ASSUMING THE HELM
RODERIC DUNNETT reports on
two new appointments at the
Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels
It takes less than a three-hour ride on Eurostar from London's newly restored St Pancras to reach Brussels, the Belgian capital, where one of the most enterprising programmes of opera anywhere in Europe can be found at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie.
It now has a new General Director and will shortly acquire a new Musical Director. Peter de Caluwe emerged from a field of twenty one candidates to succeed the respected and highly successful Bernard Foccroulle in August 2007 as General Director of La Monnaie. De Caluwe came from the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam, where he was Head of Artistic Affairs. Foccroulle, after fifteen years in the job (he succeeded the legendary Gérard Mortier in Brussels in 1992), now in his fifties and a widely admired organist as well as artistic administrator, has moved on to run the International Summer Arts Festival at Aix-en-Provence, which has had many close links with La Monnaie during his tenure there.
De Caluwe brings with him a wealth of flair and vision associated with his recent roles at de Nedelandse Opera in Amsterdam, where he served Pierre Audi as Director of Communications and then Casting Director, moving on to be company Artistic Director, and proved himself in several capacities by his energy, capability, shrewd sense and personability. He is a known quantity at la Monnaie, where until 1990 he was a young dramaturg, serving under Gérard Mortier, and subsequently Coordinator of Educational Projects, International Press Manager and Public Relations Officer. Still young, enthusiastic, imaginative, de Caluwe thus arrives with a vast range of expertise behind him and a particularly fine knowledge of the repertoire and casting, and of the business of administering a large and successful national opera house: skills he will certainly need, for Foccroulle is a hard act to follow; and Brussels' opera house is already riding high.
Peter de Caluwe. Photo © Marco Borggreve
On any Sunday, a day return from London is sufficient to catch a 3pm opera at La Monnaie (in Flemish, De Munt) and still make the train home. To judge by de Caluwe's first season, bold and risk-taking, Belgium's capital city has many treats ahead, and in coming seasons too. At his initial press conference, heralding 2007-8, de Caluwe outlined his surprisingly vital plans, quoting a line from Byron: 'The best prophet of the future is the past'. Underlining his forward plans already in place, entitling his introduction 'This not just for a single season only', he argues that an opera house such as La Monnaie 'gives people the opportunity to hear and see the most extreme passions transformed through singing and music ... We want to be a safe haven for the most intense feelings: a place where we present the great characters of opera, archetypal figures like Mithridates, Caesar, Dido, Cleopatra, Phaedra and Antigone, in new poetic settings arising from the creative instincts of our performers.'
Copyright © 17 February 2008 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK