Li Keur: Riel's Heart Of The North
This cross-cultural collaboration is a celebration of Métis women, language, and culture, conceptualized by Métis poet and librettist Dr. Suzanne M. Steele and co-composed by Alex Kusturok and Neil Weisensel.
A full-scale production, this epic music and song experience features 11 vocal soloists, an adult chorus, a children’s chorus, fiddlers, dancers, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.In this historical, mystic opera, 21st century Joséphine-Marie, through a grandmother’s story, is transported to 1870s Montana where she encounters an ancestor, the sharpshooter Josette, a runaway travelling with Riel and the last buffalo brigades. Josette falls in love with the young, passionate, Louis Riel, in disguise, on the run from assassins.
The pair confront jealousy, destiny, deprivation, and torment wrought by four shape-shifting Black Geese of Fate, but are comforted by ghost choruses of ancestors, the bison brigades, and the women of their peoples, as they try to salvage a nation and save themselves from total destruction in the burning heart of the continent of the 1870s.This opera re-places the Michif peoples and the kinship webs of the founding nationals, at the central continent, to the centre of the big stage while simultaneously redefining operatic form through an Indigenous world view of story.
Themes critical to the survival of the Métis/Michif peoples (and their kin) of the 19th century that will resonate with contemporary audiences include identity, environmental degradation, celebration, innovation, refugeehood, diaspora, and the consequences of love and idealism. While knowingly engaging with many of the tropes of opera, Li Keur, offers a fresh take on an old European artform, a take that, interestingly, may well represent opera’s earlier iterations of it being an artform of the people.At its heart, this opera seeks to celebrate Métis languages and ways of being. Sung in Southern Michif, French-Michif, Anishinaabemowin, French, and English, the opera’s text was developed with Indigenous language keepers who continue to be involved with the project. Li Keur brings these languages, which have survived decades of attempted erasure, back to the centre stage at the heart of this continent.
Li Keur places Métis culture, a founding culture of our province, on Manitoba Opera’s mainstage. The Red River jig, which features prominently in the score, along with other traditional and contemporary Métis music by Kusturok, is for the Métis peoples, not only a national anthem, it is a prayer, a celebration, and a compass with which Michifs find their way home. Red River music, born of a specific place and rooted in a specific culture, continue to thrive and with Li Keur this music is celebrated through the power of Métis fiddle, dance, language, and through the operatic voice.
Li Keur: Riel’s Heart Of The North takes place at the Centennial Concert Hall on Saturday, November 18th (7:30PM), Wednesday, November 22 (7PM) and Friday, November 24th (7:30PM) — for tickets or more information, please visit the MB Opera website!Tune in to UMFM for your chance to win tickets to this amazing, once in a lifetime performance!