Coronavirus and the climate crisis are inspiring change at some of the most traditional venues in the world: opera houses.
Iconic venues around the world have taken advantage of pandemic shutdowns to boost sustainability efforts and to create new environmental awareness. Their motivation, they say, is the planet and how everyone must do their part to create a better world before it's too late. And why shouldn't cultural institutions set a good example?
The renowned opera house Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy is striving to lead by example by reducing its carbon emissions by over 630 tons since 2010, and by swapping to LED bulbs and smart lighting, a change made during the shutdowns of this past year. Further sustainable energy plans include installing solar panels, whilst digitizing operations will save 10 tons of paper per year.
To broaden their reach, La Scala also ensures that they partner with vendors that prioritize recycling and that their ostume designers work with recyclable fabrics. As a result of all these innitiatives, La Scala has joined the Sydney Opera House in Australia as being green-certified. Sydney's Environmental Sustainability Plan, launched in 2010, has resulted in many climate and environmental wins, some of which include saving one million Aussie dollars (US$775,000) in electricity through increased energy efficiency, ensuring large festivals are certified carbon-neutral, and increasing waste recycling and food recycling.
The Sydney Opera House became carbon-neutral three years ago, but they continue to expand their sustainability goals. In the future, they want to recycle more construction materials, become more energy-efficient, and increase their green star rating.
According to the former CEO of Green Building Council Australia, Romilly Madew, “The Sydney Opera House has shown the world that even the most challenging, iconic, and historic buildings can be sustainable… if the Opera House can go green, anything can go green.”
The current movement is not the first time that the lines between art and advocacy have blurred during the pandemic. In June 2020, the Barcelona opera house reopened with a concert for 2,292 plants that were then donated to frontline workers.
"Nature advanced to occupy the spaces we snatched from it," Eugenio Ampudio, the conceptual artist behind the unique concert, told Reuters. "Can we extend our empathy? Let's begin with art and music, in a great theatre, by inviting nature in."
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