A brief history of the opera

Written for the 1967 Canadian Centennial, Louis Riel tells the story of the controversial Métis leader who was executed in 1885. The opera was commissioned by the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation and produced by the Canadian Opera Company.
Louis Riel was first performed Toronto and Montreal in September and October of 1967. That production was repeated in 1968 in Toronto and was adapted by original stage director, Leon Major, and the CBC’s Franz Kraemer in 1969 for CBC TV.
In 1975, Louis Riel was revived by the Canadian Opera Company for several performances, including Toronto, Ottawa and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., as part of Canada's contribution to the United States' bicentennial celebrations. At that time, Wendell Margrave of the Washington Star described the opera as 'one of the most imaginative and powerful scores to have been written in this century.'
Louis Riel was not presented again until Opera McGill gave the first full staging in 30 years, in January 2005. In 2010, the University of British Columbia mounted a production as well.
For further information about the historical context of the actual person the opera is based on, please see the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music on Louis Riel

Information regarding the recording of the DVD Louis Riel:

This DVD is a re-working of a 1969 CBC-TV broadcast of the opera. The broadcast production was based on the original, 1967 performance of the work by the Canadian Opera Company, adapted for TV by stage producer, Leon Major, and CBC producer, Franz Kraemer. The orchestra was a pick-up group drawn from members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The recordings were made with the orchestra and cast in separate sound studios in Toronto, each recording simultaneously.

The text in the DVD package conforms to the published libretto of the opera printed at the time of the premiere. It was reproduced, with translations of the stage cues added, under the supervision of Somers and Moore in 1985. This was to accompany a limited edition Centrediscs three-LP set of the opera made using tapes from a live radio broadcast of the 1975 Washington performance.

A translation of Kuyas, the lullaby in the Cree language that opens Act 3 is on the following page. This is the translation made for the recording of Kuyas featuring Monica Whicher on

The TV production altered the shape of the opera for broadcast purposes, choosing to divide it into two acts rather than the original three - the first ending after Act 2 Scene 4, the second beginning with Scene 5. In Mavor Moore’s televised introductions that appear as special features on the DVD he is referring to the opera based on this structure, not the original layout of the score.

List of credits from the 1969 CBC-TV recording
Numerous people have requested the full credits for the TV production. They scroll at the end of the DVD. Here they are in print:

Music by
Harry Somers

Text by
Mavor Moore

With the collaboration of
Jacques Languirand

Originally commissioned by the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation and produced by the Canadian Opera Company.

Conductor: Victor Feldbrill

Chorus Master: Lloyd Bradshaw

Coaches : George Brough, Paul Helmer


Louis Riel: Bernard Turgeon

His Mother (Julie): Patricia Rideout

His Sister (Sara): Mary Morrison

His Wife (Marguerite): Roxolana Roslak

Sir John A. Macdonald: Donald Rutherford

Bishop Taché: Joseph Rouleau

Sir George Cartier: Paul Trepanier

William McDougall: Howell Glynne

Col. Garnet Wolseley: Peter Milne

Gen. Sir Frederick Middleton: David Astor

Thomas Scott: Thomas Park

O’Donoghue (a Fenian Irishman): Alan Crofoot

Dr. Schultz: Peter Milne

Charles Mair: Robert Glover

Donald Smith (of Hudson’s Bay Company): David Astor

Gabriel Dumont: Garnet Brooks

James Isbister: Lloyd Dean

Poundmaker: Oskar Raulfs


Ambroise Lépine: André Lortie

Joseph Delorme: Jacques Lareau
Janvier Richot: David Geary

Elzéar Goulet: Lloyd Dean

André Nault: Steven Henrikson

Lagimodière: Herman Rombouts

Baptiste Lépine: Wilmer Neufeld

Father Alexis André: André Lortie

Wandering Spirit, War Chief of the Crees: Donald Young

Hudson’s Bay Scout: Robert Jeffrey

A soldier: George Reinke

The Judge: Maurice Brown

F.X. Lemieux, Riel’s Lawyer: John Arab

B.B. Osler, Prosecutor: David Geary

Dr. F. Roy: Danny Tait

Clerk of the Court: Donald Saunders

Directed by: Leon Major

Produced for Television by Franz Kraemer

Assistants to the Producer: Ann Sutton, Diederik D’Ailly

Settings Designed by Maurray Laufer

Costumes Originally Designed by Marie Day

Supervision and Execution for Television: Suzanne Mess

Make up: Patricia Harshaw
Haristyling: Sheila Edwards

Set Decoration: Robert Parker

Special Effects: Norman Hersch

Graphic Design: Don Grant

Lighting Direction: Tom Ashworth

Video: Syed Bokhari, George Madloch

Audio: Glenn Clarke, Allan Paul, Tom Greenwood

Cameramen: Tom Farquharson, John Thomson, Michael Gyil, Famonn Beglan, George Clement, Al McPherson

Technical Producers: Vic Ferry, Joe Parkinson, Jerry Sokol

Service Producer: John McGreevy

CBC Television MCMLXIX

Interview credits

Guests: Mavor Moore, Harry Somers
Writer: David Harriman
Interviewer: Warren Davis
Set Designer: Roy Kellar
Set Decorator: Robert Parker
Lighting: Stewart Hull
Audio: Julian Bergeron
Technical Producer: Bill Gasson
Videotape Editor: Peter Ovens
Production Assistants: Ann Sutton, Tony Hodge
Produced & Directed by John Coulson

This has been a CBC Television Production copyright MCMLXXXV

Musique de
Harry Somers

Texte de
Mavor Moore

Avec la collaboration de
Jacques Languirand

Œuvre originellement commandée par la Fondation Floyd S. Chalmers et produite par la Canadian Opera Company

Chef d’orchestre : Victor Feldbrill

Chef de chœur : Lloyd Bradshaw

Répétiteurs : George Brough, Paul Helmer


Louis Riel : Bernard Turgeon

Sa mère (Julie) : Patricia Rideout

Sa sœur (Sara) : Mary Morrison

Sa femme (Marguerite) : Roxolana Roslak

Sir John A. Macdonald : Donald Rutherford

Monseigneur Taché : Joseph Rouleau

Sir George Cartier : Paul Trepanier

William McDougall : Howell Glynne

Le col. Garnet Wolseley : Peter Milne

Le gén. Sir Frederick Middleton : David Astor

Thomas Scott : Thomas Park

O’Donoghue (un Fenian irlandais) : Alan Crofoot

Le docteur Schultz : Peter Milne

Charles Mair : Robert Glover

Donald Smith (de la Cie de la Baie d’Hudson) : David Astor

Gabriel Dumont : Garnet Brooks

James Isbister : Lloyd Dean

Poundmaker : Oskar Raulfs


Ambroise Lépine : André Lortie

Joseph Delorme : Jacques Lareau

Janvier Richot : David Geary

Elzéar Goulet : Lloyd Dean

André Nault : Steven Henrikson

Lagimodière : Herman Rombouts

Baptiste Lépine : Wilmer Neufeld

Le père Alexis André : André Lortie

Wandering Spirit (Esprit voyageur), chef de guerre des Cris : Donald Young

Avant-coureur de la Baie d’Hudson : Robert Jeffrey

Un soldat : George Reinke

Le juge : Maurice Brown

F.X. Lemieux, avocat de Riel : John Arab

B.B. Osler, procureur : David Geary

Le docteur F. Roy : Danny Tait

Le greffier : Donald Saunders

Le gardien de prison : George Reinke

Voix de chanteur folklorique : Donald Long

Prison Guard: George Reinke

A Folksinger’s Voice: Donald Long