1820-2020: the Opera celebrates its Bicentenary! Until the content of this exceptional event is revealed, the Opera invites you to retrace its 200 years of history. Each Friday, an episode will take you back in time.

At the Opera, the “pantheon” of music is above your heads.

When you go to the Opera, there is so much to admire on stage that your eyes rarely go to the ceiling. And that’s a shame ! One moment, do not hesitate, raise your head and look at the allegorical canvas, painted in 1903 by  artist Emile Berchmans from Liège and subsequently restored.

Craftsmen at work during the restoration of the ceiling fresco (2009-2012).

In the center of the canvas, sits Apollo, god of the arts. To his left, the nine Muses, eternal inspirers, who each symbolize an artistic discipline. There is Erato, muse of lyric poetry, with a thoughtful air. Beside him, Melpomene, muse of tragedy, brandishes a dagger with a broad gesture that sets his green toga in motion. Further on are Terpsichore, the dance muse, dressed in a delicate pink, and a few dancers. Then illustrate poetry and music with Calliope, Thalie, Euterpe and Polymnie as well as astronomy with Uranie, and history with Clio. More eccentric, with his lyre, Orphée charms the Muses.

To the right of Apollo, place some composers with Grétry, Gluck and Lully carried by a cloud, and closer to the base, Rossini, Wagner and Gounod present to the god Apollo their creations. With Faust, Méphistophélès and Marthe, Gounod offers his Faust; Rossini presents Il Barbiere di Siviglia through a scene bringing together Figaro and Bartolo; as for Wagner, with Brünhilde, Wotan and the Walkyries, he illustrates Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The opera ceiling fresco, after the restoration works.

Who is it ?

Emile Berchmans (1867-1947) is a painter from Liège and one of the main Belgian poster designers of the early XXth century. He was appointed professor of historical composition and sketching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Liège in 1904. He was then its director from 1930 to 1934.

  • Painted in 1903, the oval canvas of the ceiling measures 20 m by 16.5 m with a central cut of 4.5 m in diameter for the chandelier.
  • In 1905, two years after the creation of this work, the universal exhibition opened its doors. The Théâtre Royal de Liège will be one of the most popular places for visitors.
  • During the last major phase of the Opera’s work, from 2009 to 2012, the canvas was restored. However, it is impossible to remove it from the ceiling. The painters therefore worked standing, single-handedly, on a scaffolding over 30 m high.

Next week, don’t miss the episode over the Opera pediment!

Don’t miss anything of this vibrant season and share your experiences on the social networks with the Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège: # operaliege200