CO2 – the Opera; by Giorgio Battistelli

The long-awaited opera based on Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” plays at La Scala, Milan from 16 to 29 May, though Gore’s name no longer appears. Instead, credit is given to James Lovelock, Richard Mabey, and the environmentalit periodical “Resurgence”. Tickets are from eleven to 150 euros.

According to an article on the La Scala website by Ian Burton: “CO2 was conceived as a rotating prayer wheel of our current concerns an anxieties about our climate, what we have done to change it, and what remedies, if any are possible … I knew that before attempting to understand what man had done to the earth and the climate surrounding it, I needed to say something about the splendours of creation, and to bookend the whole “non-narrative” opera with two mythical versions of the Creation and the Apocalypse. The first derived from the wonderfully paradoxical Vedic scriptures of Hinduism … with Shiva’s dance of creation and final dance of destruction; and secondly the Judaeo/Christian version of events at the beginning of time, as written in the Book of Genesis in the Jewish Old Testament, and also in St. John’s account, at the end of the New Testament, in The Book of Revelation…”

The Italian equivalent of Radio 3 has a wonderful “after the match” opera programme whose participants demonstrate all the obsessive opinionated enthusiasm of football fans. If Maurizio or anyone is tuning in, it would be nice to have some (translated) reactions.

Here’s the synopsis. Nitpickers will note that the librettist seems to think tsunamis are a symptom of manmade global warming. Fans of Vedic hymns and the Apocalypse of St John will not be fazed.

Prologue
The climatologist David Adamson begins a lecture on the problems of climate change.
Scene 1 (Creation)
As Adamson contemplates the beginning of the world, scientific creation theories are contrasted with religious and mythic ones.
Scene 2 (Airport)
Passengers are caught up in a strike of air traffic controllers. Adamson is amongst them, on his way to the Climate Change Convention in Kyoto.
Scene 3 (Kyoto)
International delegates defend their nations’ individual interests and dispute their conflicting positions.
Scene 4 (Hurricanes)
Adamson describes how Co2 pollution in the earth’s atmosphere can lead to extreme weather conditions, and explains how hurricanes are named.
Scene 5 (Eden)
Adamson imagines Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden of Eden, and reflects on the infinite variety of plants and animal species – in particular snakes.
Scene 6 (Supermarket)
Women are buying food, enjoying the far-flung origins of their favourite produce.
Scene 7 (Tsunami)
On a beach in Thailand, Mrs. Mason talks to a hotel manager about her brother-in-law who was drowned in the Tsunami the year before. She reflects on the causes of the disaster.
Scene 8 (Gaia)
Adamson discusses practical environmentalism and James Lovelock’s “The Gaia Hypothesis”. Gaia herself appears, and describes the catastrophic damage man has inflicted on her, resulting in the ruin of her atmosphere and the disorientation of her seasons.
Scene 9 (Apocalypse)
Adamson envisions an apocalyptic end of the world.
Epilogue
Ending his lecture, Adamson tries to reconcile his environmental despair with his sense of responsibility towards the planet.

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7 Responses to CO2 – the Opera; by Giorgio Battistelli

  1. TinyCO2 says:

    Opera is probably the right format for climate change. Everyone screams at the top of their voice and nobody knows what’s going on.

  2. The libretto is here, in English and Italian (though parts are in Latin Greek and Sanskrit)
    http://www.teatroallascala.org/includes/doc/2014-2015/CO2/libretto.pdf
    I know operas are not meant to be sensible, but still… Here are some extracts:

    5th Man (English)
    If I hear that word “Sustainable” again,
    I’ll scream! Ecological taliban bullshit!

    Part Chorus
    It’s economic blackmail!
    A global conspiracy to tax us all!
    It’s clear and transparent what you want,
    Immediate Totalitarian World Government!
    Part Chorus
    Blackmail? Conspiracy?
    You’re mad! The Physics is clear!
    Part Chorus
    Double the amount of carbon and the planet will heat
    By one point two degrees!
    Part Chorus
    One point two degrees?
    Maybe by one point one;
    It’s a mild and gentle benign increase
    Of benign and gentle warmth!

    Adamson
    The next meeting of the Conference of the
    [parties
    Is projected for Paris in December later this year.
    However the worst offenders,
    The USA, Canada, China and Russia
    Still have not signed
    And have no commitment to the Protocol!

    Adam
    You’re beautiful!
    Eve
    Am I?
    Adam
    I love you!
    Eve
    What is love?
    The serpent suddenly appears, smoking a
    cigarette.
    Serpent
    I can tell you what love is…

    Serpent
    Look, Adam. What do you want?
    Knowledge or wisdom?
    Adam
    I don’t know what either of them is.
    Are both equally good?
    Serpent
    Oh, dear, oh dear. We’ve got a long way to go.
    I know, I’m only a snake,
    but I’m also a symbol!
    You seem hungry:
    What you need is a nice juicy apple.
    (Serpent disappears.)

  3. TinyCO2 says:

    What can you say to that, other than a nervous laugh, as if you are in the company of nutters.

  4. alexjc38 says:

    Any reviews yet for this? All I’ve read so far is a comment from someone on TripAdvisor, who found it a less than optimal experience (long link, hence the tinyurl): http://tinyurl.com/psx6nza

    “We were bitten by bugs near the feet and necks. Very expensive tickets. It was a beautiful theatre. But as it was ancient, the seating are not comfortable.
    The worst is being beaten by bugs. If you must go, bring insect repellent. I attended my worst opera show. The music was just awful. It was “co2″. So not all shows are equal.”

  5. There’s an enthusiastic review in la Repubblica (the Italian equivlent of the Guardian) here
    http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2015/05/18/tra-devastazioni-e-conferenze-le-sorti-del-clima-infiammano-la-scala49.html?ref=search

    “.. the fate of the climate inflames la Scala… 15 minute ovation .. Ian Burton’s cunning moralistic libretto denounces the damage caused by excess CO2 to the health of the planet. Each accusation corresponds one of the opera’s nine scenes, from Eve’s apple to the one that travels thousands of kilometres and uses tons of fuel to arrive at the local supermarket ..”

    Of course, it’s not only apples, but also opera fans who frequently travel thousands of kilometres, which is maybe why the Guardian has been quiet about “CO2” ..

    You could get a thousand apples in one large crate, so if you share out the kiometres between them, each Argentinian apple has used up no more distance and fuel than the one you put in your packed lunch. Or, to put it another way, you are just as guilty as the apple importer, or Adam, or something.

    The FT had a preview at
    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/491bb518-f7d6-11e4-8bd5-00144feab7de.html#axzz3awdx88QD

  6. Dodgy Geezer says:

    … Instead, credit is given to James Lovelock…

    Does it matter that Lovelock has reneged on his earlier position, which he now calls ‘Alarmist’?

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