THE SCOOP | Luminato Festival Toronto 2023 Preview Showcases Opera, Theatre, Dance

By Anya Wassenberg on November 23, 2022

L-R (clockwise): Aalapi (Photo: Anne-Marie Baribeau); Iam Kamau (Photo: Milca Kuflu); Dragon's Tale graphic (Image courtesy of Luminato)
L-R (clockwise): Aalapi (Photo: Anne-Marie Baribeau); Iam Kamau (Photo: Milca Kuflu); Dragon’s Tale graphic (Image courtesy of Luminato)

Luminato Festival Toronto will return to the city from June 7 to 18, 2023. Organizers have released a preview of performing arts productions that will be featured, including world premieres, opera, theatre and dance.

“We are partnering with thirteen local arts organizations to bring five ambitious works to the 2023 festival. We want to offer Toronto’s loyal performing arts audience an early taste of what’s to come in June so they can start planning now,” says Naomi Campbell, Artistic Director, in a statement. “Next year’s festival is a testament to collaboration and communities, through stories which will inspire us all to keep working together to make our city, this land, and the world, a better more generous place to live for everyone.”

The works that have been announced so far include an interesting range of creative performances.

A preview of performing arts

Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha (Opera)

Joplin’s seldom performed opera melds European classical music traditions with ragtime, gospel, and American folk music for a unique musical palette. This new productions re-imagines Joplin’s story of a young woman rising to become a leader in the fraught atmosphere of 1880s America. It’s an especially poignant depiction of the post-slavery era written by a Black man who was there.

Sadly, Joplin did not live to see his opera produced. All that remained when Joplin himself looked to preserve his legacy was the original vocal score, and, ignored after his death, it was nearly lost to history.

The production will showcase the first ever all-Black orchestral ensemble in the history of Canadian opera, conducted by Panamanian-American Kalena Bovell, who will become the first Black woman conductor in Canadian opera history. The score, with new arrangements and orchestrations, was composed by Jessie Montgomery (Sphinx Medal of Excellence and ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Award winner) and Grammy-nominee Jannina Norpoth.

The new story and libretto were written by playwright and broadcaster Leah-Simone Bowen (The Secret Life of Canada), working with Emmy-nominated Cheryl L. Davis. Treemonisha is directed by award-winning, internationally acclaimed Canadian stage director Weyni Mengesha.

A Volcano production in association with Moveable Beast, Soulpepper and The Canadian Opera Company, presented by Luminato Festival Toronto and TO Live.

Treemonisha (Image by Mark Working/Luminato)
Treemonisha (Image by Mark Working/Luminato)

Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ (Theatre)

“Choosing silence to hear something beautiful” — that’s what Aalaapi means in Inuktitut. This original theatrical performance weaves together the sounds inherent to the North: the winds that whistle over the ice, the creaking of snow as you walk, voices speaking in Inuktitut, English and French.

Nancy and Ulivia are two friends who share a cabin in a small village in Nunavik. Through images, speech, sound, and silence, their history and future is revealed, blending theatre and radio documentary.

Presented by Native Earth Performing Arts and Le Théâtre français de Toronto, in association with Luminato Festival Toronto.

Dragon’s Tale (Opera)

This world premiere opera celebrates the origins of Dragon Boat racing, and features music by Chan Ka Nin, with libretto by Mark Brownell.

The story features two timelines: poet and politician Qu Yuan, who lives in ancient times in China, and devotes his life to King and the Chu kingdom. One day, he’s exiled, and his world changes forever. The second timeline takes place in Toronto in the present day, where Chinese-Canadian Xiao Lian struggles for independence against her father. Music director David Fallis and stage director Michael Hidetoshi Mori will bring the story to life.

The production reunites the team behind Soundstreams’ The Weaving Maiden and Tapestry Opera’s Iron Road. The performance is free, with tickets required, and takes place outdoors at Harbourfront. Co-produced by Tapestry Opera and Soundstreams, and realized in partnership with Luminato Festival Toronto and Harbourfront Centre.

Loss (Multimedia Performance)

Ian Kamau and his father Roger McTair wrote this live-art multimedia performance that will get its world premiere at Luminato 2023. It’s an intergenerational story that delves into trauma and loss in Afro-Caribbean communities through the mystery of Ian’s paternal grandmother Nora Elutha Rogers’ death.

The story, and the mystery, unfold via live music, video, and storytelling. It’s an immersive and intimate experience — a healing ritual Kamau shares with the audience.

Presented by Luminato Festival Toronto, and produced by The Theatre Centre Production.

Nuit (Image courtesy of Luminato)
Jean-Pierre Perreault’s Nuit (Image courtesy of Luminato)

Nuit (Dance)

Dancer, choreographer, artistic director, teacher and designer Jean-Pierre Perreault left a legacy of work that extends far beyond his origins in Montréal. His Nuit is considered not only one of his seminal works, but an important contribution to Canadian dance, and it’s remounted here by Toronto’s Compagnie de la Citadelle.

Nuit examines the individual inside the collective, with original choreography by Perreault, who also designed the set and costumes, and composed the original score. The Luminato production will feature original lighting by Jean Gervais.

Presented by Luminato Festival Toronto.

More details about Luminato Festival Toronto 2023 here.

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