Just in: Brussels creates season of Russian operasNews
Memo from Peter de Caluwe, artistic director of the Monnaie:
Two years ago, we presented the BREX-IN season, which emphasized links with British culture. In a similar vein, are now proposing a totally unplanned-for season in which Russian titles feature more prominently than ever. We are aware that this programming might well raise questions and perhaps even trigger discussion or dismay. We have nevertheless decided to run with what was planned, or rather, what has become a cluster of Russian titles to be performed in one and the same season as a result of the COVID pandemic preventing us from performing them according to the original schedule. So while the cluster was not intentional, it provides us with an unexpected opportunity to endorse our intrinsic mission: to unite, federate and build bridges between people.
I consider our house to be an anti-war and pro-peace institution, as borne out by our position in the heart of the capital of Europe, by our purpose, our programming, our leadership style and our way of working. Our model is one of harmony, not conflict. This constitutes our moral base and there is a greater need than ever to defend it. We are therefore taking a clear stand on this matter: strong towards those who are responsible, supportive towards those who are suffering, empathic towards those who are caught in the middle.
La Monnaie strongly condemns the devastating aggression of Ukraine by the Russian regime and expresses its solidarity with the populations who are suffering the terrible consequences of this unnecessary war: first and foremost, the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s artists. It is our responsibility as citizens to do everything within our power to help bring about a peaceful future based on the humanist values at the core of our European societies.
We also express our support for those artists who are committed to peace and who oppose, each in their own way and with great courage, this unacceptable aggression. We subscribe to the statement of Opera Europa and its members in that we “believe that there are many artists and institutions within Russia that are experiencing profound concern, disapproval and shame at what is happening, but dare not speak out for fear of savage retaliation…. We endorse the words published by Ukrainian artists and cultural activists: ‘Art has always been at the forefront of humanitarian values. We strongly believe that art cannot be subservient to political propaganda; instead it should be utilized to develop critical thinking and promote dialogue.’”
Though we cannot emphasize enough that we do not understand the motivations of the aggressors, we do believe that Russian culture is part of our shared heritage. European arts, literature, cinema and music will always be connected to Russian culture, which has inspired some of the most eloquent works on our shared continent. We cannot erase history. Indeed, great and immortal artworks confront us with ourselves>bring us face to face with ourselves? and with our own time. With our mistakes, too, and how to avoid them. It is clear to us, therefore, that the Russian repertoire should not be banned and that we must continue to perform it.
So the current conflict has not tempted us to make changes to our programming. Especially as the two composers, whose operatic and symphonic work is at the core of our season, have been victims of previous Russian regimes. We cannot contemplate punishing them again for their opinions, which defended the same values we are trying to protect now.