As an opera company with a global outlook, we believe it is our responsibility to put environmental thinking and action at the heart of what we do.

Tackling the climate emergency is a joint effort. By engaging employees, musicians, audiences, communities, and supporters in the environmental process, we can help to reduce our environmental impact, achieve our aim to be Carbon Neutral by 2030, and inspire wider change towards a more sustainable future.

Our environmental aims

Operations – Reduce the environmental impact of our operations and buildings by continually monitoring our performance, reducing utility usage wherever possible and sustainably procuring goods and services,

Productions – Establish a more sustainable production and touring model, and explore options to address environmental themes in our productions

Travel – Support and promote more sustainable travel options to our staff and audiences

Community – Embed environmental themes and engagement into our education and community programmes

Partnerships – Develop environmental collaboration with our partners and with individual supporters

Workforce – Ensure all staff are trained in carbon literacy and invite participation in our Green Team

Backstage at Leeds Grand Theatre during rehearsals for Pagliacci © Tom Arber

The Green Season

Building on Opera North’s previous sustainable productions, such as Handel’s Alcina in 2022, and the staging of Not Such Quiet Girls in the Howard Assembly Room in 2018, the Autumn season of 2023 was our first sustainable season of three productions.

All three Green Season productions used shared scenic elements to create three interlinked yet distinctive designs, enabling Opera North to reduce its use of materials and its carbon footprint. All sets, props and costumes in the season were sourced from previous productions or purchased second-hand.

In addition, more matinee performances were introduced in order to make it easier for audiences to travel on public transport.

The Green Season’s ambitious and progressive programme was guided by the Theatre Green Book, an industry-wide initiative to facilitate sustainable ways of working across productions, buildings and operations.

The Green Season included new productions of Verdi’s Falstaff and Puccini’s La rondine, as well as the world premiere of Masque of Might, an ‘eco-entertainment’ adapted and assembled by Sir David Pountney from the works of Henry Purcell. This witty, incisive and fantastical work addresses urgently topical themes such as the abuses of a powerful political leader and the gathering climate crisis. Masque of Might is available to stream online for free on OperaVision until 3 June 2024.


Towards a sustainable production model

One of our key objectives is proactively establishing an environmentally sustainable production and touring model. Following the trial of a fully recycled set for the 2018 production, Not Such Quiet Girls, performed in the Howard Assembly Room, the production of Handel’s Alcina was identified as the next milestone – performed in February and March 2022, and premiering at Leeds Grand Theatre.

Alcina’s set was fully recycled and nothing that appeared on stage (set, props, costumes) was newly purchased. The majority of the set was sourced from existing productions stored at Opera North’s scenic warehouse in Kirkstall, and all other items were bought from second-hand sources within the Yorkshire and Humber region. The process of making the set, props and costume was also considered so as to not just include the direct environmental impact of the production itself, but the wider associated impact of Opera North and its supply chain.

Máire Flavin as Alcina © James Glossop

Opera North wins Creative Green Award

We’re proud to have won ‘Best Newcomer’ at Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Awards 2019.

Nominated in our category alongside many other fantastic arts organisations, we were very excited to build on our Creative Green certification and have our environmental efforts recognised.

The Creative Green programme offers a broad range of services that help organisations scope, understand, prioritise and advocate environmentally sustainable practices, with the awards offering a moment for the sector to showcase their leadership in climate action.

Jamie Saye accepting 'Best Newcomer' on behalf of Opera North at Julie's Bicycle Creative Green Awards 2019

Our actions so far

  • Joined the Music Declares Emergency group, declaring a climate and ecological emergency and calling for an immediate governmental response
  • Moved onto a 100% renewable energy tariff where possible with Good Energy
  • Monitoring all energy use to understand and reduce impact
  • Awarded a 3 star “Creative Green” certification by Julie’s Bicycle
  • Installed water saving devices throughout our buildings
  • Offered discounted public transport for staff
  • Event transport is handled by StageFreight, winners of 2019 award for Eco-friendly road fleet of the Year
  • Established an Opera North ‘Green Team’ to advocate internally for our environmental aims
  • Cut electricity usage through behaviour change campaigns
  • Replaced lighting with LED across the estate where possible
  • Swapped disposable items for more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • Send all main stage sets to be recycled at the end of their life by a specialist contractor, Stockyard North
  • Saved paper at Howard Assembly Room song recital performances by installing surtitles screens rather than giving out sheets with song translations
  • Came third in category for Love to Ride’s #CycleSeptember 2019
  • Print all main stage brochures on fully recyclable and carbon balanced paper, where the residual carbon impacts of a product or service have been estimated and are offset through the protection and restoration of carbon-rich wildlife habitats. Certified by the World Land Trust
  • Introduced Carbon Literacy training across the organisation, and hosted a Carbon Literacy event with Leeds Climate Commission
  • Successfully trialled a fully recycled set in the Howard Assembly Room, Not Such Quiet Girls
  • Successfully used a fully recycled set in the Leeds Grand Theatre and on tour, Alcina
  • Successfully completed a Green Season
  • Achieved Albert Sustainable Production Certification for the BBC’s recording of Requiem 

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