Jean-Baptiste Couture, LewistonItem 18880 info
Jean-Baptiste Couture (1866-1943) was a leader in journalism, politics and theater in the Franco-American community of Lewiston-Auburn for more than half a century.
One of 18 children of a Québec school teacher, he left school at age 13 to become a typesetter for a Québec City newspaper.
Four years later, he immigrated to Lewiston where he found ready employment at Le Messager, Lewiston's French language newspaper.
Jean-Baptiste Couture, Lewiston, 1926Item 18864 info
By the end of Couture's career, he had received awards from the Maine Press Association for his contributions to journalism and from the government of France for his contributions to French language and culture.
In addition to being the owner-publisher of Le Messager for more than 50 years and founder of WCOU, a bilingual radio station, he also was active in politics and in local theater.
Theater production, Lewiston, 1896Item 18874 info
Jean-Baptiste Couture directed and starred in dozens of plays, operettas and operas.
For instance, he had the title role in an ambitious production of Gounod's Faust.
Couture named one of his sons "Faust" in honor of the famous literary character.
'Les Cloches de Corneville,' Lewiston, 1896Item 18878 info
Couture directed and starred in an 1896 production of Les Cloches de Corneville.
The actors, singers and musicians all were local talent. Members of the Franco-American community made costumes and stage sets.
Actresses, Lewiston, 1896Item 18873 info
The light-hearted comic opera proved to be so popular that it was produced several times over four generations.
It was last staged in Lewiston in 1983.
Program, 'Les Cloches de Corneville,' Lewiston, 1983Item 18876 info
The opera is a story of concealed or unknown identity, love, and greed set in Normandy when Louis XIV was king.
This is the cover of the program from the 1983 Lewiston production of Les Cloches de Corneville.
Les Défenseurs, Lewiston-Auburn, 1915Item 18859 info
Robert Rumilly, a noted Québec historian, referred to Lewiston as "the French Athens of New England" in his Histoire des Franco-Américains because of its large number of literary and cultural organizations.
Les Défenseurs, shown here, and their older counterparts, the Association Saint-Dominique, were a French Catholic version of the Y.M.C.A.
Moral instruction was combined with sports and cultural activities. These all-male groups presented plays where swashbuckling and chivalry were de rigeur.
'Les Francs-Tireurs de Strasbourg,' Lewiston, 1920Item 18871 info
L'Institut Jacques-Cartier, founded in 1872, was the first Franco-American fraternal organization in Lewiston. It produced its first play, La Malédiction, in 1874.
As the immigrant population grew, so did the number of groups offering theatrical presentations.
The Défenseurs was a Sts. Peter and Paul organization with men's and boys' sections. Though largely devotional in purpose, it offered a number of wholesome activities to its members.
Le Cercle Théâtral des Défenseurs presented this play, Les Francs-Tireurs de Strasbourg in 1920.
Les Francs-Tireurs de Strasbourg, Lewiston, 1920Item 18872 info
Among the theatrical organizations were Le Club Musical-Littéraire, Les Défenseurs, L'Association Saint-Dominique, Le Cercle Canadien, L'Union Musicale and L'Orphéon.
Fra Diavolo, Lewiston, 1926Item 18863 info
Amateur participants in the theatrical productions came from all walks of life — store clerks and mill workers to doctors and lawyers.
Early venues for the productions included the Dominican Block, Union Musicale Theater, the Music Hall, the Lyceum Hall, City Hall, Saint Peter's School Hall and the Empire Theater.
M. Alphonse Cote, Lewiston, 1918Item 18862 info
Alphonse Coté (1876-1933) was at the center of the musical community in Lewiston-Auburn for decades.
A full time professional musician, he was the organist and choir director at St. Louis Church in New Auburn.
He sang the tenor lead in several local operas, including Roméo et Juliette, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, and Rigoletto.
He was also an early recording artist for Victor Records.
Program, 'Faust,' Lewiston, 1930Item 18857 info
Coté was the musical director for this production of Faust and Couture was the dramatic director.
L'Amour A Bord, Lewiston, ca. 1930sItem 18870 info
This French version of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore was most likely a world premier.
J-B. Couture provided an original translation of the popular work, staying faithful to the plot line while accommodating the rhythms of the music.
It is not known whether he obtained permission for the project or attempted to copyright his rendition.
He did, however, secure the starring role.
Program, 'L'Amour A Bord,' Lewiston, 1939Item 18881 info
The program for the production of L'Amour A Bord, Jean-Baptiste Couture's translation of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore.
The comic opera was a benefit for Sts. Peter and Paul Church. The performance was at the Music Hall in Lewiston.
Ses soeurs, ses cousines et ses tantes, Lewiston, ca. 1930sItem 18869 info
The sisters, cousins and aunts from L'Orphéon production of L'Amour A Bord, a French translation of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore.
Actresses, from left, are Yvonne Reny, Jeanne Hébert, Charlotte Michaud, Zéphirine Poulin, Lucienne Lavoie, Harmonia Hallé, Rosilda Hallé, Yvonne Hallé, Yvette Couture Hasham, Irma Ferland, Bernadette Desjardins and Marie Guilbeault.
Comic opera production, Lewiston, 1930sItem 18868 info
Jean-Baptiste Couture, translator, director, and star of L'Amour A Bord with actress Marie Michaud.
'La Fille du Tambour-Major,' Lewiston, 1936Item 18867 info
This popular comic-opera was first produced by the Club Musical-Littéraire in 1900.
The 1936 revival was held at the Music Hall in Lewiston as a fund raiser for what is now the Saints Peter and Paul Basilica.
Front row, from left, are unidentified, Lionel Bolduc unidentified, Jeannette Roy, Zéphirine Gosselin and Simone Payeur.
Back row, from left, are Victor Caron, Fernand Desphins, Liliane Michaud-Marcotte, Raoul Raymond, and Roméo Begin.
Musical score, 'La Veuve Joyeuse,' ca. 1975Item 18855 info
Another perennial favorite for Lewiston-Auburn companies was Franz Lehar's La Veuvre Joyeuse (The Merry Widow).
The 1941 production featured Liane Michaud-Marcotte in the title role.
'The Merry Widow,' Lewiston, 1976Item 18858 info
In the 1976 production of La Veuvre Joyeuse, Ken Rancourt and Anne Finley-Caldwell performed the leading roles.
'La Veuve Joyeuse,' Lewiston, 1976Item 18866 info
On stage in the 1976 production of La Veuve Joyeuse or The Merry Widow are, from left, Robert Wade, Richard Simard, Ken Rancourt, Richard Martel, Richard Charette, Robert Légendre, Gerard Lajoie, Paul Coté and Maurice Morin.
Christmas pageant, St. Peter's School, Lewiston, ca. 1900Item 18860 info
At one time, the majority of Lewiston's school children attended bilingual parochial schools where music and theater were part of the curriculum and part of ongoing fund-raising efforts.
Pageants, plays and concerts were a regular part of parish life.
St. Peter's School pageant, Lewiston, 1903Item 18861 info
Students re-enacting the Nativity in a Christmas pageant at St. Peter's School in Lewiston in 1903.
St. Dominic High School theater production, Lewiston, 1978Item 18882 info
Saint Dominic Regional High School also contributed to the French theatrical tradition.
Under the guidance of Sister Soulange Bernier and Roland Gosselin, the French Department for many years presented an annual play by a Québécois or French dramatist.
Theater program, 'Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,' Lewiston, 1978Item 18865 info
Some of the plays the school presented included Le temps des Lilas by Marcel Dubé, Un Simple Soldat by Marcel Dubé and, in 1978, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière.