Harry Somers and Mavor Moore’s opera Louis Riel embodies inherently conflicting messages. While the opera was intended to celebrate nation building and suggest a new, postcolonial Canadian nationalism in 1967, it also conveys a distrust of its own nationalizing message. Setting the opera in the broader context of works created about Louis Riel (whether historical, literary, socio-political, or musical) makes clear that it participates in a mythmaking enterprise surrounding the Métis leader. This process aims to present Riel as the quint-essential Canadian hero. However, because this paradigm suggests a collapsing of Canadian-ness and Indigeneity, it is at odds with calls for decolonization and Indigenization. Examining more recent musical works about Louis Riel by Andrew Balfour and Karen Sunabacka highlights some of the limitations of the nationalizing discourse around the opera and provides alternative musical representations of Riel that foreground his Indigeneity and, specifically, his Métis identity.


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pp. 73-82
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