Through cultural expression we seek connection with something that transcends usCharles Peugeot
What is your firs memory of la Monnaie?
Charles Peugeot (CEO DS BeLux): I had only just arrived in Belgium - to launch DS Automobiles here - when a mutual friend of Peter de Caluwe and myself surprised me with a visit to la Monnaie. I attended a recital by Christianne Stotijn and afterwards Peter showed me around backstage, where at the time the set for Bluebeards Castle was being assembled. I was already in awe by the work performed in the studio and the dinner with Peter, Stotijn and the team were a perfect ending to a memorable day.
What was the last opera or concert that moved you to tears?
Without a doubt Mozart’s Requiem, the performance I saw in Salzburg. It takes my breath away and moves me on many levels. I will always remember that version.
Did you ever sing in a choir or play a musical instrument?
I love to sing, but I wasn’t quite good enough to join a choir. I strummed the guitar for a while too, but not with great success. I was lucky that my parents introduced me to different music genres at a young age. It made me appreciate different types of music.
Why is la Monnaie so special to you?
I admire la Monnaie’s progressive approach. I would describe the courageous choices as avant-garde. The fact that the costumes are also made in-house is an undeniable advantage. These two elements combined contribute to la Monnaie’s renowned international reputation.
Why is (or isn’t) opera the most refined art form?
Every time I’m struck by the connection you feel in the opera. The moment is shared intensely by both the artists and the audience. You just feel a deep respect for the artists and along with them you strive to uncover for the message they are trying to convey. Opera isn’t just a treat to the ears, it marvels all senses, and ensures everyone can enjoy the experience in a personal way. That’s also why both novices as well as connoisseurs are able to enjoy the better operas.
Why should young adults visit the opera more frequently than they currently do?
If young adults would give opera a chance, I’m convinced they would be pleasantly surprised. After all, the artform is in some ways similar to the better Netflix movie. I’m sure young adults would be excited to discover watching opera can be just as thrilling as watching a film. For two hours, you sit in suspense and marvel at a compelling story that, at best, also makes you reflect. Being open to that surprise is the first step.
How do you see the role of culture in our society?
Culture is not only a fundamental part of our society, but also the essence of what makes us human. Through cultural expression we seek connection with something greater, something that transcends us. Culture unites, culture surprises and it inspires us to discover. Culture elevates us and casts a nuanced view on society. Moreover, culture allows you to participate in society in a slightly different way and invites you to express your own view on it. Not all artforms have the same reach, but they all offer the opportunity to respond to societal changes. Much more than fleeting reactions on social media, culture is a reaction that defines us as human beings. It is perhaps the only tangible element we leave behind for those who come after us.
What is your favourite spot in la Monnaie?
The stage. Careful observers will notice that the entire building was constructed around the stage. Everything is dedicated to the stage. There are rooms for the spectators to meet, and rooms for the performers to retreat, but on stage the performers step into the spotlight and that’s where the magic happens.
If you were allowed to conserve one opera forever, which one would you choose and why?
I would pick Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, because it’s a very popular opera. If I could only conserve one, I’d pick one that appeals to as large an audience as possible. And Die Zauberflöte is an opera that speaks to all age groups.
If you would be asked to play a role in an opera, which one would you pick?
If I could really pick any role, I would definitely choose the role of Siegfried in Wagner’s opera with the same name. Just so I could be part of a great adventure.