19 March 2024


Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Souterrain

Running time




Repetitie The Shell Trial

A forum to discuss how opera can help save the planet

Everywhere in the world politicians promise “growth” as the magic bullet for the world’s ills.

But we now know that the planet can no longer sustain the level of extraction, pollution and waste required by permanent growth. Every year Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has exhausted nature's budget for the year, falls earlier in the year (August 2 in 2023).

Photo: Anthony Léon as The Consumer during a rehearsal for The Shell Trial | © Melle Meivogel

Scientists and many economists are increasingly urging the need for degrowth, with fairer distribution and better management and renewal of resources. 

This forum will address the following questions:

  • What are the implications of degrowth for a resource-intensive art form like opera? 
  • How might we incorporate the demands of eco-dramaturgy into all aspects of our work? 
  • Throughout its history opera has engaged with directly with politics. What are the particular affordances of opera as an artform for communicating the urgency of climate and environmental action? 
  • What would a non-anthropocentric form of eco-opera look like? 

The questions posed here arise from the production of a new opera as part of the Dutch National Opera’s Opera Forward Festival 2024. The Shell Trial is based on the 2020 theatre play De zaak Shell by Anoek Nuyens and Rebekka de Wit, about the lead up to a trial in 2021 when a Dutch court ruled that Shell was legally responsible for its contribution to climate change, the first time such liability has been recognised. 

In this discussion forum Julie Fuchs, Sustainability Coordinator at Dutch National Opera and Romy Roelofsen and Gable Roelofsen, directors of The Shell Trial, will join with composer, theatre maker and climate activist Michel van der Aa, Romain Bischoff, Artistic Director of the contemporary music theatre company Silbersee, and Dani Ploeger, artist, activist and Professor  of Performance and Technology at the University of Music and Theatre, Munich. 

The event will be presented by Nicholas Till, Pierre Audi Chair in Music Theatre and Opera at the University of Amsterdam, and students on the Music and International Dramaturgy MA programmes at UvA.

Practical information

  • Date: Tuesday 19 March 2024
  • Time: 16:00 - 18:00
  • Location: Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Souterrain
  • Attendance is free
  • The forum will be conducted in English

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Opera Forward Festival

Opera Forward Festival

Inspiring, challenging and innovative. Immerse yourself in the 8th edition of the Opera Forward Festival (OFF) from 8 to 17 March. With musical performances by both established names and a new generation of creatives, OFF embraces innovation and ventures into uncharted territory with inventive and pioneering music theatre shows. Discover The Shell Trial and more at OFF!