Friday, July 10, 2009

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie
Facing Place de Brouckère, a few blocks north of Grand Place

An opera house in the grand style, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Royal Theatre of the Mint), was founded in the 17th century on the site of the former royal mint. It is home to the Opéra National and l'Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie. Ballet performances are also presented in this auditorium that seats 1,770 spectators. As Belgium's leading opera house it is one of the few cultural institutions which receives financial support from the federal government of Belgium. World premières by such diverse composers as Massenet, Chabrier, d’Indy, Milhaud, Honegger and Prokofiev have been presented in its grand auditorium.

But a far more important event took place here in 1830. Auber's opera La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl from Portici) was scheduled, even though it had been banned from the stage by King William II, fearing its inciting content. At a performance of this opera on August 25, 1830, as the tenor sang “Sacred Love of the Homeland,” a riot broke out. Members of the audience ran out into the street in a rampage that developed into the September Uprising. By the following summer a new state of Belgium independent of the Dutch was born (July 21, 1831), and Leopold I (a German prince of Saxe-Coburg) was crowned.

Unfortunately, most of that building was lost in a tremendous fire in 1855; only the façade and perimeter walls were left standing. The structure we see today opened fourteen months later in 1856, incorporating the portico of the former building.

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