The curtain rises andGisèle Croës
the magic unfolds
What is your firs memory of la Monnaie?
Gisèle Croës (gallery owner): My first recollection is very special because it doesn’t take me back to a place in the audience, but to the stage itself. I came here first as a student; when I took on the role of a maid in La bohème to earn some money. As an extra, it was a fantastic experience to get so close to the artists. We really had the time of our lives. It’s safe to say that my passion for opera was ignited then and there. My fascination was sparked on stage and now I love to watch the spectacle from the red seats.
What was the last opera that moved you to tears?
(without a doubt) Orphée and Eurydice. It was such a marvellous spectacle. I have never been more impressed by an opera than that one. Whenever I see a large bed, I’m reminded of that young woman who heard and understood everything but could not answer. This mise-en-scène not only gave a contemporary twist to a classical drama, but it also made it more accessible.
Why is la Monnaie so special to you?
I have been coming here for over sixty years now, so I feel really at home. I have experienced the difficult times; I saw a lot of directors come and go and met a lot of people. The current general and artistic director, Peter de Caluwe, has a revolutionary vision of opera and tries to open the doors of the opera house to more than just the traditional opera audience. La Monnaie also tries to attract a younger audience, which is very important because youngsters really need to become acquainted with classical music and opera.
Is opera really the most refined art form?
Absolutely. In opera, a lot – if not everything – comes together which leads to a transcendent experience. Firstly, the building in itself is magnificent, then you take a seat in the iconic red velvet sofas, eyes fixed on the scene and curtain in front of you. Still closed. But the audience is in full anticipation. And then the amazing moment arrives: the curtain rises, and the magic unfolds. In opera not only your ears but also your eyes and other senses are immersed in the thrilling spectacle. That’s why opera captivates you more than other art forms.
How do you see the role of culture in our society?
Culture is essential. Without culture, spiritual progress is halted. In this respect, the cultural sector has even more to offer than the scientific world: when intellectual and spiritual development are not up to parr, you cannot respond to the challenges of the future. It goes without saying that culture and education complement each other, but without culture people cease to evolve.
Why should young adults visit the opera more frequently than they currently do?
That is at the same time, an important, delicate, and difficult question. Generally speaking, youngsters will get lost in the opera staging because they do not have the means to decipher these types of works. Opera can only be made more accessible by modernising classical pieces. Something la Monnaie often and successfully does. Furthermore, youngsters should be given appropriate information so they understand the performance they will be presented with beforehand.
Of which opera do you never tire?
Each one of Mozart’s operas is a masterpiece. I will never tire of Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro. Especially since I keep discovering new elements, even after watching them multiple times before.
If you were allowed to conserve one opera forever, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose Wagner’s Ring, because it’s an exceptional piece. And also, Così fan tutte, simply because I love it. Sometimes you don’t have to overcomplicate things.