The Theatre of Neptune/Le Théâtre de Neptune
The Theatre of Neptune/ Le Théâtre de Neptune. Masque written by Marc Lescarbot in 1606. Lescarbot (lawyer, traveller, writer, b Vervius, France, ca 1570, d Presles, France, 1642) visited Port Royal during the winter of 1606-7. The Theatre of Neptune is the earliest known entertainment conceived and performed in New France by Europeans, and is thought to be the first in North America. It was presented 14 Nov 1606 by Frenchmen and Indians under the author's direction in barges and canoes on the waters before Port Royal (the first successful French settlement in North America and known since 1710 as Annapolis Royal, NS). Written to welcome the port's founders, Samuel de Champlain and Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, on their return from coastal explorations, the masque includes two musical cues - a trumpet call and the singing 'in four parts' ('en Musique à quatre parties') of the song 'Vray Neptune.' The text was published in Lescarbot's Les Muses de la Nouvelle-France (Paris 1609) and later translated by H.T. Richardson as The Theatre of Neptune in New France (Boston 1927). However, the music has not survived, and its authorship is in doubt. Marius Barbeau conjectured that Lescarbot may have borrowed the melody of the French folk song 'La Petite Galiotte de France,' while Willy Amtmann in Music in Canada suggested that Lescarbot himself may have composed the melody. A version of The Theatre of Neptune, translated by R. Keith Hicks and with incidental music by Healey Willan, was performed 6 May 1954 at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto. A commemorative edition of the original French script and the English translation was published by Talon Books in 2006. The imperialist sentiments expressed in the masque led to the cancellation of a re-enactment planned in 2006 for its 400th anniversary.