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La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

La Monnaie's 2022-23 season

Introduced by Peter de Caluwe

Peter de Caluwe
Reading time
9 min.

Biting Russian satire and glowing romance. Surprising new productions and long-awaited projects that can finally be premiered. The continuation of the symphonic jubilee concerts, but also of our Troika Dance programme. Behold the imaginative and polychrome 2022-23 season of La Monnaie, presented by its General and Artistic Director Peter de Caluwe.

These are not the best of times for the cultural sector. And yet we are proud to announce a new season that we wish to present to you in bright colours. The playful drawings and skittish design of our annual brochure are bound to catch your eye in these drab times. They add a dash of fantasy to everyday seriousness. A much-needed dose of surrealism in a rather disenchanting reality – as a Belgian art institution, surrealism naturally fits us like a glove.

Surreal. When people ask me how we have experienced the past two seasons, that is invariably the term I give them. While in this very brochure last year I was still cautiously optimistic about the further course of the pandemic, today reality has caught up with us. The gates of the phantom realm of freedom remain closed all too often, as did the doors of our theatre. In the past few months, we have been yo-yoing from show to show and sadly also from closure to closure. At times we felt like a powerless plaything, tossed about by the waves of the corona pandemic. We were lulled with indecision. Understandable, necessary measures degenerated into incomprehensible decisions. To paraphrase the supreme surrealist painter: Ceci n’est pas une politique culturelle.

‘Time has no time to wait,
it wants to be redeemed.’
Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Nevertheless, I believe that our response to the past annus horribilis should not be one of bitterness and cynicism. More than ever, we need to steel our minds so as not to become used to our own insignificance and our incapacity to influence the bigger picture.

What better way to achieve this than by going back to the purpose of our institution: the opera as a place of wonder and enchantment, fascination and intrigue, creativity and dreaming. But also a place of confrontation – with ourselves, our history, our ancestors who, although in different contexts, often had the same emotions and discussions as we have today. The result is a polychrome programme, a multicoloured alternative to the increasingly prevalent black-and-white thinking that is becoming so normalized at all levels of our society.

Of course, it is not our intention to lapse into superficial entertainment. Light-heartedness and fantasy need not equate to a lack of content. I return once more to the surrealists. For indeed, do the paintings of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, or the sculptures of Joan Miró and Jean Arp, despite their absurdist symbolism, their exquisite use of colour and their soft interplay of lines, not tell us something fundamental about the capriciousness of the human psyche? This is also our ambition in the present programme: to offer, on the basis of playfulness, universal reflections on our society and on what it means to be human.

Wie du warst! Wie du bist!

You may recognize some of the projects in the 2022-23 season from earlier brochures. These are all productions that were announced to you before but were as yet unable to bring to the stage due to the pandemic. We are pleased to be able to show you these productions in which so much has already been invested. The costumes are ready, the sets have been built ... We are only waiting for
the moment to honour the contracts we have concluded with musicians, singers, directors and other artists.

Driven by this ambition, we will resume the rehearsals of Bastarda next season. This remake of Gaetano Donizetti’s four Tudor operas – Elisabetta al castello di Kenilworth, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux – was originally scheduled for the spring of 2021, but the health measures in place at the time made it impossible to present this mega project with the necessary aspiration. What you will see and hear is not the classical tetralogy but a brand-new creation. A cut and rearranged version of the four operas, reassembled by director Olivier Fredj and conductor Francesco Lanzillotta into a fascinating stage biopic of Elizabeth I. The artistic team has remained largely intact and the singers of this two-day event are all bel canto singers from our La Monnaie family.

As was the case in 2020, we are again pairing this Tudor spectacle with Camille Saint-Saëns’s grand opera Henry VIII. The connection is so clear in terms of content that we want to retain it for the season 2022-23. After Les Huguenots (Giacomo Meyerbeer), Hamlet (Ambroise Thomas) and Dialogues des Carmélites (Francis Poulenc), director Olivier Py is once more throwing himself into the grand French oeuvre and, for this new production, is working with Alain Altinoglu. The impressive tableaux that he has had drawn by his faithful partner Pierre-André Weitz are bursting with imagination and thus fit perfectly into our season’s philosophy.

Der Rosenkavalier
Der Rosenkavalier

You may also remember Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier as a project from a previous season. With a two-year delay, we can now bring this neoclassical masterpiece to the stage. Through the eyes of director Damiano Michieletto and our music director Alain Altinoglu we look at the enigma of time, as we march steadily towards our own mortality. In a mise en scène sweetened with Sachertorte, he has the Feldmarschallin meditate on her age while she literally tries to stop the passage of time in a setting full of ticking clocks. Given all the care and attention we have shown towards the elderly over the past two years, perhaps the theme of old age is more topical today than it was then.

