Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie/Koninklijke Muntschouwburg
At the heart of Brussels’ cultural and musical life, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie/Koninklijke Muntschouwburg will forever be associated with the events of 25 August 1830, when a performance of the opera La Muette de Portici lit the touch paper for the revolution that led to Belgian independence.
Featuring at its front an imposing avant-corps with a pediment on top, the building, despite numerous alterations, remains a prime example of neoclassical architecture in Brussels. The theatre was built between 1817 and 1819 to plans by Louis-Emmanuel-Aimé Damesme, but was destroyed by a fire in 1855. The reconstruction was overseen by Joseph Poelaert, who decked out the main auditorium with a sumptuous Second Empire decorative scheme, topped with a cupola featuring huge paintings by Rubé and Chaperon. Since then, the building has undergone various extensive renovations and restorations, the most recent being completed in 2017.
In the past, the main auditorium hosted major public festivities combining dance with fancy-dress contests. An opera performance here was often a pretext to meet up with others and foster cordial relations. Indeed, attending La Monnaie/De Munt on important days or having a box here was a mark of social success. This is shown, for example, not only by the layout of the auditorium, which gives equal importance to being seen and watching the performance itself, but also by the Grand Foyer (whose style was based on the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles) where festivities and games of chance were organised.
While certain customary celebrations of yesteryear have fallen by the wayside and its events are now open to a wider audience, this opera house’s top-quality programme remains a major draw for people from Belgium and further afield. The European artistic hub that is La Monnaie/De Munt brings together artists from all over the world, as well as lovers of music past and present.
Guided tours: Sat. at 10:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 17:00 (in English); 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 17:00 (in French); 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00 (in Dutch).
Sat. only, 10:00 to 18:00
Place de la Monnaie/Muntplein 5, Brussels
guided tours and by reservation only