On November 21, La Monnaie is launching a series of conference-debates dedicated to the questions raised by the climate case. The first of these evenings will combine a screening of the documentary Sœurs de Combat – which recently won the Audience Award at the FIFF Film Festival of Namur – with a debate about activism led by RTBF-journalist Gwenaëlle Dekegeleer. What is the place of activism in our society? How effective can it be in the face of climate issues? Does it have the potential to inspire our leaders and lawmakers? The film’s director Henri de Gerlache, climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Thérèse Snoy (Grands-Parents pour le Climat) and Adélaïde Charlier, the French-speaking coordinator of the Youth for Climate movement in Belgium, will try to answer all these questions.
Director and video concept
Premiere: September 2023
It was impossible for the Cassandra Choir to miss the Climate March today. Along with more than 25000 other participants, our choristers made their voices heard to urge ecological ambition on our national and regional governments ahead of the Sharm-el-Sheikh International Climate Conference (6 to 18 November).
It's a wrap for the first rehearsal of our Cassandra Choir! United by their shared passion for singing and the desire to raise public awareness of the environmental cause, a hundred amateur choristers practised together for the first time in our rehearsal rooms. For if Cassandra in the myth and Sandra in the opera are struggling to be heard, the Cassandra Choir will resound in all its strength, starting during the March for the Climate on October 23.
On Saturday 3 September, 300 people from various backgrounds responded enthusiastically to La Monnaie's call to form an amateur choir, which will perform alongside the creation of Bernard Foccroulle's first opera, Cassandra, in September 2023.
The launch of this extraordinary project took place in the best of moods over a friendly drink, followed by a guided tour and a first singing workshop led by Laurence Renson.
Back to school!
And thanks to our educational programme MM Schools, opera is also on the agenda for many pupils this school year! Primary, secondary or higher education: at every level, our creations Cassandra and Solar are treated extensively during workshops, school performances and teacher training days.
After the presentation of the Cassandra maquette, General Manager and Artistic Director Peter de Caluwe provides an update on the project:
'Between the presentation of the concept for Cassandra and the world premiere scheduled for September 2023, our workshops have sufficient time to turn the designs into a functioning set. The artistic team has done an admirable job of keeping to our specifications, i.e. integrating La Monnaie’s Green Opera policy into the theme of the new composition and into the realisation of an ecological set design.
The opera is about the tragedy of not being heard. At the same time, the work looks at climate change, which we are all aware of, but seem relatively unconcerned about. Like Cassandra, who warned of the impending destruction of Troy, we see the danger coming but we cling to our old ways, thereby contributing to the further melting of the icebergs and the extinction of the bees. This theme inspired the team to create a set made up entirely of recyclable materials. A good example of this are the large number of second-hand books symbolizing the library of Troy, but their gradual disappearance from the stage also references the current fate of the glaciers and rainforests. Next season, in order to achieve this, we will invite our audience to leave a meaningful book at La Monnaie, which will then take its place in the set.
Meanwhile, composer Bernard Foccroulle has managed to complete seventy-five percent of the score. Bees are an important element in his composition. At four different moments in the opera, the buzzing of ‘les abeilles’ audibly diminishes, leading us to conclude that an initially large swarm is reduced to just a few solitary bees… This, of course, symbolizes the loss of one of the most important organisms that so mysteriously helps maintain the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystem.
So as well as being a philosophical reflection on where we stand as human beings, as ‘users and abusers’ of our planet, Cassandra is also a production made according to the rules of our Green Opera strategy. Or how theory can also be practice. Who knows, it may prompt us to give more serious consideration to the subject. For far from being an individual problem, not being heard hangs like a catastrophe over the whole of society.
Kick-off amateur choir Cassandra
For the world première of Cassandra, La Monnaie is putting together a large amateur choir. Do you like singing, do you care about environmental issues and would you like to participate in the creation of an opera? As a choir member, you will attend three rehearsals each month between October 2022 and June 2023, and you will get to know the inside of La Monnaie during guided tours, events, encounters and dress rehearsals of our opera performances. The choral repertoire will be varied and include a whole variety of topical and activist songs as well as suggestions from chorus members themselves.
