I went backstage at La Monnaie opera yesterday for a feature and interviewed Peter de Caluwe, the director. He was completely lovely and electrically passionate about his job and about opera generally. He said this, which I found quite striking.
“I went to a lousy cinema yesterday with a gut smell and I paid €10. For €10 you can come to La Monnaie and see a far better live performance”
Apart from the fact that the idea that the cinema smells of intestines made me laugh, what he says is completely true: there are €10 or €12 tickets available for all the operas in the season. Under 30s get an even better deal with a €5 Go! Opera Card that gives a 50% reduction on season tickets, 30% off all performances and access to last minute returns in all categories at €25. You can genuinely see world class opera – and La Monnaie was awarded opera house of the year in 2011, and shows beautiful, exciting, innovative performances with extraordinary singers – for the price of a trip to a grotty multiplex.
The current show is La Traviata (set against a sort of Gare du Nord ladies in shop windows background) which is – sadly – sold out, but the rest of the season includes a completely OTT looking Lucrezia Borgia, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and in May, Cosi fan Tutte.
On top of that, the theatre is a beautiful eighteenth century gem, lushly ornate but on a human scale. The Grand Foyer where you can get a half time drink is incredible, all gold and mirrors and frescoes.
Also worth knowing, if you’d like to try before you buy, for a period of 2-3 weeks after the last performance of each opera, you can stream the whole show free: schedule here. There are also concerts, recitals, kids workshops and you can even take a guided tour on Saturdays around all the unexpected behind the scenes nooks and crannies of the building. If I sound like a zealot, I am a bit: seeing the dedication and the love and the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of people that go into getting these performances on stage made me even more aware of how fantastically lucky we are to have top class subsidised arts in this city, and how important it is to support them. Right, lecture over. I’m missing Koh Lanta (but I’m also going to be online booking tickets to Cosi the minute the box office opens in March).
UPDATED: Here’s a link to the feature I wrote after that visit. Some great pics by Alys Tomlinson.