A major world premiere event for the 39th edition of the Festival

Robert Lepage, Ex Machina and Betty Bonifassi present

A theatrical odyssey based on slave songs

Renowned as an incubator for an innovative theatre launching new artistic forms and genre fusing, the Ex Machina company, recognized for creating inventive and surprising visual spectacles, brings the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal the premiere of its new spectacle: SLĀV. Presented for just a few evenings in Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, the spectacle will unfold a theatrical odyssey based on traditional African-American chants, immortalized by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax.

As director, multidisciplinary artist Robert Lepage is internationally renowned for his supremely original approach, upending the conventions of scenic writing, often making innovative use of new technologies. 

The cast includes six choristers, and stars incomparable singer Betty Bonifassi, whose celebrated albums Chants d’esclaves, chants d’espoir and Lomax—vibrant tributes to the spiritual resilience, dignity and beauty of African slaves transported to America—are the core influences of this project.

SLĀV celebrates a number of song families: call songs that accompanied the slaves as they awoke, work songs that matched the endlessly rhythmic hammer-blows of the railroad work sites, gandy dancers’ railroad songs that mirrored the collective physical effort required to lay the rails, field songs, less rhythmic, that eased the routine of harvesting tobacco and cotton, and prisoner songs, addressing lost freedom, and the laments and lullabies that marked the end of another day’s labours, or expressed the hope for some future day of liberty.

SLĀV is an odyssey transporting us from the South to the North, from slavery to segregation, and on to the mass incarceration that persists even today, finally arriving at the civil rights movement that began in the '50s. And with Robert Lepage at the helm, the visuals are striking: archival film projections, stage design using railroad imagery on the floor and in mid-air, rappels des codes brodés sur des courtepointes qui that guided slaves fleeing bondage for liberty via the secret underground railroad… In other words, a highly and intensely visual theatrical experience.

One thing is certain, this collaboration promises an astonishing staging experience in a grand musical-theatrical celebration of the freedom of the human spirit. An ambitious project already causing a sensation of expectation!

For details, click here

Théâtre du Nouveau Monde: 84 Ste. Catherine Street West; 514 866-8668 — tnm.qc.ca

June 26 to 30 and July 2 to 7, 8 p.m.

Conception and interpretation: Betty Bonifassi and six choristers

Conception and stage direction: Robert Lepage

Conception and creative direction: Steve Blanchet

Production: Ex Machina

Duration: 100 minutes, approximately