‘Dearer to me than a host of base truths’
is the illusion that exalts.’
Alexander Pushkin

Ukrainian artists working along Russian artists

A two-year delay also produces interesting developments in terms of the end result. Consider our production of Tchaikovsky’s Pikovaya Dama (The Queen of Spades). Director David Marton originally planned to set Alexander Pushkin’s story during the Russian perestroika era, but the extra years of maturation revealed striking parallels to him between the evolutions of the 1980s and the current socio-economic turmoil. The decision to deliberately place the work in the present gives a refreshing, contemporary impulse to his interpretation. We are also looking forward to Nathalie Stutzmann’s debut as conductor at La Monnaie!

It is not really our habit – nor was it our intention – to present two operas by the same composer in the same season. But having been compelled to reshuffle our programme like a deck of cards, we have an unforeseen Tchaikovsky double bill with our January production of Yevgeny Onegin. Both The Queen of Spades and Onegin take as their starting point the poetic language of the Russian master storyteller Alexander Pushkin. An author who paints with words, sentences and verses. Someone who sketches fabulous fairy-tale worlds in Cyrillic – fairy-tales we have already performed with success at La Monnaie with, among others, The Tale of Tsar Saltan and The Golden Cockerel. And just as with the latter production, it is once more the French director Laurent Pelly who, together with our music director, can project his dream-like theatrical language onto the work.

‘Perfect nonsense goes on in the world.
Sometimes there is no plausibility at all’
Nikolai Gogol

Dmitri Shostakovich’s satirical debut opera Nos (The Nose) completes the Russian arc that spans the season as a whole. It is a production that underlines our ambition as a pan-European opera house. For this co-production with the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen will have its premiere in this city in Danish. We will then present the performance in Russian while our new Onegin will travel to Denmark at the same time. The Nose will be directed by Àlex Ollé, who, drawing on his background as a street theatre-maker with La Fura dels Baus, opens up disruptive and impressive registers. Like you, I am curious to see how he will bring the protagonist of this opera – the gargantuan olfactory organ of a Soviet officer – to the stage.

House of Creations

But where our ambition to be frisky, playful and light-hearted is most apparent is in our annual commission, the creation of On purge bébé by Philippe Boesmans. Although our house composer has had to cope with many setbacks in recent years, he has never lost his infectious smile. Just like Giuseppe Verdi with Falstaff, Boesmans wanted to conclude his opera career with a comedy, although nothing says that this absurd comedy will be his last work! Together with director- librettist Richard Brunel, he draws on Georges Feydeau’s vaudeville theatre. This is the first time that Feydeau’s oeuvre has been used as the basis for an opera score. The work is full of linguistic tricks, scatological pranks and borderline role-playing humour. Boesmans’ music is lively and uptempo, with numerous musical references supprimer hidden in his score, allusions to his many illustrious predecessors. Beneath the apparent coarseness and liveliness, however, there is also an underlying psychological drama about the role of upbringing and the impact of helicopter parenting.

Young people will not be forgotten: Solar, a new world creation by composer Howard Moody, who wrote the magnificent Community Project Sindbad, A Journey through Living Flames for La Monnaie in 2014, is aimed specifically at them, through an ‘environmental opera’ that creates a direct artistic link with our environmentally responsible Green Opera project.

Concert, recital, dance

Of course, we are also committed to the other pillars of our house: symphonic work, intimate lied evenings, and dance performances that tickle the senses.

In our concert series, co-presented with Bozar, we celebrate the 250th jubilee of La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra. After Sylvain Cambreling’s concert in the spring, in the autumn we will welcome two other former music directors, Kazushi Ono and Sir Antonio Pappano. Of course, our current music director Alain Altinoglu will also pick up the baton to celebrate his orchestra. Of particular note is the opening concert in September, for which we commissioned the Belgian composer Harold Noben to write a new work. It will be an intriguing concerto for orchestra that will beautifully showcase our various soloists. After the New Year, when the last birthday candles have been blown out, our focus will shift – in parallel with our opera programme – to the colourful Russian symphonic repertoire with, among others, a striking performance of Reinhold Glière's Symphony No.3 in a massive line-up and in synergy with our federal partners Bozar and BNO (we are even proposing a joint season ticket for productions by the three institutions).

In the recital series, we present, in accordance with time-honoured tradition, soloists you know from our opera stage, but whom we also want you to discover in a more intimate setting. And in our dance programme, thanks to our cross-community Troika partnership with the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) and the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles, we will continue to unite the country’s best choreographers in a variegated offering.

It is my wish that the season 2022-23 will stimulate and fascinate you. But above all, I hope that this colourful brochure, with its equally colourful programme, will be a beacon of light. A ray of hope in these grey times that we are going through. We want to use our skills not only to move and inspire you, but also to immerse you in beauty and to let you enjoy it, carefree, if only for a moment. In order to enchant you once again with the magic of opera and music, art and culture. Hopefully our doors will remain open for a whole year!

Peter de Caluwe
General & Artistic Director