Manitoba Opera

Jul 27, 2023



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. There she 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,” explains Li Keur’s Suzanne Steele, librettist and storyteller.  

“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.” 



Li Keur (pronounced Lee Cur) is translated to “the heart” in Michif, the language of the Métis peoples. The inspiration for “The Heart of the North” came from the diaries of Louis Riel.   

L’Esprit de Dieu m’a fait voir un quart plein de marchandises. Sur le fond du Quart étaient écrites les paroles suivantes: “Les entrailles du Nord.” O mon Dieu! Accordez-moi, la grâce de conquérir le Nord et de Maîtriser tout ce qu’il a: donnez-moi les entrailles du nord. 

(The spirit of God revealed to me a crate full of merchandise. On the crate the following words were written: The heart [the guts /interior] of the North.
O my God! Give me the grace to conquer the north and master all within: give me the heart of the north.)

From the diaries of Louis Riel, translated by Dr. S.M. Steele      


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