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Reflecting on the unique legacies of the French and First Nations
people in Canada through a spectacular theatrical presentation

Note: ticket links on this page are for the June 7th performances. June 8th concerts here.

The trickster is jealous. He’s fallen for the daughter of a powerful chief. Unfortunately for him, another man has laid claim to her heart: a coureur de bois, a little on the naïve side to boot! What’s a poor trickster to do but send his rival packing with a series of ploys that leave the outsider battered and bruised? The young woman, though, is far stronger, sager and more resourceful that anyone could have imagined…

The production is unique among MCO collaborations, an immersive new work of art that brings together a group of celebrated artists: Théâtre Cercle Molière, writer Rhéal Cenerini and composer Michael Oesterle. In the tradition of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, Nanabozho et le tambour / Nanabush and the Drum is an enchanting piece of theatre that merges music, myth, and poetry.

While celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, Nanabush and the drum / Nanabozho et le tambour illuminates the diversity of our heritage. The work is a bilingual work, equal parts French and English. Rich with physical humour, evocative music, and vivid theatrical elements, it will be accessible to a broad audience. Matinee performances for school groups will take place both days.

Théâtre Cercle Molière

Théâtre Cercle Molière is the oldest theatre company with uninterrupted programming in Canada. Established in 1925, the company’s founders had the objective of bringing the French language to life within and beyond St-Boniface’s vibrant community. Today, the objective remains the same as the company strives to bridge language barriers with their subtitled performances and present inclusive and diverse programming to appeal to Winnipeg’s ever-changing community.

“The company’s future is brimming with new partnerships, co-productions with major players, Canadian tours and new works that reflect the francophone community today. We are thrilled about the new developments to come for this 90-year-old company, en route to our centennial” — Geneviève Pelletier, Artistic Director.

Evening concert at 7:30 pm, hour-long matinee concert at 10:30 am. Both concerts June 7th at Westminster United Church. Tickets for both shows are $34 adults, $32 seniors and $10 students (incl. GST). You can buy tickets to both concerts through MCO’s Ticketline (204) 783-7377 or on this page. Tickets for evening concert also available at McNally Robinson, the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook) & Organic Planet, (877 Westminster Ave).







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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
7 June 2017

Nanabush and the Drum / Nanabozho et le tambour
Anne Manson, conductor
Geneviève Pelletier, Director

A Soldier’s Tale (evening performances only)
Original libretto by Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz; translated by Jeremy Sams
Music by Igor Stravinsky

Nanabozho et le tambour / Nanabush and the Drum
Script by Rhéal Cenerini
Music by Michael Oesterle

Rhéal Cenerini

Rhéal Cenerini is an author who looks at themes of universal significance through the multiple lenses of theatre, poetry and prose. From the search for identity to an examination of human relations in all their aspects, including notions of power and success, his works find inspiration in the writings of Brecht, Claudel, Goethe, Auden and Anouilh. At the same time, his characters and the situations they face are often steeped in the same reality that the author himself knows the best, that of his home province of Manitoba, formed by the coming together of First Nations people, immigrants from throughout the world and the ever-present influence of the American giant at its doorstep. What results from this merger of literary currents and perspectives is as surprising as it is unique.

Rhéal grew up on a farm just south of the town of Cardinal in south central Manitoba. After finishing high school in Notre Dame de Lourdes, he went on to obtain a literature degree at the St. Boniface College and a diploma in agriculture at the University of Manitoba. He started writing in his early teens, originally focusing on poetry before moving on to theatre with his first play, Aucun Motif (No Motive) which was presented in 1982. Since then, he has continued to write for the stage while at the same time working in a number of agriculture-related areas including teaching farm business management and market gardening. He has written a dozen plays, both in French and in English. Seven have been published with les Éditions du blé in St. Boniface and five have been staged at Théâtre Cercle Molière. Along with his wife Carol and their four children, he lives on a small farm on the outskirts of La Salle.

Geneviève Pelletier

Geneviève Pelletier is a Canadian actor and director from Winnipeg. Since 2012, she has been the artistic director of Théâtre Cercle Molière, Canada’s oldest theatre company, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2015. She is interested in cultural crossings and the multiple possibilities opening up in a world that is becoming increasingly small, making for fertile and complex creative spaces.

Théâtre Cercle Molière

Théâtre Cercle Molière is the oldest theatre company with uninterrupted programming in Canada. Established in 1925, the company’s founders had the objective of bringing the French language to life within and beyond St. Boniface’s vibrant community. Today, the objective remains the same as the company strives to bridge language barriers with their subtitled performances and to present inclusive and diverse programming to appeal to Winnipeg’s ever-changing community. “The company’s future is brimming with new partnerships, co-productions with major players, Canadian tours and new works that reflect the francophone community today,” says Geneviève Pelletier, Artistic Director of the organization. “We are thrilled about the new developments to come for this 90-year-old company, en route to our centennial.”

Michael Oesterle

The Princeton educated Michael Oesterle composes in a style reminiscent of the American minimalists (Terry Riley, John Adams), and offers a balance between simplicity and complexity that has a broad appeal to audiences. This is the second time Dame Evelyn plays Oesterle’s Kaluza Klein with the MCO; it was commissioned for her and premiered by the MCO in 2012.

