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La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT



Sébastien Herbecq & Marie Mergeay
Reading time
6 min.

Forty years after the revolution… What has become of its ideals? Read the story of Nostalgia, the second part of our new Verdi diptych, based on the highlights of his first fifteen operas.


Donatella is an exuberant gallery owner. She prides herself on having a nose for young talent and loves to surround herself with up-and-coming artists.

Carlo, a former port worker, has come far. With the help of influential contacts, he is now a successful entrepreneur in the boxing world. But something from the past still eats away at his conscience. He is not in a permanent relationship.

Giuseppe is a former politician turned self-declared spiritual guide. He enjoys life and surrounds himself with young people he can counsel.

Lorenzo is a rather withdrawn figure. He is a jazz pianist and lives for music.

Virginia is Cristina’s daughter. She is studying visual anthropology at university. She doesn’t know who her father is; her late mother never told her. After her mother’s death, she came into possession of a box containing unpublished visual material along with interviews dating from 1968. She decides to use them in a documentary.

Cristina was one of Carlo, Giuseppe and Lorenzo’s group of friends in the late 1960s. She died a few years ago, leaving her possessions to her only daughter.

Icilio is a highly committed political artist with a promising career ahead of him. He is Virginia’s boyfriend and one of Donatella’s protégés. He is working on a monumental sculpture titled ‘The 1968 barricade’.

PROLOGUE – opening of a new art exhibition

Donatella and two of her protégés are preparing a private view at her gallery. It is a double exhibition, consisting of the first screening of Virginia’s documentary and the unveiling of a sculpture designed by Icilio, who holds strong views about how our memory shapes the past. He believes art must be activist, particularly within a capitalist frame.

While working on her documentary, Virginia believes she has discovered who her biological father might be. She has invited her mother’s former friends, Carlo, Lorenzo and Giuseppe, to the private view. These friends have not seen each other for years, but Virginia hopes that by bringing them together, she will be able to wind up the search for her father. For his part, Icilio hopes to open the guests’ eyes to their neo-capitalist illusions.

Donatella (Helena Dix)
Donatella (Helena Dix) © Simon Van Rompay

Donatella toasts the arrival of the guests. The nostalgic atmosphere of the evening prompts Carlo, Giuseppe and Lorenzo to recount their versions of their shared past.

ACT ONE – Carlo’s confession

Carlo, Giuseppe and Lorenzo have arrived at the gallery. Icilio, whose sculpture has just been unveiled, has increasing misgivings about his bourgeois clients, who embrace capitalism. He feels trapped. Lorenzo goes and sits at the piano and starts playing ‘Viva Italia’, a protest song, which Carlo and Giuseppe recognize immediately as the anthem they sang at the demonstrations by students and workers at the end of the 60s. Youthful memories surface.

Carlo thinks of Laura, an extremely radical activist with whom he was having an affair at the time. He is suddenly overcome by a terrible sense of guilt at not having been able to prevent the young woman’s radicalization because he had just made a pact with the Chief of Police (Laura’s father), banning him from any further contact with her. In exchange, Carlo received a large sum of money, which enabled him to build a brilliant career for himself in the business world. Now, however, he has regrets. Giuseppe, who joined the police force during that time, blames Carlo and reproaches him for the revolutionary ideas he held, which proved to be the ruination of his family. His sister Laura died in suspicious circumstances, for which he holds Carlo responsible: she is believed to have carried out an attack in the office of her father, who also lost his life there.

ACT TWO – Giuseppe’s confession

To break the tension, Donatella strikes up a song about a girl searching for her mother. The theme immediately touches a nerve with Carlo, who notices Virginia’s close resemblance to Cristina (with whom he had a relationship in his youth) and begins to wonder if Virginia could be his daughter. The young woman also makes the connection and recognizes her father in Carlo.
Giuseppe swears revenge upon Carlo. The former policeman is disturbed by visions of his father, which conjure up painful memories of his relationship with him.

ACT THREE – Carlo is lost in his memories

Gallery owner Donatella breaks into another song, this time on the morbid theme of a blood stain that will not wash off, and she performs a scene of madness, which could have been that of a character from Shakespeare. Carlo is distraught: his thoughts turn to Laura, who he never stopped loving. He is tormented by a vision of the terrorist suicide attack she committed forty years earlier. Sensing Carlo’s distress, Donatella asks him why he seems so preoccupied. Carlo is very agitated and thinks he sees Laura. Donatella tries to restore calm by offering a toast, but Carlo’s madness only increases. He cannot shake off the visions and remains consumed by guilt.

EPILOGUE – Laura’s presence

In the middle of the barricade, Laura’s spirit plays the violin, reviving the various ‘memories’ of the revolution in a last battle song. Carlo, Giuseppe and Lorenzo try to exit the gallery. All three feel responsible for Laura’s death. Carlo thinks that Laura committed suicide because he had rejected her. Giuseppe believes he killed her unintentionally by trying to prevent a terrorist attack on their father. And Lorenzo holds himself responsible for Laura’s radicalization and role in terrorism, which culminated in the attack on the Chief of Police.

Translation: Alison Mouthaan