Opera Prize 2022

The Shell Trial
Platform member

Dutch National Opera & Ballet

The Shell Trial with text
The Shell Trial is an immersive music theatre 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.


The Shell Trial is an opera based on the play De Zaak Shell, written by Rebekka de Wit and Anoek Nuyens in 2020. The play brings together the different voices that are central in the context of the trial: the CEO of Shell, of a young activist, of the government, of a teacher, and of a consumer. The play reveals the complexity and multifaceted character of the fundamental issue of climate change and its relation to our individual and collective responsibility. It pleads for accountability, on all levels and for every party and invites us to reflect on our own actions and our daily decisions and how they impact on the world and the collective. It sheds light on the profound crisis of responsibility in which we find ourselves.

Transposed to the world of music drama this piece will move beyond the cerebral talk about responsibility into the space of emotional accountability. By radically transforming the play into the form of a contemporary oratorio, we aim at an immersive experience that not only helps us to understand the topic in a discursive way, but also to make us feel the distortion of our systems that is at hand. The rhetorical power of the spoken play will be turned into a physical and emotional experience.

The work 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.

It will be created by the American Pulitzer prizewinning composer Ellen Reid on a libretto from Roxie Perkins, in close collaboration with the team of the Dutch music theatre company Het Geluid. Gable and Romy Roelofsen, founders of Het Geluid, will be responsible for the concept, the development and stage direction. Queer conductor and theatre maker Manoj Kamps will co-create and conduct the piece. The American soprano Julia Bullock will be a creating singer on this production.

Artistic Team

The work will be composed by Ellen Reid who won the Pulitzer Prize for music for her opera Prism in 2019. The librettist of Prism, Roxie Perkins, will be part of the team led by Het Geluid that will develop the libretto in order to reimagine the theatre play for the Opera Forward Festival 2024 of Dutch National Opera. Prism was Roxie Perkins’ first opera. Siblings Gable and Romy Roelofsen, founders of Het Geluid, received for their former work both the Royal Prince Bernhard Inspiration Prize, as well as the Berliner Opernpreis. American soprano Julia Bullock has, in her early 30s, already headlined productions and concerts at some of the most preeminent arts institutions worldwide (a.o. the leading soprano rols in John Adams, Girls of the Golden West, Upload by Michel van der Aa at Dutch National Opera, Bregenz Festival, Oper Köln, Park Avenue Armory New York). She has been hailed as an ‘impressive, fast-rising soprano(...) poised for a significant career’ by The New York Times. As a creative artist, Julia Bullock develops her own projects such as Perle Noire with Peter Sellars and Tawshon Tyshawn Sorey. Bullock will not only be singing in the opera, she will also co-create the piece. Queer conductor and theatre maker Manoj Kamps who, in addition to besides conducting orchestras/ensembles like such as Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, Netherlands Philharmonic and Asko|Schönberg Ensemble, is also making a career as a creator of new opera and music theatre, will be co-creatinge and conducting the piece. Manoj made their co-creation/ conducting debut at Dutch National Opera with FAUST [working title] and has recently co-created I have missed you forever at Dutch National Opera.

Co-producing Partners

Het Geluid Maastricht



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