Art Disrupts: Tour of La Monnaie in Brussels by Kiley Pettit

During my time in Brussels, Belgium, I ate a lot of chocolate and waffles, explored many many different museums, and had the opportunity to find the famous monument of a little man peeing. However, one of the best experiences I had there was the tour of the La Monnaie De Munt, aka the Brussels Opera House. This was not only one of my favorite tours and experiences of the trip thus far, but it was also one of the best behind-the-scenes tours I have personally ever had. I learned so much about the opera house itself and everything that goes on there. From costumes to set-building to stagecraft, I was able to witness everything in just a little over an hour. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about everything she told us, making the tour very enjoyable and interesting! Before the tour, I honestly did not have extremely high expectations. Most likely because in my previous city—Paris— I toured the Palais Garnier, the most famous opera house in the world, so obviously, the experience of sitting in that theater was pretty life-changing as a dancer. But, after my tour of La Monnaie, I thought it was so SO much better! When I walked into the front entrance, the theater was very different compared to the Palais Garnier. The architecture was very modern and sleek while the atmosphere was smaller and simpler, making it a bit less overwhelming when people walk through the doors. I liked the way it was designed, especially the transition from the modern main entrance into the actual theater itself, which was classical and gorgeous. Don’t get me started about the ceiling. It was incredible! Compared to the Garnier dome painted by the renowned artist Marc Chagall, I actually liked this one a lot more because it represented the arts, theater, and dance in a more romanticized way. In a way that was more dainty and artistic, which is what I personally think of when it comes to dancing. As I sat down and listened to the tour guide, I saw set-builders construct a set for the theater’s upcoming showing of Les Huguenots, an opera that contains one of the most difficult sets to build. While taking everything in, the tour guide told us the most incredible fact. In 1830, a performance at the Monnaie sparked riots that started the Belgian Revolution, which allowed Belgians to gain independence from the Netherlands. This is one of my favorite things that I have learned on my trip because it truly represents and shows how much art affects audience members and society as a whole. Just imagine going to watch an opera and then it being so powerful that your country ends up fighting and winning for independence. It is incredible!! After looking at the actual inside of the theater I was able to go behind the scenes where the leftover costumes from previous shows were. I also was able to look in a room where sculptors were actively working and creating sets for upcoming shows! At the last part of the tour, I was shown an incredible replication of another Belgian theater that functioned in the same way as the La Monnaie did. The tour guide was able to move the strings and re-create an opening/closing of curtains, the movement of props, and the installation of sets all through the model! Overall, I had such an amazing time during my tour of the La Monnaie De Munt in Brussels, Belgium, and I cannot wait to go back to see an actual performance there one day!

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