1920 - 2015

La Monnaie / De Munt (II)

La Monnaie / De Munt

A hundred years of innovative opera and moving with the times

Corneil de Thoran
The post-war period saw an era of renewal for la Monnaie with the arrival of Corneil de Thoran, the internationally renowned conductor, who put the emphasis on modernity.

Contemporary composers and their works were on the programme, such as Darius Milhaud and Arthur Honegger, and world premieres followed one after the other, like Alban Berg’s Wozzeck.

During the Second World War la Monnaie remained open under the management of Corneil de Thoran. It was a difficult time during which all new work was impossible, certain productions were forbidden and others, imported from German theatres, were imposed.

After the liberation of Brussels, in September 1944, the new opera season opened with a performance of the eminently symbolic La Muette de Portici.

Corneil de Thoran remained in charge of la Monnaie until his death in 1953.

Maurice Huisman
Maurice Huisman became the new director in 1959 and instigated numerous changes. He began by replacing the name of la Monnaie with the more modern initials TRM-KMS, and introduced the slogan: "Come back to the opera".

The most radical change introduced by Maurice Huisman was to do away with the system known as ‘repertoire’.

By changing to a 'al stagione' system (one production at a time, with a lengthy rehearsal and performance period) the quality of the productions was significantly improved.

Maurice Huisman brought an international influence to bear on the opera house and attracted a new public. He was greatly helped in this by Maurice Béjart and his Ballet du XXe Siècle.

The choreography of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps in December 1959 was a revelation and a triumphant success. Over a period of twenty years Béjart created more than a hundred ballets and dance gradually became the main activity of the theatre.

In the meantime the law passed on 19th April, 1963 meant that la Monnaie became a federal parastatal body which would henceforth receive a subsidy from the Belgian state as the National Opera House.

Gerard Mortier
Gerard Mortier, as successor to Maurice Huisman in 1981, wanted to give pride of place to opera once again. His plan was clearly set out in his slogan “Turn opera into theatre”. In 1987 the Ballet du XXe Siècle left la Monnaie and moved to Lausanne.

Gerard Mortier invited some of the greatest theatre directors to work on the Brussels stage. His Mozart cycle saw the likes of Patrice Chereau, Luc Bondy, Willy Decker, Karl-Ernst Hermann and Gilbert Deflo each bring their own interpretation to a particular work.

The conductor Sylvain Cambreling was musical director between 1981 and 1991.

The Renovation Work
Given the appalling state of the building, Gerard Mortier battled with the Belgian authorities for a total renovation, which began in 1985.

The roof and the stage machinery were dismantled. The stage framework was rebuilt to a new height of nine storeys.

Huge pillars were sunk into the basement to reinforce the building and support the weight of the new installation, stage machinery electronically controlled.

The orchestra pit was equipped with a hydraulic system which meant it could be positioned anything from three metres down up to the height of the stage.

With the help of the architect Charles Vandenhove, Gerard Mortier involved international artists such as Sol LeWitt and Sam Francis in the Entrance Hall...

...Daniel Buren and Giulio Paolini in the Royal Reception Room.

Bernard Foccroulle
Bernard Foccroulle became manager of la Monnaie in 1992. He followed the artistic policies of his predecessor, enlarging the scope to include Baroque music and contemporary composers.

Bernard Foccroulle invited Sir Antonio Pappano to become musical director and principal conductor of the orchestra.

Bernard Foccroulle also invited two great Belgian artists to take up residency at la Monnaie, the choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

…and the composer Philippe Boesmans.

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and her Rosas Company performed, more or less, all their creations at la Monnaie.

This exemplary cooperation between a dance company and a theatre did not end with the end of the residency.

From his first opera, La Passion de Gilles, commissioned by Gerard Mortier, Philippe Boesmans has proved to be one of the greatest composers of our time.

During the following decades, with the exception of Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne, first performed at the Paris Opera in 2009 …

…all his operas were premiered on the Brussels stage : Reigen...


... Julie...

...as well as, very recently, Au monde.

In 2002, with the departure of Antonio Pappano to Covent Garden, Kazushi Ono took over the role of musical director.

Mindful of the influential societal role that opera can play, Bernard Foccroulle has encouraged the opening up of the theatre through initiatives aimed at schools, with the creation of the educational service. He also initiated the project "A bridge between two worlds", which reaches out to those generally excluded.

In 1998, La Monnaie was able to buy the old Vanderborght department store, situated just behind the theatre, an art deco style building dating from 1935.

Today, this building houses rehearsal spaces for the production, the Malibran room...

...the orchestra, the Fiocco room...

...as well as workshops for making the sets and costumes.

At the same time the original art work of the ceiling and the theatre organ, which was hidden amongst the stage machinery, were restored.

The theatre was classified as a historic monument in 2000. The decoration of the main auditorium was completely restored by the Department of Public Works between 2004 and 2007.

Peter de Caluwe
In 2007, Bernard Foccroulle left la Monnaie to take charge of the Aix-en-Provence Opera Festival and Peter de Caluwe took over the management of la Monnaie, a job he still holds today.

Whilst remaining faithful to the importance given to drama by his predecessors, Peter de Caluwe nonetheless has introduced new aesthetics and hired a new generation of directors and singers.

In 2011 la Monnaie was named « Best opera house of the year » by the magazine Opernwelt. This was the first time in the history of these opera “Oscars” that a non-German opera house received this prestigious award.

Great productions follow hot on each other’s heels: Médée and Lulu by Krzysztof Warlikowski, Le Grand Macabre by Alex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), Parsifal and Orphée et Eurydice by Romeo Castellucci, Il Trovatore by Dmitri Tcherniakov, Jenůfa by Alvis Hermanis or Hamlet by Olivier Py.

Alain Altinoglu
The French conductor, Alain Altinoglu, has just agreed to become the next musical director for la Monnaie as from January, 2016. He will succeed Ludovic Morlot, who was musical director at la Monnaie from the beginning of 2012 until the end of 2014.
The New Renovation Work
Starting in 2014 the ageing and obsolete technical infrastructure has been the subject of work to modernise and improve it.

After the work to renovate the admin building and the roofs of the workshops, the theatre itself closed its doors in September 2015 for a year of renovation: new stage house, new stage machinery, new lifts, new stage, an underground tunnel between the workshops and the main auditorium… and new seats! Everything will hopefully be finished by autumn, 2016.

Credits: Story

Peter de Caluwe, General Director of La Monnaie / De Munt

Virginie Peters, Project Coordinator

Isabelle Pouget, Editorial line

Zoé Renaud, Archives of La Monnaie / De Munt

Lyn Jacomb, English translation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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