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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

THE SCOOP | Luminato Festival Announces 2019 Season With Star Power

By Anya Wassenberg on March 14, 2019

House of Mirrors, Luminato 2019 — June 7 – 23. (Photo : Remi Chauvin)
House of Mirrors, Luminato 2019 — June 7 – 23. (Photo: Remi Chauvin)

Imaginative, diverse, and eclectic, Luminato 2019 will include over 165 Canadian and international artists, six world premieres, two North American premieres, five original Luminato commissions, and encompass 88 performances in 14 venues across Toronto. The Festival will take place from June 7 to 23.

Curated by recently appointed Artistic Director Naomi Campbell and predecessor Josephine Ridge, the festival offers its usual cornucopia of music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and more.

Many Torontonians are already waiting for the House of Mirrors to take over Exhibition Common at Harbourfront Centre for all 17 days of the festival. The installation by Australian artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney will create a reflective, kaleidoscopic maze over 12.5 feet high that weighs over 55 tonnes.

On the musical side, one of the must-see events has to be Maada’ookii Songlines, where 200 singers from eight choirs, along with four soloists and an ensemble of Indigenous singers, will perform a concert at sunset on the city’s waterfront. The program includes an original composition by Juno Award-nominated Cris Derksen, a classically trained cellist and composer who is half Cree.

Indigenous artists also take the spotlight at BIZIINDAN! a concert hosted by ShoShona Kish at Koerner Hall featuring some of Canada’s premiere artists, including Juno Award-winners Digging Roots, and both the 2018 and 2017 Polaris Music Prize-winners – Jeremy Dutcher and Lido Pimienta — among others.

Rite of Spring by Yang Liping
Luminato 2019 presents Rite of Spring by Yang Liping.

Another highlight for classical music lovers, in particular, is the North American premiere of a brand new production of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by noted Chinese choreography Yang Liping. The groundbreaking production uses traditional Tibetan music, and both Tibetan and Chinese symbols, to flesh out Stravinsky’s ancient themes of ritual sacrifice and the reincarnation of life after winter.

In an unusual juxtaposition, Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) pairs the music of the late Canadian icon and the work of the celebrated Japanese Butoh dancer. The creation is the brainchild of Colombia’s innovative La Compañía Cuerpo de Indias.

Other dance highlights include KIRA, The Path | La Voie, a new production infused by Guinean culture by Toronto’s own Lua Shayenne Dance Company and renowned West African choreographer Fara Tolno. Four Sisters is the last installment of The Empire Trilogy by writer/director Susanna Fournier with choreography by Amanda Acorn. Elements of dystopian sci-fi and sisterhood come together in the story of Sarah, a 279-year-old former madam and three other women as they try to survive an apocalyptic plague.

Teisha-Smith-Gutherie, Nickeshia Garric & Amanda De Freitas in Obeah Opera. (Photo: Osato Erebor)
Teisha-Smith-Gutherie, Nickeshia Garric & Amanda De Freitas in Obeah Opera. (Photo: Osato Erebor)

Other musical and theatrical highlights were announced back in October, including Obeah Opera by Asah Productions in association with Luminato. It’s a new version of the acclaimed production that celebrates Black music, sung a cappella by an all-female cast, through the story of Tituba, a young slave from the Caribbean who was the first witch accused in the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

The festival will also present the World Premiere of Hell’s Fury: The Hollywood Songbook. Presented at last year’s festival as a work-in-progress, the full-fledged show brings back acclaimed baritone Russell Braun to the stage to sing the songs and tell the story of Hanns Eisler. The composer fled Nazi Germany, achieved success — including an Oscar nomination — in the United States, only to fall victim to the communist scare and end up blacklisted and banned from the country as the Cold War began.

Theatre and music come together in The Cave, a creation of composer John Millard, lyricist Tomson Highway, and dramaturg Martha Ross. As a forest fire destroys their environment, animals converge in The Cave to escape the blaze. Tempers flare, and climate change is viewed by the innocents who will suffer most.

The venerable Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia brings Masquerade to the festival, a production based on the writings of 19th-century poet Mikhail Lermontov.  Lithuanian innovator Rimas Tuminas, who was behind the sold-out production of Uncle Vanya at Luminato 2017, directs the story of sex scandals, lies, truth, and the power of words. In Russian with English surtitles.

Canadian master puppeteer Ronnie Burkett directs the world premiere of Forget Me Not, a story that takes place in “The New Now”, a world where written words are forbidden. Each audience member has a chance to participate in the play using one of more than 100 one-of-a-kind hand puppets crafted by Burkett for the production.

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)
Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another) is a provocative work that looks at the power of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography, featuring original compositions by Bryce Dessner, lyrics/poetry by Patti Smith, Korde Arrington Tuttle, and Essex Hemphill, and Grammy Award-winning choral ensemble Roomful of Teeth.

On the side of visual arts, The Drawing Room exhibition showcases large-scale sculptures, drawings, and other works by five different artists at the Artport Gallery at Harbourfront Centre. The free exhibition will include the work of Syrus Marcus Ware, Nathaniel Donnett, Shelley Niro, Robert Pruitt, and Lesley Loksi Chan.

There’s a business side of the festival too. The Illuminating works project brings artistic directors and other national and international presenters to Toronto to experience works by Toronto and Canadian artists. In 2018, its inaugural year, the initiative brought 25 presenters and collaborators from 17 different cities to the city.

Luminato’s film series, curated in partnership with Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, offers an eclectic series of documentary screenings at the Studio Theatre at Harbourfront. A forum discussion will take place after each film. True North: Inside the Rise of Toronto Basketball, directed by Ryan Sidhoo, looks at Toronto’s burgeoning basketball factory, following the city’s top players as they aim for NBA stardom. In Angry Inuk, filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril fires back at the celebrity-led outrage over traditional Inuit seal hunting. The enduringly controversial legacy of famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is examined in Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures by filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Director Deborah S. Esquenazi re-examines the case of four lesbian Latinx women who were convicted of sexual assault in a case with skimpy evidence. Homophobia and whispers of witchcraft are running themes, and Esquenazi gets one of the accusers to recant on screen.

The films and forums are part of the Illuminating Ideas programming stream, which will also include masterclasses, workshops, and other opportunities to become part of the discussion.

According to Luminato CEO Anthony Sargent, the various themes, events, and performances form part of a long term programming strategy. He is quoted in a media release, “Last year’s Luminato was one of the most widely praised in recent years, and 2019 builds on many of 2018’s popular successes – a large-scale participatory event showcasing Toronto’s own talent, wide-ranging celebration of some of Canada’s most distinctive creative voices, promoted internationally by Illuminating works, a strong vein of Indigenous culture, and works that hold up a mirror to today’s fractured world, expanded through Illuminating Ideas. All of these are programming strands that we will develop in future years, alongside our signature commitment to bringing some of today’s most exciting international artists to Canada. I join our Artistic Director Naomi Campbell in welcoming Torontonians and visiting guests to another Luminato festival packed with discovery and adventure.”

Luminato takes place from June 7 to 23, and tickets are on sale now. luminatorfestival.com 

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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