ITS. JUNE. Startled? You and me both. Instead of pondering how life is fleeting and how age is already starting to show its years around my eyes, let's take time to smell the artistic roses and examine the LUMINATO Festival that starts, next Friday, June 8, and runs until Sunday, July 17th.
Fortunately none of it takes place at Union Station.
If you don't know what LUMINATO is, you are, indeed, late to the party, but, of course, still welcome to partake. From here on in, let it be known that LUMINATO is an arts + creativity festival held for 10 days every June throughout the city of Toronto. It features a huge range of international and Canadian programming (with emphasis on the international) in literature, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and other creations that can't necessarily be compartmentalized in any of those categories. It's fun! And it's festive!
And it can break the bank.
But there IS a range of FREE activities at LUMINATO which should definitely be checked out.
From transforming David Pecaut Sq. to art along Parliament St. to mobile kitchens where you can actually cook with strangers (love that idea), the city takes on a whole new visual appeal for 10 days.
All Visual Arts listings can be viewed if you click on the red/orange font above.
Music in David Pecaut Square (55 John St)
Every day there is live music in downtown David Pecaut Square. Including Kathleen Edwards, Gil Scott, Rufus Wainwright, K'naan and other international musicians. Word!
Click on the red/orange font above for the complete free music listings.
What else? There's a card cheat who is BLIND and his feats can be viewed for free. There are authors discussing their books, movement workshops at the Parkdale Public Library, and perhaps best of all, on June 14, there will be a public Citizenship Ceremony, complete with photo exhibits, storytelling and visual art displays on what it means to be a newcomer in Canada.
There are also some activities that aren't free but ARE inexpensive.
There is the President's Choice 1000 Tastes of Toronto where there will be an abundance of new street food cooked for tthe selling price of $5.
There's the convo with renowned Montréal Theatre Director Robert Lepage that only costs $20 to attend but will be worth MUCH more than that in experience and memory.
There's a slew of celebrated authors, including Irvine Welsh, discussing their books, also for a $20 admission.
There's a magician who introduces his audience to the feats of magic while they're blindfolded for $35.
There's dance for as low as $35, a late night Shostakovich symphony (#11) by the TSO for $25, and many other events that might tickle your fancy.
Unfortunately the REALLY cool stuff will cost you. Most are large-scale productions not seen 'round these parts too often, so the ticket price can probably be justified, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
Best bets are Lepage's 3hr epic Playing Cards 1: SPADES, the surefire magical production of La Belle et la Bête: A Contemporary Retelling, and the landmark collaboration production by Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson that the city is abuzz over, Einstein on the Beach.
But don't take my word for it, check the LUMINATO website: www.luminato.com. For a festival that contains an overwhelming number of activities, their website is surprisingly easy to navigate.
LUMINATO starts in a week! It runs until June 17 and takes place in and around Hogtown. Buy tickets or explore at your leisure; there's no wrong way to do it.
Ambur Braid as Semele and Christopher Enns as Jupiter
Wednesday night the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio filled the lead roles in their own production of SEMELE, and they performed with great panache amidst the full COC orchestra and with the utmost choral support. Bravo!!
If the Ensemble Studio is Canada's premier opera training program (as it is touted), and, if the leads of last night's performance are an indication of not only how we're fostering talent, but also what skills exist in the Opera divas of tomorrow, then I'm happy to report that the future of Opera is in solid, soprano, Canadian hands.
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole heap about Opera. But I like it, and I think I can appreciate it, if not for the traditional ways an Opera should be appreciated (not sure what those ways are anyway), but for the high-art aspect that is Opera. There is an epic quality to an Operatic production that is to be marvelled and love it or hate it – there’s nothing else like it.
The singing is what always gets me. The larger-than-life, unrealistic sounds that come deep from the diaphragm that elicit my eyes to widen in surprise and my arms to be riddled in goose bumps.
I’ve always wanted to know what portion of the population Opera singer’s make-up. It can’t be a lot.
To be an Opera singer seems to be such a specific and specialized skill, such a mixture of intense professional training and natural talent that I always feel like they constitute their own elite club; a club that the layman can’t belong to because s/he has absolutely no idea how to do ANTYHING as other-worldly as make the noises of a deep bass-baritone.
I saw seven relatively new (?) members of the Opera singer club last night and they really rocked it.
The main stage production of SEMELE is on for only one more performance – May 26th, so I suggest you check it out for Handel’s beautiful score, and the quiet, simple moments of theatre that escape director Zhang Huan’s heavy hand, which are equally as beautiful, and most definitely the best moments of the show.
The set is, naturally, to-die-for, as it’s an actual 450 year old Ming Dynasty temple that was excavated, moved to Zhang’s studio in Shanghai, reconstructed and shipped world wide for performances. It’s gorgeous and one of the highlights about his role in the production.
SEMELE is on for only one more show at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W) on May 26th. For tickets, call: 416-323-8231 or click here.
Rush tickets available @11am, the day of the show. Arrive in person, at the box office and buy!
If there were ever a "Beginner's Opera", I think the COC's production of CINDERELLA could be it.
It had all the talent, arias and shouts of "Bravo!" that make the Opera such a unique experience, AND, best of all, if you're intimidated by Opera, as many are, CINDERELLA is a good show to start with.
I started going to Opera when I was 25 and before that I had ZERO interest in the genre. I don't sing (although wish that I could), I don't play a musical instrument (although wish that I could) and I don't know a damn thing about classical music (although wish that I did) and, well, isn't Opera full of an audience of intellects who will mock someone as low-brow as moi? The short answer is: Yes, it is. Mostly.
But who cares?
The COC provides talks before each show that provide history and context to the production, thus making you more informed and able to participate in small talk with a fellow audience-member.
This music of Rossini's is light and fun and toe-tappy (I was toe-tapping for most of the show) so even if you don't play an instrument or understand a classical musical score, this music makes one glad they have ears and a feel for rhythm.
You already know the story so you don't have to wrack your brain to figure out who is in love with who and why, all while reading subtitles and watching the action on stage; and it's funny! So you can laugh, listen, love and toe-tap all while being at the Opera amongst the Four Seasons splendour.And once that Prince Charming belts out about his love for Cinderella and how he is determined to find her, it won't matter that you don't speak Italian or know when Rossini wrote the music or when the Opera was first produced and why, you'll just know that his voice gave you goose bumps and that's about as high-brow of a reaction as one can get at the theatre.
If you're a seasoned Opera-goer, CINDERELLA is a great excuse to see a fun Opera Buffa! (which means comedic Opera; use it in a sentence and astound your friends!)