Three-minute standing ovation for opening night of Rubens musical


Merode Castle’s summer production detailing the life of Peter-Paul Rubens wows audiences with floating stage and lighted backdrop

Year of Baroque

The new musical Rubens opened last night at Merode Castle in Westerlo with a three-minute standing ovation from the 1,800-strong audience in attendance. The performance was sold out, and the rest are selling out fast.

Part of the Baroque year in Antwerp, the original musical is being held on the grounds of the castle in Antwerp province. The stage itself is largely floating on the moat of the castle, with some underwater infrastructure to allow the more than 100 actors to dance onstage.

Rubens tells the life of Peter Paul Rubens through the eyes of two narrators – his biggest rivals in the turn-of-the-17th-century low countries. The backdrop of the stage is a giant wall of LED lighting, projecting Rubens’ paintings in order to set each scene.

The Dutch-language production was written and directed by Luc Stevens, known for other big musicals staged at Merode, including Marie Antoinette en Albert 1. The music was composed by Sam Gevers (Night of the Proms, Zoo of Life) with a libretto by Glenn Desmedt, an opera singer who also doubles as the duke of Mantua in the production. French choreographer Florian Boutonnier took charge of the dance.

Along with the performance, visitors will find an entire recreation of a village from Rubens’ time. There are also drinks and appetisers available before the show and during intermission.

Anyone interested in tickets to Rubens should buy immediately as performances are selling out quickly. The organisers have said that the seating is arranged in such a way that the views from the side of the stage are excellent. It is an open-air production, but both the stage and seating are covered in case of inclement weather.

Until 1 September, Merode Castle, Polderstraat & Hovenierstraat, Westerlo (Production is in Dutch, no surtitles)