La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

Philippe Boesmans


Reading time
5 min.
“La musique est toujours un voyage” (music is always a journey)

— Philippe Boesmans

Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans (born in Tongeren, May 17, 1936), died in Brussels on Sunday evening, April 10, after a short illness. We are deeply saddened by the passing of this artist who was so dear to our house and we offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

“We want to remember Philippe for his humanism, his humour and his generosity,” says our General and Artistic Director Peter de Caluwe. “He was always a welcome guest at our theatre and an essential support for our house. His artistic contribution to La Monnaie and to contemporary opera is invaluable. He was a trusted voice for three successive directors of La Monnaie and was always ready to provide constructive comments and original suggestions on our programming. His opinion mattered and will be greatly missed.”

As composer in residence under successively Gerard Mortier, Bernard Foccroulle and Peter de Caluwe, La Monnaie commissioned him to create numerous new works. This close collaboration began with La Passion de Gilles, his first opera, which premiered in 1983. This was followed by Reigen (1993), based on the play by Arthur Schnitzler, Wintermärchen (1999), after Shakespeare, and Julie (2004), an opera adaptation of August Strindberg's play Fröken Julie. All these titles were directed by Luc Bondy, who also wrote the libretti. Later, in co-production with leading houses in Paris or Aix-en-Provence, we created Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne (2009), Au Monde (2014) and most recently Pinocchio (2017), the last two titles both in collaboration with Joël Pommerat. In March, we announced what will become the final opera by Philippe Boesmans. Together with director and librettist Richard Brunel, Philippe put the finishing touches to On purge bébé, a comedy based on Feydeau's farce of the same name. This work will be premiered in December.

Besides his works for the stage, Philippe was also very active as a composer of both symphonic and chamber music. His song cycle Trakl-Lieder was performed by the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra in February. Like so many of Philippe’s works, it was conducted by his good friend and conductor Sylvain Cambreling.

Philippe was a titan of Belgian and European music. His works have been performed all over the world. New productions of his operas are still regularly staged, including Reigen recently in Stuttgart and Paris and Julie in Nancy. He was a reference for many composers, such as Benoît Mernier and Kris Defoort, who he mentored in their commissioned works for La Monnaie.

We wish all those who knew Philippe, near and far, much strength in the coming days. La Monnaie will honour him with music in all serenity.