Press release for immediate distribution

Robert Lepage, Ex Machina and Betty Bonifassi present SLĀV – A theatrical odyssey based on slave songs


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

Montréal, Wednesday, November 22, 2017 — In a major world premiere as part of its 39th edition, presented by TD Bank Group in collaboration with Rio Tinto, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is thrilled to welcome SLĀV, conceived by Robert Lepage, produced by Ex Machina and starring Betty Bonifassi. Tickets for the show, presented in Théâtre du Nouveau Monde from June 26 to 30, 2018, go on sale Friday at noon.

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 traditionnal 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 examines genres of song and chant: call songs, to accompany awakening slaves; work songs, to punctuate their gestures repeated a thousand times on railway sites; gandy dancers’ railroad songs, emphasizing the backbreaking efforts required to lay tracks; the less rhythmic field songs, to ease the boredom of picking cotton and tobacco; prisoners’ songs, speaking of lost liberty; and the laments and lullabies, to mark the end of another day’s hard labour, expressing hope about one day being free.

SLĀV is an odyssey from North to South, a journey from slavery to segregation to mass incarceration, still present today, to finally arrive at the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s. And since the show is directed by Robert Lepage, the subject is richly illustrated: archival film projections, a set design with rail tracks unfolding on the ground and in the air, and traces of secret codes, embroidered on quilts, to guide the fleeing slaves on the underground railroad to freedom… In short, the show promises to be a compelling, visual and theatrical treat.

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!

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

Tickets on sale Friday at noon

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

The 39th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal will be held from June 28 to July 7, 2017.