Monteverdi's Marian Vespers in a new visual ‘mise-en-espace’


World premiere - opening festival

Claudio Monteverdi, Pierre Audi,
Dutch National Opera

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The magnificent Marian Vespers are one of the highlights in Monteverdi’s work. Pierre Audi presents a completely new visual and spatial interpretation of the piece. He developed a mise-en-espace in collaboration with the Belgian visual artist Berlinde De Bruyckere. She is known for sensational work which integrates religious symbolism and mythology as important elements. They jointly staged the opera Penthesilea in Brussels. Conductor Raphaël Pichon leads the musical performance, and the singers and instrumentalists (using period instruments) are from his renowned Baroque ensemble Pygmalion. After his acclaimed Monteverdi cycle, Audi is returning to this first great opera composer. A thrilling prospect. 

Background information

Monteverdi’s moving Marian Vespers are visualised by DNO director Pierre Audi, in an installation by the Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere, in the monumental Gashouder in Amsterdam.

Not only was Monteverdi the first important opera composer, but he 

also breathed new life into the religious music of his day. In his Marian Vespers, he combined the old, strict composition style with the modern, free way of setting words to music that led to the creation of music theatre.

Dutch National Opera has performed all the surviving music theatre works by Claudio Monteverdi in acclaimed productions. Now, the colourful Marian Vespers is being represented visually, for which it is excellently suited. Musicologist Denis Morrier calls the Marian Vespers ‘...a wonderful tree. The roots reach deep into the rich past, the broad, strong trunk evokes the splendour of a turbulent present and the luxuriant foliage branches out fruitfully towards the future’.

As there is no ‘real’ storyline in Marian Vespers, director Pierre Audi chose for a ‘mise-en-espace’, rather than a ‘staging’ in the traditional sense. He is collaborating with artist Berlinde De Bruyckere, with whom he previously staged the opera Penthesilea in Brussels. Religious symbolism and mythology are important elements in De Bruyckere’s work.

The music of the Marian Vespers is performed by the historic instrumentalists and the singers of the young Baroque ensemble Pygmalion, led by Raphaël Pichon who, like Pygmalion, is making his first guest appearance with DNO.



The Flemish artist Berlinde De Bruyckere made her international breakthrough at the Venice Biennale in 2003. She makes three-dimensional sculptures, installations and watercolours. Her early work is minimalist and abstract in character, but later she seeks 

refuge in more recognisable forms. Religious symbolism and mythology form important elements in De Bruyckere’s oeuvre. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag organised a retrospective of her work in 2015.


Pierre Audi became director of De Nederlandse Opera in 1988. As of 1 January 2013 he has become Director of Dutch National Opera. In the twenty-five years of his leadership of Dutch National Opera and its forerunner, De Nederlandse Opera, he is credited with giving the Netherlands its own opera tradition. His combined vision and audacity have earned him respect, both in the Netherlands and far beyond its borders, as both the Director of Dutch National Opera and as a stage director.


Pygmalion was founded by Raphaël Pichon in 2006. The ensemble consists of a choir and orchestra, whose members play on historic instruments. Their repertoire includes the musical heritage of Bach to Mendelssohn, Schütz to Brahms, and Rameau to Gluck and Berlioz. Pygmalion has received various awards for CD recordings, including a Diapason d’or and a Victoire de la musique. The ensemble has performed in the most renowned concert halls of Europe. In 2017, the ensemble will be performing Monteverdi’s Marian Vespers, conducted by Raphaël Pichon.


Dutch National Opera (DNO) is renowned for its diverse programming of both classical and modern operas and for the consistently high standard of its performances. Innovative productions, works especially composed for Dutch National Opera and a fresh approach to mainstream repertoire give renewed impetus to this superb art form and ensure its place in the future. With Pierre Audi initially as artistic director and now, following the fusion, as director of Dutch National Opera, the company has become a household name in the international opera world and every new production garners a high degree of interest. In 2013 DNO won the international Opera Award for the best production of the year. The company was founded shortly after the Second World War as a repertory company and later developed into a stagione company. This means that Dutch National Opera does not have a permanent ensemble and that one opera is staged per month on average. Guest soloists and separate artistic teams are engaged per production. Dutch National Opera does have its own choir, the Chorus of Dutch National Opera, comprising 56 members. The choir is considered to be one of the best in Europe and was nominated for the best choir performance of the year (International Opera Award) in 2013. For the majority of the productions DNO collaborates with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra|Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. The chief conductor is Marc Albrecht. Most DNO productions take place in the Dutch National Opera & Ballet; however, there are also performances in the Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg, Royal Theatre Carré, the Westergasfabriek and Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. The degree of international interest in DNO’s opera productions has led to an increasing number of requests to stage DNO productions at leading opera houses and festivals abroad. Co-productions are regularly realised with celebrated companies such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Opéra national in Paris and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.



Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
musical direction
Raphaël Pichon
Pierre Audi
Berlinde De Bruyckere
singers and instrumentalists
Dutch National Opera
Dutch National Opera, Holland Festival

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