Prize for Opera
Shortlist 2019


02 / 08

Le Silence des Ombres
Platform member

La Monnaie/De Munt

Le Silence des Ombres


This new opera by French composer Benjamin Attahir called Le Silence des ombres is in three parts, each based on one of the trois petits drames pour Marionnettes by Maurice Maeterlinck, a work that challenged the theatrical conventions of its day.

The first story called La mort de Tintagiles sees Ygraine revolt and try to free the title-character from the grip of a terrifying invisible queen. Intérieur is the second story in which an old man and a stranger observe at a distance the happiness of a family and delay to announce to them the bad news which they carry: one of the young daughters has been found dead. The third and last story tells how Alladine and Palomides fall in love while locked inside the subterranean parts of King Ablamore’s castle.

Each of the Trois petits drames uses powerful effects combined with an amazing economy of means; they share many theatrical devices as silence, stifled cries, the invisible, and chiaroscuro, creating a sustained visual and auditory stimulation. The suspense is so powerful that it recalls the great masters of the thriller and horror film genres.

This staging aims to open the audience’s imagination to a new kind of dream-world dread. It is both inspired by neo-gothic symbolism and contemporary art; it is also based on an elaborate body language expressed by the characters, using semi-choreographed gestures as leitmotivs. The highly distinctive aesthetics of the scenery, costumes, lighting and the punctual use of video reinforce the dramatic tension of the work’s three parts, thus creating the universe of Le Silence des ombres.

The composition of the score by Benjamin Attahir is developed in close collaboration with the artistic team responsible for staging the work, led by dramaturge and director Olivier Lexa.

Artistic Team

Despite his youth, composer Benjamin Attahir has already received international prizes, won international competitions and has been invited as composer in residence by the Villa Medici, the Gstaad Festival and the Orchestre national de Lille. He has recently written commissions for Daniel Barenboïm and Staatskapelle Berlin and for Renaud Capuçon. He has not yet brought an opera to the stage - even if he already composed two operatic works for voice. Nevertheless, Attahir considers the scene staging as the backbone of his musical writing and draws his inspiration midway between East and West.

Dramaturge and director Oliver Lexa has up until now mostly worked around early baroque italian opera in Italy (Teatro la Fenice, Teatro alla Scala), in France and for La Monnaie, but has set himself to works of all ages and all styles based on symbolism and escape from the daily realism. He has extensively published, most recently a fascinating book on Monteverdi and Wagner as the main representative opera composers in a neo-platonist current of creation. He is highly attuned to the imaginary world of Maeterlinck, which led to this commission by Peter de Caluwe, Intendant of La Monnaie in Brussels who is also a declared Maeterlinck champion.

Students from the Brussels École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre develop the costumes and set. This project therefor offers a great opportunity of professional insertion for the students. With one exception, all soloists are students or laureates of the MM Academy or the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel or from participants within the larger ENOA network.

Le Silence des ombres was developed in the framework of ENOA - the European Network of Opera Academies. Through ENOA a number of operatic institutions work closely together to support the professional integration of young artists.

As of this season, La Monnaie has become full member of this network and that comes with the expectation to stage an operatic production that includes young artists and supports them in their artistic ambitions.

Hence, this project is developed in close collaboration with other members of the Enoa community: La Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth, Le Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg and Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera.

With this project La Monnaie aims to offer them the substantial experience of participating in a professional opera production. Le Silence des ombres provides the students with an ideal occasion to round off the last stages of their education; a way to pack up their acquired knowledge and gain a real life experience just before they embark on their professional careers. The orchestra is assembled in part by young musicians from the International Summer Academy of Contemporary Music and by musicians from the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra.

Olivier Lexa

Olivier Lexa

Stage Director

Benjamin Attahir

Benjamin Attahir


Sarah Thery

Sarah Thery


Julia Szproch

Julia Szproch


Co-producing Partners

Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg


Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth


European Network of Opera Academies


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