Can’t wait? Then send an email to email@example.com for the big kick-off of this project at La Monnaie on Saturday afternoon 3 September.
For many teams at La Monnaie, Cassandra begins today! In the Grand Foyer, director Marie-Eve Signeyrole, set designer Fabien Teigné and dramaturg Louis Geisler presented their staging and set design concept to the house. We can already make one prediction (you better believe it!): Cassandra will be an opera project like no other. In its ambition to work out almost every aspect of the creation process in an ecologically responsible way, to actively involve the audience of La Monnaie and Brussels and to give a place to the voice of today's Cassandras, it challenges us to do things radically differently. Opening night is on 10 September 2023, but already throughout the coming season we are organising numerous activities and workshops around this production. Because Cassandra, that's now!
In Cassandra, Bernard Foccroulle’s first opera, the young climate activist Sandra struggles to make her voice heard, clearly mirroring the original Greek myth of Cassandra. But how exactly did that story go?
Who is Cassandra?
In Greek mythology, Cassandra is the daughter of King Priam of Troy and his wife Hecuba. Cassandra is so beautiful that even the sun god Apollo falls head over heels in love with her. In a bid to seduce her, he endows her with the unique gift of prophecy. However, she spurns his advances and an aggrieved Apollo retaliates by ensuring that nobody will ever believe her predictions – not even her own family.
When her mother falls pregnant with Paris, Cassandra predicts that the child will signify the end of Troy, so her mother keeps Cassandra’s younger brother out of the city for a while. Later on, when he is allowed to return, Cassandra warns him that on his expedition to Sparta, he will abduct Helen, the wife of King Menelaus, thereby unleashing a bloody war between the Greeks and the Trojans. When Paris does bring Helen back from Sparta, Cassandra is the only one to predict misfortune; the Trojans are all stunned by the young Greek girl’s beauty.
For ten long years, the Greeks try to secure Helen’s return by holding the city of Troy under siege. They then come up with the idea of offering the Trojans the famous horse that will lead to the destruction of Troy. In vain, Cassandra warns that the horse is a trick to gain entrance to the city.
The more accurately Cassandra predicts the future, the less she is listened to. She begins to foretell horrors in such a frenzied manner that she is declared insane and everyone gives her a wide berth. Cassandra is the archetypal cursed prophet, condemned not to be believed. She even has a vision of her own death (she will be murdered by Clytemnestra, wife of the Greek commander Agamemnon), but makes no attempt to prevent it. After the Trojan massacre in which so many of her family members lost their lives, she loses the will to live.
The Cassandra syndrome
The ‘Cassandra syndrome’, an extension of this myth, refers to a person’s legitimate warnings or concerns not being believed and therefore ignored. The term is still used in a variety of fields: from medical science, through the media and psychology to politics.
March for the climate in Brussels
Between 50,000 and 70,000 people marched in the capital on Sunday, each of them aware of the scale of the problem and the need to change our lifestyles. An atmosphere of solidarity, indignation and commitment. Signs and slogans everywhere, some humorous, others with a more direct message of concern. A striking number of young people, including the activists of Youth for Climate, but all generations are represented...
Another demonstration to draw the attention of politicians and citizens to the urgency of the climate issue. Will they be heard this time?
On September 22nd, La Monnaie hosted the first meeting between composer Bernard Foccroulle – whose opera Cassandra deals with the urgent issue of climate change – and young activists from Youth for Climate. It provoked a fascinating exchange about the difficulty climate campaigners have making their voices heard.
Present at the meeting were a number of key figures from the ‘Green Opera’ project at La Monnaie and composer Kris Defoort. Later that evening, Anuna Dewever and her fellow activists attended the latter’s latest creation The Time of Our Singing, which gave them some idea of the scale of an opera and the ecological challenges staging it presents.