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Dare to Feel

Peter de Caluwe presents the 24/25 season

Reading time
7 min.

Audentes fortuna iuvat – ‘Fortune favours the bold’. This motto, found in many ancient philosophical texts, tells us that we, as human beings, have the ability to direct our destiny, if only we dare to take matters into our own hands. While the previous season of La Monnaie explored the invisible forces that seem to preordain the course of our lives, the 2024-25 season programme radiates above all hope – the hope of being free, of being accountable and of having an impact on our society.

In a world consumed by forest fires and melting glaciers, art can make a difference by countering passive consumerism with active possibilism. DARE is the key verb of our new season, a call to question the status quo, free ourselves of straitjackets and break with traditions that stand in the way of progress. DARE is not an injunction, but rather an invitation to participation: to make theatre is to dare to challenge established orthodoxies; to experience culture is to dare to change your world view.

By opening the season with Siegfried – an iconic opera character who, free as a bird, takes on the most heroic challenges and fearlessly shatters the hegemony of the gods –, we wish to evoke in a very direct way what human resolve is capable of. The completion of our new production of Wagner’s Ring will provide another fine example of this determination.
Created as a cycle, this total work of art shows how seemingly unassailable power structures can crumble, resulting in the complete collapse of the world order. drives theatre itself to seek out its limits. But while death, betrayal and destruction prevail in Götterdämmerung, its very last notes – the ‘redemption through love’ motif that Sieglinde sang in Die Walküre already – leaves room for the hope that something new is going to blossom.

Rethinking ossified structures in order to create something new is also the starting point of I Grotteschi, a remix project that fuses the music and storylines of Claudio Monteverdi’s three surviving operas: L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea into a two-part opera project. We distilled a number of ‘grotesques’ from these masterpieces: composite characters created on the basis of their mythological, divine and historical counterparts and who, thanks to this ‘multiplicity’, are not afraid to change masks occasionally. Director Rafael R. Villalobos’s retelling – an account of an intriguing power struggle within a family empire – will crown a formula we have already tested successfully over three seasons on the work of such grandmasters as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi. This season, with a new musical dramaturgy by conductor Leonardo García Alarcón, we will propose a creation based on the composer who ushered in the opera genre. Another cycle coming full circle...

From the emergence of opera to the birth of something new: in my last season at La Monnaie, we will demonstrate once again that we are a house of creation. For the commission Fanny and Alexander, we turn to Ingmar Bergman’s iconic film, a gripping semi-autobiographical chronicle. When the loving family atmosphere suddenly darkens after the father’s death, the children can only find shelter in their imagination. A production tailored to director Ivo van Hove, who has already brought the Swedish film-maker’s oeuvre to the theatre several times and brilliantly straddles the thin line between fantasy and reality. La Monnaie commissioned composer Mikael Karlsson and librettist Royce Vavrek to produce this world creation, which will be conducted by Ariane Mathiak. It promises a gripping end-of-year production with a touch of magical realism.

The healing, unifying power of art is also central to Richard Powers’ novel The Time of Our Singing. Set against a backdrop of segregation in the US in the twentieth century, the operatic adaptation tells the story of the Jewish-Black Strom family as it is increasingly torn apart politically, religiously and musically. And yet belief in an inclusive society does not waver, in part thanks to the polyphony on which both the libretto of Peter van Kraaij and the music of composer Kris Defoort are based. The score of this creation blends influences ranging from rap, R&B and soul to jazz and baroque music. Kwamé Ryan will remain at the musical helm for the rerun of this successful production, while Ted Huffmann will again direct a work that raises questions not only about identity, but also about the role of art in society.

It is a wonder why some classic works of literature have not yet been adapted for the opera. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, in which a young woman dares to throw off the suffocating corset of her bourgeois life to escape her empty existence, was one such work – until now. Commissioned by La Monnaie, composer Harold Noben has taken up the challenge of setting this nineteenth-century cult novel to music, in collaboration with librettist and director Michael De Cock, who already staged a theatrical adaptation of it. Thanks to the Troika partnership – KVS, Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles and La Monnaie –, Bovary will now also find its way to the opera stage.

