The storied history of Montréal comes to life every night in Cité Mémoire, the largest outdoor video-projection installation in the world. Cité Mémoire features some 20 tableaux composed of images, dialogue and music projected on walls, in alleys, on the ground and trees in historic Old Montréal, telling stories of famous as well as little-known Montrealers that spectators can also listen to by downloading a free mobile application.
Six-years-in-the-making, the Cité Mémoire installation was created by three of Montréal’s most in-demand creative minds: internationally-acclaimed duo Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, who previously devised such large-scale productions as TORUK – The First Flight and Delirium for Cirque du Soleil; in collaboration with playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, famed for his plays Lilies and Tom at the Farm. The trio were inspired by the figures and events that have marked Montréal’s history.
“We wanted to create something that had never been done before, something innovative,” says Pilon, noting over 800 people worked on this project, including 400 artists and craftspeople. “I must say choosing the themes and historical figures in our tableaux was very difficult. We began with over 200 stories.”
“So we chose stories with themes and values central to Montréal’s identity,” says Michel Marc Bouchard.
Stories shared include those about Marguerite Bourgeoys, the French founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal, as well as sports icons Jackie Robinson and Maurice Richard. There are also tableaux about The Jewish Children’s Transport train, about a thousand orphans who survived Nazi concentration camps and were adopted by Montrealers; the burning of the Parliament in Montreal in 1849; Montreal’s fabled Sin City era, set the rhythm of Montrealer Oscar Peterson’s piano; and about falling in love in Montréal, set to famed Montreal songwriter Leonard Cohen’s iconic song Suzanne. Spectators will also learn about a gay soldier stationed with the French garrison in 1648, who was caught having sex with another man. The solder was given a choice: death or become the colony’s first executioner. The gay solder took the executioner job.
“Watching our tableaux is like watching a film in a cinema,” says Michel Lemieux. “It’s like watching a feature film divided into parts throughout Old Montréal. It will be projected 10 months of each year until 2019. Now each time I take a walk in Old Montréal, I experience another moment of magic. Our screen – our canvas – is the city itself and it gives me shivers!”
Visitors can experience the full Cité Mémoire multimedia experience – the only one of its kind in the world – by downloading the free mobile app Montréal en Histoires, which provides Cité Mémoire’s entire soundtrack as well as historical context for each tableau in four languages (English, French, Spanish and Mandarin). Available 24 hours a day, the app also features some 60 additional points of interest and augmented reality segments in addition to the nighttime tableaux, enhancing strolls in Old Montréal where a free Wi-Fi network – Mtl WiFi – is accessible to all.
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