It was five years ago when fiddler Melissa St. Goddard was first approached about a new idea for an opera. The idea has now come to fruition with Li Keur, a celebration of Metis women, language, and culture. It's the first full-scale Indigenous-led opera presented on a Canadian opera mainstage and it's happening this week at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg.

The first two shows have been sold out and one final show remains Friday night. St. Goddard describes the five-year journey.

"One of the co-composers saw a video of me on Twitter that someone had posted, it was me playing the fiddle. He shot me a message and asked if I could read sheet music. I said yes and the rest is history I guess. I got involved in all the early workshops and then about a year ago, he asked if I would you like to be in the show in Winnipeg. Of course, I said yes." 

The show lasts for about two and a half hours and St. Goddard says she is playing for a good part of it.

"I'm on stage with the entire opera. We're in some of the underscoring, behind some dialogue in some scenes and we play some songs with the symphony. In some spots there's a chorus singing over top of it or some opera singers singing with the music. It's really a one-of-a-kind experience. I'll probably never get to do anything like this again, so I'm really enjoying it."

Being a world-class event with world-class musicians, St. Goddard expected things to be pretty intense and has enjoyed it every step of the way.

"We've done a lot of practice. There's been a lot off and on for five years. Then, on stage practice with a good week of rehearsals. I feel like we got it down, no nerves even at this point. The opera's never done anything like this, it is actually their first time having a band on stage. They weren't familiar with sound checks or anything so we really threw a curveball at them. The whole show's come together so great."

St. Goddard grew up in the High Bluff area and has all kinds of family ties to the St. Ambroise and Portage area where she still lives today. She has been playing the fiddle since a very young age and performs at many fairs and festivals throughout the year as well. She also teaches lessons for the younger generation wanting to learn the instrument as well. Many of her selections can be heard on the Saturday night polka party and she says some new music may be recorded in the near future.

"I've played for a very long time but this week's event may be the highlight so far. The show being in Winnipeg makes it even more special as my family and friends have been able to take it in"

More information on the opera and the cast can be found here.

concert hallThe view from above the stage where the band performs


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