We conclude the lyrical season the way we started it, with a well-known daredevil. Carmen stands as a symbol of female emancipation in a world dominated by male fantasies. Director Dmitri Tcherniakov has come up with a particularly relevant reading of this mythical opera: far from sunny Seville with its tobacco-smoking bohemians and other clichés, Tcherniakov sets the plot in an original frame narrative. The setting is a psychoanalytic institution where Carmen is being put on as a therapeutic experiment, an immersive role play for emotionally disillusioned adults. This highly contemporary interpretation dares to question a superficial society in which our desires grow ever wilder and grander while our emotions grow ever cooler and more distant. Tcherniakov’s musical companion will be none other than conductor Nathalie Stutzmann who, after the success of The Queen of Spades, will guide our Symphony Orchestra through the score with her usual passion.

That same orchestra, led by its music director Alain Altinoglu, will dive into a rich concert programme. Together with the La Monnaie Chorus, it will pull out all the stops for Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem as for Gustav Mahler’s large-scale Symphony No. 8, for which they will join forces with the Belgian National Orchestra. His Symphony No.3 will complete the joint Mahler cycle of La Monnaie, BNO and Bozar with a stately final chord. Big is beautiful, but less is also more: the first symphonic programme will indeed echo the chamber music our musicians excel at every Friday lunchtime during the Concertini. With the Siegfried-Idyll, a handful of strings and winds will perform several musical themes from the third part of the Ring in an intimate setting, together with the Chamber Symphony No.1 of the young Arnold Schönberg and the compelling Histoire du soldat of Igor Stravinsky. For this year’s family concert, we chose Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye, while the New Year will be ushered in with some splendid Walzer. The concert season will conclude with a marathon concert featuring overtures and choruses but above all Mozart’s Konzertarien, for me the only possible choice of composer to end my tenure at La Monnaie.

Our Vocalissimo series will highlight the voice through a series of concerts by soloists and our various choruses – not forgetting the Children’s and Youth Choruses and our Cassandra Choir! Besides grand concert works by Verdi and Mahler, this vocal programme will include Gioachino Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle. As usual, we will present recitals linked thematically to our opera programme as well as more traditional song evenings with La Monnaie favorites. In collaboration with our federal partner Bozar, we will also have a number of vocal baroque concerts performed by specialized orchestras and choruses.

Of course, we also have our young audience members in mind. The musical fairy tale Goud! / Le garçon et le poisson magique, the family concert Ma mère l’Oye and many other activities allow us to introduce children, families, schools and students to our house. We also remain committed to the artists of tomorrow: the MM Academy and the Children’s and Youth Choruses occupy an important part of the programme. With projects like the Cassandra Choir and the Raising Voices Festival, this time dedicated to The Time of Our Singing, we want to once again emphasize our social commitment, which won two awards last season. ‘A Bridge Between Two Worlds’ – which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! – earned an International Opera Award for ‘Equal Opportunities & Impact’, and our sustainability policy an Oper Award! for ‘Best Future Project’. A great incentive to put extra effort into economic, social and environmental sustainability this season too.

For the fifth consecutive season, together with our cultural partners in Brussels, Troika Dance will offer a kaleidoscopic dance programme. Established names such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Rosalba Torres, Moya Michael and Blanca Li as well as new emerging talent will appear in no fewer than eighteen dance productions, almost half of which will be creations! With a nod to our Monteverdi project, here too there will be a strong emphasis on the early repertoire, with dance adaptations and crossover performances that take baroque music as their starting point. The Troika Card will make this dance offer accessible to a wide and diverse audience.

Breaking down boundaries, facing what seems different, seeking connection: it is all a matter of daring and doing. Belief in that human resolve also permeates our season campaign. While last year we had an AI machine generate images, this year we called on Antonin Waterkeyn, an artist who involves AI in his creative process. It is hard to imagine a better image of our relation to this new technology: by continuing to engage with it while at the same time reserving a greater role for the human curator, we are again making room for artistic authenticity and autonomy. As such, we are returning to what keeps the FATE and DARE axis in balance: the courage to face that destiny, while also investing fully in the human emotion needed to keep having an impact.

Dare to feel – perhaps that is what the experience of art invites us to do.

Peter de Caluwe
General and Artistic Director