high-profile events in order to raise awareness of environmental issues.

On Thursday, the US Open women’s tennis semifinal was disrupted after an attendee “affixed himself to the floor” during the match between Coco Gauff and Karolína Muchová, according to organizers.

US tennis star Gauff, who went on to win the tournament, said she couldn’t “really get upset” with the protesters.

“I wasn’t pissed at the protesters. I know the stadium was because it just interrupted entertainment. I always speak about preaching what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it,” she said.

“Obviously, I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4 1-0 and I wanted the momentum to keep going. But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”

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CNN’s Jacob Lev and George Ramsay contributed to this report.

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