L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale)
Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky shot to fame through his brilliant collaborations with the legendary Russian impresario, Sergei Diaghilev, and his dance company, Les Ballets russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913). The First World War temporarily put a halt to the partnership. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, through which the imperial Russia where Stravinsky had grown up was dismantled, also made a profound impact on him, in terms both spiritual and practical.

Settling in Switzerland, he solidified and expanded his creative relationship with author, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, which had begun in 1915. The tempestuous events of recent history had virtually wiped out Stravinsky’s income from his music and his family estates. To make ends meet, he and Ramuz cast about for a joint project that would be inexpensive to produce and which could be toured profitably in Switzerland. A new Stravinsky style, Neo-classicism, was born of those practicalities. The Soldier’s Tale, the fascinating hybrid work that was so different from almost everything he had composed previously, showed where he was headed stylistically (and where he would remain for the most part until the 1950s).

Stravinsky found a subject for them to work with in an anthology of Russian folk tales that he came across in the vast library of his father, Fyodor, the principal operatic bass of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. The story about a hapless soldier who strikes a Faust-like, tragic deal with the Devil, was set during the nineteenth-century reign of Tsar Nicholas I. In Ramuz and Stravinsky’s version, they minimized references to a specific time and place in order to make their version of the allegorical fable more universal.

They decided to present it as a kind of staged narration with music and a bit of choreography. Something “to be read, played and danced,” was how they described it. The performing company would include a handful of actors and dancers, accompanied by an ensemble of clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, violin, double bass, and percussion.

Producing The Soldier’s Tale proved more complicated than Stravinsky & Co. had expected. Securing sufficiently skilled performers, and adequate rehearsal time and funding, were the largest of many obstacles. Relations among the creators proved fractious at times and everything about the project was in a constant state of flux. It was rescued financially by Werner Reinhart, a generous Swiss patron, who underwrote all expenses.

The premiere took place in Lausanne on 28 September 1918, with Ernest Ansermet conducting. Stravinsky recalled that the portable stage was the size of two armchairs. The show won great success. A tour had been set up, but the Spanish influenza pandemic that had already devastated the war-weakened citizens of other countries swept into Switzerland, infected the contracted performers, and forced the tour’s cancellation.

The following year, Stravinsky re-established his relationship with Diaghilev. There was no possibility of the Ballets russes staging The Soldier’s Tale, as the temperamental impresario had little interest in a project in which he had had no input. It was only after several years and several unsuccessful productions that this unique, multi-disciplinary presentation found its way to popularity. Its greatest currency has been through the instrumental concert suite that Stravinsky drew from it in 1920, but it makes its full impact only when presented as it was conceived.

Stravinsky’s tart, witty and rhythmically intricate score displayed several influences: Russian folk song, Romani fiddlers (as required by the plot, the violin often takes the musical spotlight), klezmer groups, the popular music of Spain (The Royal March is an example of the pasodoble), and his recent exposure to jazz (the ensemble sounds like a Dixieland band at times). “My knowledge of jazz was derived exclusively from copies of sheet music,” he admitted, “and as I had never actually heard any of the music performed, I borrowed its rhythmic style not as played, but as written. I could imagine jazz sound, however, or so I liked to think. Jazz meant, in any case, a wholly new sound in my music, and L’Histoire du soldat marks my final break with the Russian orchestral school in which I had been fostered.” Among the music’s other ingredients are parodies of military marches and popular music forms such as the tango, waltz and ragtime, and even two Luthera chorales, including Ein’ feste Burg ist under Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).

Nanabozho et le tambour
Nanabush and the Drum
Michael Oesterle / Rhéal Cenerini

Rhéal Cenerini has provided the following note:

When I was approached by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and the Théâtre Cercle Molière about participating in this project, I felt strongly that it was important to tap into the history and traditions that make Manitoba such a unique and vibrant place. I hope that Nanabozho et le tambour / Nana­bush and the drum enables their audiences as well as the arts community at large to savour the rich heritage of our region’s Aboriginal origins.

Michael Oesterle has provided the following note:

I feel so very lucky to have been asked to write the music for Rhéal Cenerini’s play Nanabozho et le tambour. The MCO/Théâtre Cercle Molière production of this brilliant play continues my long and fruitful relationship with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The production’s pretext to create a new piece based on the theatrical and musical format of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat—is quite irresistible. Stravinsky’s masterpiece is a perfect combination of basic, yet essential, elements.

It is fascinating that he was able to use the scarcity of resources in Europe during WWI to create an electrifying soundscape bursting with energy and character. For me, the seven instruments in this piece provide a unique combination of individualistic voices. They provoke an immediate sense of dialogue, ideal for telling the story of Nanabozho et le tambour. Working within the theatrical and musical parameters of L’Histoire du soldat and the deeply rooted mythology of Cenerini’s play has inspired me to work toward an original and contemporary work that is nonetheless steeped in historical and cross-cultural awareness.

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