Photo : Maryvonne la Grande © Philippe Ollivier
Maryvonne the great (Maryvonne la grande)
Marthe Vassallo
Travelling portrait of a breton woman
After discovering the incredible life story of Maryvonne Le Flem (1841-1926) in unpublished notebooks by Anatole Le Braz and melodies written down by Maurice Duhamel, Breton singer Marthe Vassallo created a walking performance with a cappella voices and texts. A wonderfully tender and reverent tribute.

Marthe Vassallo created this walking performance composed of voices and archive texts after discovering the incredible life story of Maryvonne Le Flem (1841-1926) in unpublished notebooks by Anatole Le Braz and melodies written down by musician Maurice Duhamel. Drawing on the fate of Marivon Vraz and her village Crec’h Morvan and all those “people of little consequence” that history so easily forgets, she portrays the words and laments of a bygone era alongside new songs a hundred years later, in this tender and reverent tribute from one singer-storyteller to another, and from one Breton woman to another.

Using unpublished notebooks by Anatole Le Braz (who had interviewed her for his famous Légendes de la Mort, to which she lent her voice), and scores by musician Maurice Duhamel (who collected dozens of her melodies), Breton singer-songwriter and author Marthe Vassallo has gradually reconstituted the real life of Maryvonne Mainguy, née Le Flem. Her fascination with “Marivon Vraz” grew page by page, through melodies and song lyrics, anecdotes and life stories, official archives and portraits which gradually painted a picture of this bricklayer, seaweed collector, seamstress, single mother, wife of an Icelandic fisherman, and storyteller and singer, leading to this travelling show, Maryvonne The Great, based on archives (documents printed on fabrics) and voices (words, a cappella songs).

In a far cry from fiction, the “giant” from Crec’h Morvan (Port-Blanc, Penvénan) speaks not only for herself, but on behalf of all these “people of little consequence”, who so often disappear without a trace. It depicts the forgotten everyday life of a Breton woman, the laments of a bygone era, new Breton songs and the dream of a bigger world. The show is built up step by step and starts one evening in July 1922 when Maryvonne steps outside her small seaside house, as words from the past echo and resonate with our everyday life, in this beautiful and sensitive a cappella journey paying tribute to an incredible stranger.


Breton singer-songwriter and author Marthe Vassallo switches effortlessly between a traditional Breton repertoire (gwerz, kan ha diskan), opera, Celtic music, improvisation, readings and chanson (in Breton, English & French). Since the early 1990s, she has been developing a taste and refined understanding of timbre, the body, verbs, rhythm, speaking and writing, academic and popular culture. This big voice in Breton music has performed in trios with Annie Ebrel and Nolùen Le Buhé, and with Gilles Le Bigot and Jean-Michel Veillon, in a duet with Lydia Domancich or Bugel Koar, a band with Loened Fall or Gildas Pungier’s Vocal Mélisme(s) ensemble and worked as a guest artist on cross-disciplinary projects (with the Brittany Symphony Orchestra, Bagad Kemper, Théâtre de Cornouaille, le Petit Festival de Musiques en Trégor, Vertigo, Roland Becker, Éric Le Lann, le Hot Club du Kreiz Breizh, Dupain). She has a varied background and experience, and still sings a cappella solos in Les chants du libre bleu (2015) and Maryvonne The Great, a 2017 creation, presented at this year’s Les Tombées de la Nuit.


Marthe Vassallo : words, a cappella singing, texts and archive edits, under the supervision of Hervé Lelardoux.
Original text and research : new and published extracts from Anatole Le Braz, Maurice Duhamel’s musical collections, extracts from public archives.


Production : Fur ha Foll
Coproduction : Festival de Cornouaille – Son Ar Mein/Petit Festival
With the support of : la Région Bretagne et Département des Côtes d’Armor

Friday 06 July 2018
12:00 > 13:30
Parc des Tanneurs, rue Saint-Martin, Rennes
Friday 06 July 2018
18:00 > 19:30
La Paillette, rue Louis Guilloux, Rennes
Saturday 07 July 2018
14:30 > 16:00
Parc des Tanneurs, rue Saint-Martin, Rennes
Saturday 07 July 2018
19:00 > 20:30
La Paillette, rue Louis Guilloux, Rennes

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The association is supported by the City of Rennes, the Brittany Region, the Ille-et-Vilaine Department & the ministry of culture.

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