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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!