admin On maggio - 17 - 2015


 by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Carbon dioxide delightfully intoxicates Teatro alla Scala with a new opera by Giorgio Battistelli, that talks about the future of the Earth. The libretto by Ian Burton tackles the worst case scenario related to one of the main environmental issues of our century: climate change. Staging is by Robert Carsen and Cornelius Meister conducts the orchestra, with Anthony Michaels-Moore, Pumeza Matshikitza, Sean Panikkar in the leading roles.


With the opera CO2 Giorgio Battistelli, Ian Burton and Robert Carsen come together once again to renew their collaboration, which ten years ago made the production of Richard III staged at the Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp in 2005.


The reunion has resulted in ten minutes of applauses that followed the premiere of this extraordinary multi-sensory eco-opera, which is in line with the theme of Expo 2015 (Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life), whose title is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide.


Through CO2 the stage intertwines the world of science with the realm of opera, through a thoroughly profound discussion on sustainable development, ethics and civic life. Some of the most debated topics of our times are tackled with an exquisite interactive and breathtaking mise en scène, encompassing high tech, the diplomatic arena and myth of creation in the Garden of Eden.


The opera starts with a conference on climate change held by a fictional climatologist, David Adamson (Anthony Michaels-Moore). The conference is repeatedly interrupted by dramatised cosmic or climatic events, which envisage the use of choreography and video, while the climatologist attempts to discuss ecology and practical environmentalism as well as elaborate metaphysical and poetic descriptions and definitions of the seasons, hurricanes and James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia hypothesis.’


The postmodern narrative logic generates a whirlwind of short circuits in time and space, as Adamson’s lecture is interspersed with insights on irresponsible depletion of resources, carbon emissions, global warming, melting glaciers, desertification and the extinction of animal species. Thus, the eco-stream of consciousness encircles a variety of presences that account the history of humans’ interaction with our planet: Archangels Raphael (Dennis Wilgenhof), Uriel (Alain Coulombe), Gabriel (Orla Boylan) and Michael (Alessandro Spina); scientists (Nathan Berg, Miklos Sebestyén) and ecologists (Fatma Said); delegates (Sehoon Moon, Aya Wakizono, Azer Rza-Zada, Petro Ostapenko) of the debate at the international conference that will produce the Kyoto Protocol; women (Kwanghyun Kim, Davide Giangregorio) at a supermarket buying food; Adam (Sean Panikkar), Eve (Pumeza Matshikiza) and the Serpent (David Dq Lee); Gaia (Jennifer Johnston), the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth; Mrs Mason (Orla Boylan), the sister of a survivor of the tsunami, and Mr Changtalay (Ta’u Pupu’a), a Thai hotel manager; along with travellers at an airport.


The social nature of the subject matter is reflected in the opera’s choral dimension. The interaction between the individual characters and a collective context is epitomised in the unison of the chorus that uses the lingua franca, the international language of communication and globalisation par excellence: English. But the opera is open to multilingualism, to embrace in its complexity the universal theme of the subject. Hence the libretto makes use of different languages: Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek of Homer, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Italian.


Carbon dioxide turns out to be the substance which is indispensable in the vital processes of nature, humans breathing, plants photosynthesising, but it is also responsible for global warming and the greenhouse effect that threaten the Earth. As David Adamson attempts to explain the risks facing the planet and endangering the survival of humanity, he himself comes to realise the absolute necessity of loving the environment in which we live and for which we are all personally responsible.


Related Images:


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.