Opera Prize 2022

The Shell Trial
Platform member

Dutch National Opera & Ballet

Crowdfunding Results




The Shell Trial is an immersive contemporary opera piece that dives into the context of a game changing court case in which the oil company Shell was confronted with its legal responsibility for climate change.

About the Project

The Shell Trial is an opera based on the play De zaak Shell, by Rebekka de Wit and Anoek Nuyens, from 2020. This play received numerous five-star reviews, was recognised as both Play and Performance of the Year at the Dutch National Theatre Festival in 2021, and has been sold to HAU Berlin and other international theatres.

The play brings together the different voices and perspectives that are central in the context of the trial: the CEO of Shell, a young activist, the government, a teacher and a consumer. It reveals the complexity of the issues surrounding climate change and at the same time addresses the profound movement of individual and collective responsibility in which we find ourselves.

By radically transforming the play into a contemporary opera, The Shell Trial offers an immersive experience that not only helps audiences understand the topic intellectually, but also takes them on an emotional journey as the distortion of our global systems becomes clearer. The power of the spoken play will also be enhanced, both physically and emotionally, through the use of different musical forms and languages. In short, we will enhance the multi-voiced perspective of the original play through the use of polyphonous and dramatic musical forms.

Our aim is to not only make an opera adaptation of the play, but to challenge the discussion surrounding the climate crisis through the lens of contemporary music theatre. So, in addition to the experience inside the theatre, The Shell Trial will open a collective space for reflective thought and feeling and provide a platform for ongoing dialogue about our shared responsibility.

This approach gives the opportunity to follow up recent developments of the trial and to incorporate a broader context focusing on the relationship between climate change and structural injustice e.g., with regards to colonialism and economic exploitation.

The present case against Shell was won by the NGO Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and supporting individuals. Shell appealed the verdict, and the higher court case will be held in 2024: the year that The Shell Trial will have its world premiere. 

The Shell Trial project will not only follow the general sustainability policy of Dutch National Opera, but will actively seek further opportunities for sustainable creation. In the process of creation the team is constantly aware of their carbon footprint. They will challenge themselves to build up sets and costumes as much as possible from existing or recycled materials. 

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The performance will have a length of 70-80 minutes without intermission and will be written for 6 opera singers, 3 performers, a chorus (children and/or adults) and an orchestra of 30 musicians and electronics.

The project will have its world premiere as part of Dutch National Opera’s Opera Forward Festival (OFF) in March 2024. The context programming during OFF will also provide opportunities for debate and to reach audiences on a broader scale, both online and offline. 

Why should you support us?

Co-producers Gable and Romy Roelofsen were so deeply moved after seeing the stage play De Zaak Shell (The Shell Case), they were determined to turn it into an opera. As an artform that has the power to profoundly impact audiences and to bring people from diverse backgrounds together, their vision was to stage this production during Dutch National Opera’s Opera Forward Festival. In this way they hope to start the conversation about the climate crisis and the responsibility we all share for the current and future health of our planet.

With your donation, we can ensure this production reaches the stage, impacts audiences and contributes to a desperately needed dialogue within our society. Support us today and help us start, and continue, the conversation. 

If you have difficulties donating or if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to steun@operaballet.nl

Who are we?

Produced by Dutch National Opera, The Shell Trail is developed and co-produced by the Dutch music theatre company Het Geluid Maastricht.

The opera will be created by the 2019 American Pulitzer prize-winning composer Ellen Reid to a libretto from Roxie Perkins.

Gable Roelofsen and Romy Roelofsen, founders of Het Geluid, will be responsible for the concept, the development and stage direction. In 2016 Het Geluid received the Berliner Opernpreis.

Queer conductor and theatre maker Manoj Kamps, who debuted at Dutch National Opera in 2020, will co-create and conduct the piece.

The American soprano Julia Bullock will co-create and perform in this production. Musical America described Julia as “an agent of change”, naming her their Artist of the Year 2021.

Ellen Reid

Ellen Reid


Roxie Perkins (she/her)

Roxie Perkins


Gable Roelofsen - photo credits Jonathan Vos

Gable Roelofsen

Stage Director

Romy Roelofsen_Felix Baumsteiger

Romy Roelofsen

Stage Director


Manoj Kamps

Musical direction an co-creation


Julia Bullock

Vocalist and co-creation


Het Geluid Maastricht

Het Geluid Maastricht



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