La Monnaie



by Alice Lechner
August 20, 2023
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The La Monnaie opera house, also known as the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie is a renowned opera house in Brussels, Belgium. The National Opera of Belgium, a federal institution, takes the name of this theatre in which it is housed—La Monnaie in French or De Munt in Dutch—referring both to the building as well as the opera company.

Early History.

Gio Paolo Bombarda, the owner of the theatre at the Hooikaai, banker and financial counselor to Maximilian II Emmanuel of Bavaria, and governor of the Spanish Netherlands decided to build a public theatre for opera, theatre, and ballet performances. The first permanent public theatre for opera performances of the court and the City of Brussels was built between 1695 and 1700 by the Venetian architects Paolo and Pietro Bezzi. It was considered one of the most beautiful theatres outside Italy. The date of the first performance in 1700 remains unknown, but the first showing mentioned in the local newspapers was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys, on November 19th, 1700. The French operatic repertoire would dominate the Brussels stage throughout the following century, although performances of other non-French repertoire were performed on a regular basis. Under the rule of Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine, who acted as a generous patron of the arts, the theatre flourished greatly. At that time, it housed an opera company, a ballet, and an orchestra. The splendor of the performances diminished during the last years of Austrian rule, due to the severe politics of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II.

Napoleon decided to build a new theatre.

During the time of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule, the La Monnaie opera house in Brussels, Belgium, experienced several changes and transformations, as the city and its cultural institutions were affected by the political and social shifts of the era. After 1795, the theatre became a French departmental institution when the French revolutionary forces occupied the Belgian provinces. Amongst other cuts in its expenses, the theatre had to abolish its Corps de Ballet. Napoleon, visiting Brussels, judged the old theatre too dilapidated for one of the most prestigious cities of his future Empire. He ordered plans to replace the old building with a new and more monumental edifice, but the plans would only be carried out and Bombarda’s building demolished in 1818, under the auspices of the new United Kingodm of the Netherlands (King William of the Spanish Netherlands lifted the prohibition on the staging of Auber’s opera The Mute of Portici. This work played an important part in Belgium’s struggle for independence.)

The theatre of Louis Damesme

Unlike Bombarda’s building, which was situated along the street and completely surrounded by other buildings, the new theatre was placed in the middle of a newly constructed square. While this also made it monumental, the main concern was safety: the building was now more accessible to firemen, and the chance of any fire spreading was reduced. The new auditorium was inaugurated on 25 May 1819 with the opera La Caravane du Caire by the composer André Ernest Modeste Grétry.

The third theatre

After the fire of January 1855, the theatre was reconstructed after the designs of Joseph Poelaert within a period of fourteen months. The auditorium (with 1,200 seats) and the foyer were decorated in a then-popular Eclectic style; a mixture of neo-Baroque, neo-Rococo, and neo-Renaissance styles. The lavish decoration made excessive use of gilded carton-pierre decorations and sculptures, red velvet, and brocade. The auditorium was lit by a huge crystal chandelier made of gilded bronze and Venetian crystals, which still hang in the center of the domed ceiling today. The new Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie opened on 25 March 1856 with Fromental Halévy’s Jaguarita l’Indienne. In the middle of the 19th century, the repertoire was dominated by popular French composers such as Halévy, Daniel Auber, and Giacomo Meyerbeer, as well as Italian composers like Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini and Giuseppe Verdi.

The Façade.

Designed by Louis Damesme in a neo-classical style, the façade of the theatre dates from 1819. In 1854 Eugène Simonis put the finishing touch to the façade in the form of a pediment with a bas-relief representing ‘The Harmony of Human Passions’.

Main Auditorium.

Built by Joseph Poelaert in an eclectic style, the auditorium combines French and Italian features. It can seat 1,152 people and is a magnificent example of European theatre architecture. In 1999 the restored canvas by the Parisian set designers François-Joseph Nolau and Alfred Rubé was reinstalled on the cupola. It represents Belgium as the protector of the arts.

The Grand Foyer.

With the exception of the ceiling painting by Thierry Bosquet (ca. 1970), the interior decoration of the Grand Foyer dates from 1856. Designed by Poelaert, this room is a good example of the eclectic style. As well as being used for serving refreshments, the foyer is also used for chamber music concerts and as a lecture hall where introductions to the operas are given.


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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