La Monnaie / De Munt La Monnaie
De Munt
Behind the scenes
In the wings of the opera
Pieter Claes

Offices and Library

Music Library

Workshops, 4th floor

The Music Library at La Monnaie is not a library in the traditional sense of the term (archives or lending service); it is in charge of preparing the performances. All the scores for operas, concerts, and Concertini are ordered, prepared, and annotated here. A mammoth task: invisible but essential!

Pieter Claes

Research and ordering

First, the scores are ordered from a publisherPublisher - He handles the production, exploitation, and distribution of the scores, as well as managing all activities related to the exploitation of the intellectual property rights (copyright) of the works. Renting a score from a publisher ensures that you will have a score that is as close to the original text as possible, with no errors, and that is as legible as possible. A score can evolve depending on new interpretations and discoveries, which is why some (even the best-known operas by Verdi and Mozart) are frequently republished.   . Not any edition will suffice; the choice is made in consultation with the conductor’s assistant. The scores are usually borrowed.

Pieter Claes

Preparation of the scores

Once the scores have arrived at La Monnaie, the painstaking process of preparing them begins.

The aim is to facilitate and minimise the work of the musicians as much as possible. P.G., Assistant at the Music Library

It is the ConcertmasterConcertmaster - She or he is the leader of the first violin section. This musician is responsible for playing any solos and is also the representative of the orchestra and responsible for communicating with the conductor. and the principals of each section who decide on the bowingsBowings - They indicate, for the stringed instruments, how to move the bow on the strings. Symbols indicate to the musician whether to “push” or “pull”. The position of the bow and the length of the bow stroke are also indicated.    , annotate the score, and then send it back to the library so they can be transcribed into all the scores for strings.

The librarians indicate the bowings in pencil, as well as the notes provided by the conductor, and any cuts. They cut the score to facilitate page breaks.

Constance Proux


The librarians are present at the orchestra’s first read-throughs.

“When we hear a silent page turn, we are happy.” P. M., Intern at the Music Library

It is common for changes (to dynamicsDynamics - Variations in the intensity of a musical note or phrase (from piano, quiet to forte- loud, and the degrees of variation mezzo pianofortissimo, etc.)   , for example) to be made during rehearsals, especially when the rehearsals move from the Fiocco Room to the orchestra pit.

The programme at La Monnaie includes a lot of new productions and rarely heard works, and prides itself on its innovative repertoire, so the work is often intense and varied.

Some autograph scores by living composers whose operas premiered at La Monnaie, such as the Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans, are stored in the Music Library.

Pencils and erasers are the main tools of the librarians (to erase the notes from another orchestra, for example). It is not uncommon for them to go through a whole eraser in a day! The job is currently in transition and paper copies are increasingly being replaced by pdfs.

For Les Huguenots (2022), the conductor Evelino Pidò gave the library very precise notes on the nuances and bow strokes. Transcribing the conductorFull score - The conductor’s score, in which all the parts for all instruments are detailed.     's notes was an enormous task, more than a thousand pages, or about 5kg of scores!

Although most of the scores are not stored here but returned to the publisher once the production is over, the work of archiving and preserving memories is nonetheless important. It allows us to find traces of past performances, such as this bandaBanda - A musical ensemble that plays music onstage (or backstage) that is heard by the characters onstage.    score dating from 1897.