Belgium’s 2017/2018 opera season

(This article replaces the original one about the Brussels-only season with the present one about Belgium)

Brussel’s The Monnaie’s 2017-2018 opera season was recently announced. Although, with half of the 12 titles, La Monnaie/De Munt always leans towards modern music (and with modern I roughly mean the music around and after 1900) the choices are more varied than last year. We have a Wagner, of course, (Lohengrin) but at least we are spared Verdi and Puccini. I smile at Peter de Caluwe’s fear of staging Rossini and his overall mistrust in early 1800 music. So Tancredi in concert version, not the most original choice (it would if staged, though) but  always a pleasure to hear. Cavalleria rusticana and I pagliacci is a nice change considered it was given in Brussels 14 years ago (and Michieletto is always welcome). Lucio Silla is an inheritance from last year’s season, where it was programmed but not staged (as is also the Bartok) due to the delay in the renovations of the main stage. It is a rare but not minor Mozart – musically speaking, because action wise it is very thin (so why not this one in concert version?) – and performed far too rarely. Leonore (Beethoven’s first version of Fidelio) is given as concert version and I would much more appreciate a staged version in exchange of one of the modern opera’s, say Rihm or Boesmans. Conductor-wise I find the choices good, director-wise conventional and singer-wise there are some that are questionable but I am happy to be persuaded. An enjoyable rarity will be Dvorak’s Requiem while ballet wise I keep regretting the total absence of classical ballet. Let me finish with something that bothers me every year: is it not strange that there is not a single subscription that allows to see all opera’s?

 

Nicer surprises come from the two other opera houses in Belgium, the Opera de Liège and the Vlaamse Opera. I find the choices quite balanced with some very appealing surprises. In Liege we get the touching Donna del lago by Michieletto and the rarity Le domino noir by Auber. La favorite by Donizetti also contains lovely music and is rarely performed. Singer-wise the program is also very appealing although I remember Liege announcing a star only by replacing it last minute by someone less captivating (and not once). In Gent we get the extremely rare Das Wunder der Heliane, Donizetti’s Le Duc d’Albe next to a Clemenza di Tito and of course Verdi and Wagner (Falstaff and Parsifal). The Flemish Opera “continues its fascinating exploration of Russian opera” with The Gambler by Prokofiev. I am waiting impatiently for Dargomyzhsky, Cavos, Glinka, and Verstovsky….

Already available also the program of the Midsummer Mozartiade, which this year presents Don Giovanni at the Theatre de Martyrs.

The Bozar season also contains some vocal evenings.

Old meets new in the 2016/17 season of La Monnaie/De Munt, Gent and Liege

imagesAfter a very interesting and varied 2015/16 opera season I hoped in a change of course, in an innovative and original new season. In a newly renovated opera house. Instead, the renovations, which were supposed to be finished by the end of the current season, will protract until the second title of the new season. But from December, the direction hopes, the opera house will be reopened. The program on the other hand is not new, not original, not imaginative, it’s a déjà vu, deja entendu, dozens of times. I am not pretending Portogallo, Graun, van Maldere or other forgetten (though still very valid and worthwile) composers, I am not even pretending more familiar names such as Boildieau, Haydn, Adam, Glinka, Vivaldi. But what is wrong with an Esclarmonde, a Siége de Corinthe, a Roberto Devereux, a Robert le Diable. But a Wagner, a Verdi, a Puccini and a Strauss… (and not the most original ones either): Do they still have something to say? Macbeth was even given only recently at the Munt. Matsukaze as well.

gent_vlaamseoperaThe more interesting operas in Brussels are the Golden Cockerel, Lucio Silla, Pénélope (Faure) and Il ritorno di Ulisse. Half of these are given in concert version!! And again, of the 11 productions, more than half are compostions of the 20th century. And AGAIN, no classical dance is offered!! Thank God there is Ghent (where we can hear Rossini, Halevy, Mussorgski, Tchaikovsky) Liège (which dares to give Auber, lesser known Rossini, Wolf-Ferrari, Ponchielli…), Lille (a staged Vivaldi, this year) which are not very far and which offer quite varied seasons… Well, usually… In the next season we are flooded with Verdi and Puccini there as well: 3 Verdi and 2 Puccini, as if nothing would draw people to the opear. Otello and Don Giovanni are planned for Liege, were given in Gent and Brussels this year and last year, respectively. Die Zauberflöte next year in Gent, was given this year in Liege. And so on…Disappointed is only one of the words that suggests itself.

visu_Even_02Oh, by the way. What happened to La muette de Portici? Co-produced with the Opéra Comique in 2011, it was supposed to be staged also in Brussels. Only… ‘It isn’t the right time,’ said Peter De Caluwe, ‘because it would raise the question of whether or not we need Belgium’. I think this is utter nonsense. The creation of Belgium following its staging in 1830 is a lovely story to tell your grandchildren but an opera was never and will never be able to split or unify a country. So: when are we gonna hear it?