La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

A new architecture for the season

Peter de Caluwe presents the 2019–20 season

Peter de Caluwe

It is with pride and conviction that I present to you the first season of my third mandate at La Monnaie. As represented in this brochure, it reflects an important evolution: for the first time, we did not elaborate around a specific season theme, but rather around a new ‘architecture’, which can serve as a blueprint for the seasons to come. This new structure will allow us to give creation and experimentation every chance, and at the same time we will ensure that this turn towards the future is not synonymous with discontinuity. We will keep offering you projects of the very highest level, with in 2019–20 no fewer than eleven opera titles. This is a record, but also, given the number of new productions, a huge challenge for all the departments and staff members of our house.

In the night we saw voices.
Lady Macbeth (Macbeth Underworld, scene 2)

The season opening is a clear and unambiguous statement: we launch each season with not one, but two world premieres! A powerful antidote to the cultural pessimism that conceals itself behind the adoration of the Great Repertoire from the past. Whoever really believes in this art form must also open up their house to the leading composers and librettists of the day and challenge the new generation. That is precisely what we wish to do with two commissions presented in parallel: an opera by a renowned composer and an opera debut by an emerging talent.

Macbeth Underworld is a title that addresses instinctively the darker half of our imagination. This third La Monnaie commission for the French composer Pascal Dusapin will be a nightmarish opera full of sound and fury in which, rather than Macbeth the man of power, Macbeth the mystery will emerge from the shadows. Fortunately, our two guides in this macabre realm of spirits are reliable: our Music Director Alain Altinoglu and the French Shakespeare prodigy Thomas Jolly. The same holds for Georg Nigl and Magdalena Kožená, who take on the roles of the diabolical couple.

© Charlotte Chauvin

What is suggested rather than described is also a central theme in Le Silence des ombres. Benjamin Attahir, the figurehead of the new generation of French composers, will set Maurice Maeterlinck’s Trois petits drames pour marionnettes to music. In all their suggestiveness and compactness, these pieces lend themselves perfectly to an opera adaptation. Together with writer-director Oliver Lexa, a debuting team of designers and a cast of young singers and musicians, Attahir will conjure a world in which a lot remains unsaid and unseen, but not unsung for all that.

Facciamo qualche altra esperienza.
Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte, set 2, scene 9)

A second pillar of this architecture will take shape in the Herculean opera project at the start of spring, when a number of related pieces will be combined into a single project following a unifing dramaturgy. The Trilogia Mozart Da Ponte is in that sense more than the sum of the three masterpieces that grew out of Mozart’s collaboration with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni will all be set in one and the same place and on one and the same day: the apartment building around the corner from you, one of the folli giornate that turns our lives upside down. We focus on the timeless emotions in these pieces, and those elements that confirm us time and again in our condition humaine, including our little flaws. All three operas, conducted alternately by Antonello Manacorda and Ben Glassberg, will be performed in full and are entirely independent, but only in interaction with one another will they give away more secrets. We trust that the minutely elaborated dramaturgy of the directing collective Clarac-Delœuil > le lab will offer you, night after night, a deeper insight into the parallels between the characters and themes of these works, and will draw attention to their revolutionary aspects.

© Charlotte Chauvin

In the month preceding this trilogy, young opera-goers can get intimately acquainted with Mozart’s undisputed classics via Tom Goossens’ music-theatre adaptations. Don Juan and Così won over the audiences of Theater aan Zee and will be reprised this year at the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles and KVS. La Monnaie has invited the young Belgian theatre-maker to complete his trilogia with Le Nozze.

Mes voix qui s’étaient tues, les voilà de nouveau qui parlent !
Jeanne (Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, scene 7)

Beyond these two centres of gravity, the rest of this season’s opera programme will also offer a number of classics and rare works. To begin with, there will be the autumn diptych around the iconic figure of Jeanne d’Arc, complemented with the family performance Sterke Vrouwen (Strong Women).

Few of the twenty-six operas that Verdi composed are still waiting for their La Monnaie premiere, but Giovanna d’Arco is one of them. Rich in sensations, this dramma lirico does, it’s true, take certain liberties with historical facts, but only for the benefit of the dramatic construction and the music. Giuliano Carella will conduct this all too rarely performed work in concert version with soprano Salome Jicia in the lead as Jeanne, flag-bearer of bel canto singing.

A lot more fragile and spiritual is the virgin in Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, the mystère lyrique created by Arthur Honegger and Paul Claudel in 1935. The French writer, a fervent Catholic, is supposed to have abandoned his initial doubts about this project after a vision he had on a train journey to Brussels. Whether this is a symbolic anecdote or not, the result is undeniably visionary: a feverish dream of song and speaking voice, which can equally rightly be called opera, oratorio, mystery play and antique drama. We will present the acclaimed production of the Italian stage philosopher Romeo Castellucci, with the exceptional actress Audrey Bonnet in the lead role. For the first time since 2008, Kazushi Ono will once again conduct an opera in the house where he was Music Director for six years.

© Charlotte Chauvin

In spite of what the title, the composer and the time of the performance might suggest, Les Contes d’Hoffmann is not quite an enchanting end-of-year operetta with a satirical aftertaste. In the last years of his life, Jacques Offenbach gave his all to be included in the pantheon of ‘true opera composers’ with this highly imaginative and disquieting portrait of the German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Offenbach would only achieve his goal posthumously, since he died before the premiere and long before the work entered the canon of opera classics. Patricia Petibon and Nicole Chevalier perform alternately the four soprano parts: ‘three women in the same woman’. They will not only be an inspiring muse to the unfortunate Hoffmann – Eric Cutler and Enea Scala, portrayed in this production as a film-maker in distress – but also to conductor Alain Altinoglu and director Krzysztof Warlikowki.

The latter must be familiar with the work of his fellow countryman Stanisław Moniuszko. Today, this ‘father of Polish opera’ is still insufficiently known, certainly in the West, but 2019, the year of his bicentenary, might bring some change to this situation. La Monnaie is in any case turning a spotlight on him with Moniuszko à Paris, a new chamber opera by Andrzej Kwieciński – do expect true operetta style this time! A production in collaboration with Teatr Wielki Warschau and the young talents of ENOA, the European Network of Opera Academies.

The two last operas of the season will, each in their own way, centre around dreams, longing and illusion. With Herman, the lead character in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, this soon deteriorates into an obsessive compulsion, which conductor Nathalie Stutzmann will try to extract from each note of this feverish score. In Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, by contrast, even the most bitter moments in the Marschallin’s farewell to her youth and love dream are given a sweet little edge, and Alain Altinoglu can waltz his orchestra through some of the most elegant pages of twentieth-century music. Both operas demand convincing acting performances and will be regally served by the in-depth Personenregie of, respectively, David Marton and Damiano Michieletto. In both productions we look forward to the role debuts of some La Monnaie favourites: Anne Sofie von Otter as the Countess, Sally Matthews as the Marschallin and Michèle Losier in the role of Octavian.

© Charlotte Chauvin

That Strauss and Tchaikovsky are giants in the symphonic field was clear from the growing sense of vertigo felt when composing our concert programme: what to choose? Or rather, what pieces not to put on? Music Director Alain Altinoglu ultimately managed to make a selection and this season will conduct his personal best-of of both composers, alongside, among others, an all-American New Year’s programme and contemporary compositions. Our symphonic collaboration with our federal partners BOZAR and the Belgian National Orchestra continues with a new edition of United Music of Brussels, a joint closing concert with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and a strong focus on composer Pascal Dusapin.

Furthermore, we remain one of the few Belgian venues to actively defend the art of the lied with a rich offer of recitals. Seven lied evenings (including a new staged production) will offer you international lied experts who will immerse themselves for you in the sung poetry of famous and forgotten composers and who will refer in their programmes to the opera or concert bills of the day. On top of that, our Friday lunchtime Concertini will also present a special series of chamber music concerts with soloists from the Trilogia Mozart Da Ponte.

Und an mein Herz drück’ fest dein Herz, dann schlagen zusammen die Flammen!
Dichterliebe, Robert Schumann – Heinrich Heine

As the last major pillar of my third mandate in this federal institution, it is my desire to look even more beyond the divisive community borders and to pursue a responsible environmental policy.

With the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles and KVS, the cultural venues of the French-speaking and the Flemish Community in Brussels, we have developed a common co-production and co-presentation policy, which we are presenting under a new name: Troika. The underlying idea is simple: to celebrate, in the heart of Brussels, Belgium’s plural and multilingual identity by inviting the public to go and discover the other houses, across institutional borders, and to get acquainted with the work of familiar and new artists. This season, the clearest example will be the ambitious dance project Troika Dance, that will enable you to discover the work of the house choreographers of each of the three institutions thanks to an economy pass. For its part, La Monnaie, in collaboration with the Kaaitheater, will continue to present the repertoire of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, this season among others with Rain Live on the stage of La Monnaie. We will also welcome Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui as well as the latest creation of Sasha Waltz.

© Charlotte Chauvin

Our recently launched ‘Green Opera’ project will attempt, via smaller and larger initiatives, to embed care for the environment and the climate in our activities. We aim to invest in sustainable mobility, to reduce the toxicity of the products we use, to purchase materials that are as ecologically responsible as possible, and to stretch the lifespan of existing materials through recycling.

One of the main missions in culture should be to reflect on better alternative ways of living together with more quality in an ever-changing context. It is my desire to continue to do so for a few more years with our audience, our staff members and our artists. With a positive disposition and an awareness of our social responsibility, and in the conviction that working together is more important than working against – in all regards.