This autumn, Opera Goes Green! The environment lies at the heart of our next season as we prepare to stage three fully sustainable opera productions: Verdi’s Falstaff, Puccini’s La rondine, and Masque of Might, a newly-created piece from Purcell by Sir David Pountney:

Read on for eight ways we’re focussing on the planet in everything we do…

1. Re-using props and raiding our scenic stores, we’re creating magical new settings for three operas

If you’re an Opera North regular, you may well spot some things you’ve seen before this season, as we’ll be reusing parts of the sets and some of the props which we’ve been keeping safe in our Stores since they were last on stage. Delving into this treasure trove has been an enjoyable trip down memory lane for designer Leslie Travers, an Opera North favourite, who will be designing all three sets for the Green Season:

“I love this history of the shows we’ve done together, and I’ve loved giving them another life for the Green Season. Falstaff, for example, features a bed that we used in Otello, windows from Figaro which we’ve resized and adapted, and the sky from Orpheus.”

The windows from The Marriage of Figaro, adapted for Falstaff at our scenic stores

2. The planet takes centre-stage with climate-themed fantasy Masque of Might (even the lyrics are recycled!)

One of the must-see events of the season is the premiere of Masque of Might, a new fantasy by Sir David Pountney who has assembled a witty yet thought-provoking eco-entertainment from the music of Henry Purcell. When exploring the composer’s oeuvre, Sir David was intrigued by the echoes he found with today’s global concerns, in particular the gathering climate crisis:

“I just listened to the material and let the story emerge. One of the things that made an impression was the fantastic amount of apocalyptic language in this late-17th century body of work: effluent flowing into the rivers, bringing death everywhere; corpses adding to it; glaciers melting…”

Model box for Masque of Might, set design by Leslie Travers

3. We’re taking fewer lorries on the road, reducing our touring emissions

We love touring our productions across the north of England so as many people as possible can experience a live performance – but, transporting three opera productions between several cities throws up all kinds of environmental challenges.

One of the benefits of creatively using the same elements in the sets this season is that we’ll need fewer lorries to transport everything to and between our touring venues. That means lower fuel consumption, less congestion as we load and unload at each theatre and, ultimately, fewer emissions – a big plus as far as our sustainability aims go.



The Orchestra of Opera North on tour

4. We’ve now got solar panels on the roof, new LED stage lighting and renewable energy in our offices.

Our commitment to sustainability isn’t new. It’s something we’ve been actively championing for many years, looking at all aspects of the business and working out what can and should be done differently.

To take one example, Music Works, the recent redevelopment of the Company’s home in Leeds provided the perfect opportunity to take stock and incorporate some greener elements into the design. One outcome was the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Howard Opera Centre. This has enabled us to generate over 5,000 kilowatts per hour this year alone to help power our offices, rehearsal studios and more.

A new lighting rig delivered to Opera North's scenic stores

5. Alongside the city of Leeds, we’re aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030

Jamie Saye, who is acting as our Sustainability Champion for the coming season, is the co-founder and Operations Manager of Sustainable Arts in Leeds (SAIL). That means he’s uniquely placed to understand the steps that need to be taken for Leeds to become a carbon neutral city and the role Opera North can play in helping achieve this aim:

“The important thing is that this process will have led to step changes throughout the Company, from supply chains to lighting rigs, to transport and touring practice, even working with transport providers to ensure our audiences can get to and from our performances with the least environmental impact. We’re committed to carrying on this interrogation of the way we work in the long term”.

The Howard Opera Centre with the skyline of Leeds in the background © Tom Arber

6. Our sustainable menu at Kino is crafted from seasonal, locally-sourced food

Kino’s new Head Chef Josh Whitehead is passionate about Yorkshire produce. A big exponent of nose-to-tail cooking which helps minimise waste by using the whole animal, he can also be found foraging around his local area for wild herbs and plants to add flavour and interest to his dishes. He’s even encouraged Opera North and other local companies to save their coffee grounds for use in one of his trademark trifles:

“It’s all about making the most of what’s around us and keeping everything as local as possible to minimise food miles. I love working sustainably as I think it makes you more creative, adventurous and thoughtful in your cooking.”

Arctic Roll & Pear flavoured with woodruff foraged by Head Chef, Josh Whitehead © Jo Ritchie

7. We’re partnering with travel companies to make public transport ticket deals for you

It might come as a surprise that one of the largest contributors to our environmental impact is the transport choices audiences make coming to and from the theatre. To encourage more people to ditch the car and use public transport instead, we’ve negotiated some great Green Season deals with bus companies across the region.

These include two-for-one return bus tickets for opera-goers travelling with Transdev to and from Leeds on the 36, 7, Aireline, Flyer, and Coastliner buses. Travellers just need to produce a ticket for an opera or Howard Assembly Room event to take advantage of the offer. An exclusive MCard Opera Day Saver ticket will be offered in West Yorkshire and available on the app. This is the first initiative of its kind in the region and will be available from 28 September to 28 October, to cover bus travel after 12pm to and from evening performances and matinees.

Leeds bus companies are joining forces to offer discounts to travellers coming to a Green Season opera

8. We’re encouraging our audiences to go paperless, from e-tickets to digital programmes

We work in a paperless office, give or take a few sheets, but what about in the theatre?

Nowadays of course, audiences are given the option to forego print entirely when they decide to buy a ticket. It’s easy to choose ‘e-tickets’ at the online checkout and we’ve added the opportunity to buy and download a digital programme for just £4. Just remember to charge up your phone before you come to the performance.

Where print is necessary, we’re trying to ensure that the stock we use is the most environmentally responsible we can source without sacrificing any of the quality, and we’ve also reduced the size of our tickets so we use less paper and ink to produce them. They’ll fit more neatly in your pocket too!

Welding set pieces for the Green Season at Opera North's scenic stores

The Green Season opens at Leeds Grand Theatre with Falstaff on Thursday 28 September, followed by Masque of Might on Friday 6 October and La rondine on Friday 20 October. After Leeds, the productions tour to Newcastle Theatre Royal, Nottingham Theatre Royal and The Lowry, Salford Quays.

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