Lucia de Moucheron

Posted on 2004-05-03 16:05

The music-theatre-play "Lucia De Moucheron" is an historic tale of love, poverty and wealth, at the time of the founding of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) - United East Indian Company. The story takes place between 1596 and 1623 in three loca

The music-theatre-play "Lucia De Moucheron" is an historic tale of love, poverty and wealth, at the time of the founding of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) -United East Indian Company. The story takes place between 1596 and 1623 in three locations. First, Middelburg, the site of the mighty VOC?s chamber of Zeeland. Second, on one of the company?s great vessels: 'De Leeuw' (?The Lion?). Finally the action moves to one of the Banda islands in the Indian archipelago.

The script is based on a number of historical events. In 1596 a group of raiders from Zeeland conquered a Spanish slave ship near Duinkerken. On arrival at Middelburg the slaves were set free (the slave trade did not become profitable in the Netherlands until a quarter of a century later). Due to an ongoing argument about a spice deal, the governor-general of the 'Council of Indonesia' had the entire population of the Banda islands (15.000) slaughtered in 1621. The Flemish ship-owner Balthasar De Moucheron (Lucia?s father) is an historical figure. Though he profited through his involvement with the VOC he was to lose much of his wealth through the course of his life due to an unbridled desire to explore new trade opportunities.

This folk-opera is set in a period of Dutch history that is renowned for its economical success. In tiny offices all over the Netherlands the will to expand drove the profiteering forward. The VOC was, first and foremost, a company of clerks and merchants. It was also the first company in history to operate on a basis of shares and stockholders. As a consequence never before had a company kept such minutely detailed records; the number of nails in each ship was accounted for; if a sailor died his widow would be presented with the bill for the weight used to make the corpse sink when it was buried at sea. Adventure continued to be sought and investors ploughed the thing they loved most, money, into new and more challenging expeditions.

Set against this background of expansion and adventure this production draws on the universal theme of liberation. However as the absence of wind can point to a storm, the concept of liberation is related to the inevitability of a desire to retain; the quest for freedom becomes a tale of abandonment.

Balthasar de Moucheron holds dear his interests and successes, but solves personal problems such as his daughters love for her apparent half-brother Johannes by separating them. He sends Lucia away while he keeps his unacknowledged son by his side as his servant.

When Johannes comes to believe in the incestuous nature of his love affair with Lucia he reacts by rejecting both his parentage and his love. Lucia de Moucheron also chooses not to confront Johannes with her feelings and accepts an extended stay in the East. The slave Alinda, Johannes? mother and Lucia?s companion in the east, carries a deep secret; she does not confront what has been a very painful episode in her life until the end of the play. Inevitably all the actors in this story end up trying to escape their harsh realities and the people they love. Often people turn to money as the first route of escape, though as the play suggests money is like sea water, the more you drink the thirstier you get. And love is like money, its worthless unless its shared. This provides the backdrop for the story of Lucia de Moucheron.

The production also draws on the theme of migration and its consequences. This period represents the first in history when large proportions of populations were taken from their homelands and forcibly moved thousands of miles. This refers both to what is traditionally conceived as the ?slave trade? or ?living ebony? as well as to those groups of Dutch soldiers, sailors and women who were transported to the East and South Africa as ?white meat?.

The displacement of peoples for reasons of profitability, both then and now, has contributed towards a sense of bereavement and confusion for whole sections of populations. The present situation in Indonesia and in the Molukken islands, South Africa and Surinam are directly traceable to the developments that took place in 17th century Holland. The realty is by no means all negative however, for example, one could go so far as to suggest that the Dutch are responsible for the birth of jazz, after all the Dutch were answerable for bringing the greatest number of Africans to New Amsterdam (now New York).

The legacy of the Golden Age is preserved not only in painting and architecture but also in the process of culture mixing and displacement that started 400 years ago and is likely to continue long into the future. This performance tells the story of the birth of this process through the eyes of Lucia de Moucheron and her family.

Erik Visser