Earth Meets the Arts — Italian Theatre Opens Opera on Climate Change

Not crazy about opera? Not sure what to think about climate change? CO2 might alter the way you feel about both subjects. It might appear to be an odd combination at first — a current issue matched with the centuries-old art of opera. But upon closer inspection, it may just be the perfect time and place for such a hot-button topic work.


La Scala Theater is home to the opera CO2. (Photo: Teatro alla Scala)

Who: The opera’s composer is Giorgio Battistelli, whose works have included a rendition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. His contemporary take on classical music made him ideal for the job of musically exploring the story, which is based on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

What: The opera is set in the future, on an Earth that is “terminally ill,” with its inhabitants facing the nightmarish end of the world due to global climate change. As much as we seem to love talking about the subject, a study done by Yale University researchers and headed by Utah State University assistant professor Peter Howe, found that nationally, only 63% of us believe global climate change is taking place. The percentage drops to as low as 54% in some states.

Where and when: CO2 was commissioned by and will premiere at La Scala theater in Milan, Italy, on May 16. Its debut will be just two weeks after the opening of Expo 2015, Milan’s six-month world’s fair. The premiere at La Scala, which itself rose from the ashes of Allied bombings in World War II, is an apropos setting for the subject. And with Expo 2015 focusing on the world’s ability to feed itself in the coming century, the timing is more than coincidental.

Related: How to Have an Italian Vacation Your Family Will Never Forget


While in Milan, book a room at The Square Milano-Duomo hotel. (Photo: The Square Milano-Duomo)

How: Even with the Expo in full swing, airfare to Milan is surprisingly low. Mid-week flights in May on Alitalia and partner Delta are as low as $327 each way from New York to Milan-Malpensa Airport. For a four-star hotel in the city center — within walking distance to the theater, the spectacular Milano Duomo, and a station on the Red Line tube, which will take you to the Expo — try The Square Milano-Duomo for as low as $265 per night, or the Hotel Dei Cavalieri, with amazing outdoor dining, for as little as $203 per night.

Ticket prices for the opera range from 11-150 euros and can be purchased online. Single-day tickets for the Expo start at 27 euros.

If you are unfamiliar with the Milan area and plan to explore beyond the opera and the Expo, a guidebook is useful. We like the Timeout City Guide. It comes packed with details provided by locals, and a pullout map to keep you from getting lost.

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