Monthly Archives: November 2016

Against the Grain Theatre Ayre, starring Miriam Khalil. Photo: Darryl Block

The reviews are in: Ayre

By | AtG in the News, Ayre, Press | No Comments

"Ayre is a perfect and tremendously satisfying example of cultural transcendence."

− The Globe and Mail

"The stars aligned with this project... Miriam's authenticity is palpable, whether in the romantic songs or the call to uprising."

− barczablog

"Khalil's performance is stunning, and to hear her sing Golijov's work adds a new level of admiration for her versatility."

− Schmopera

"This performance was that rare thing that raises the hairs on the back of your neck."

− Opera Ramblings

"An evening of power and resonance, the kind of which deep memories are fashioned."

− The Globe and Mail

"Shocking, brilliant, thrilling. It's all conquering, a concert production of major importance, a flawless synchronicity of music and theatre."

− Opera Going Toronto

"Miriam Khalil is spellbinding, her voice at turns lustrous and radiant, savage and snarling."

− Opera Going Toronto

"Like the whole audience, I was suspended in this stasis of stirred emotion — the repercussions of which were felt long after the final bows were taken."

− Schmopera

 

Invited by Ivany to address the audience on opening night, the shy, softspoken composer Osvaldo Golijov remarked, eyes twinkling, “Nations play a lot of different roles in history. Conflicts, they stay the same. Only the actors are different.”

By promoting Golijov’s vision of culture as a permeable wrapper, Against the Grain Theatre has injected a much needed dose of optimism into these uncertain times. Ayre is filled with spirit, soaring, crushed, defiant. But hope like Golijov’s music has a way of insinuating itself into the soul. We need to hear the message. Now more than ever.

—Ian Ritchie

 

Read more reviews and previews:

In Review: Ayre Schmopera

Review: Ayre | Opera Going Toronto

Against the Grain’s Ayre is a vital reminder that unity is possible | The Globe and Mail

Ayre: An Evening with Osvaldo Golijov | Opera Ramblings

Review: Ayre | barczablog

Don’t miss Ayre | Schmopera

Against the Grain’s Ayre to deliver powerful evening of cultural mash-ups | The Globe and Mail

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine

Ismaili-Centre-by-Moriyama-and-Teshima-Architects_dezeen_784_1

Everything You Need to Know About Attending Ayre

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We’re looking forward to seeing you at Ayre

Doors open at 7:30pm. Part I of our concert (three short works by Osvaldo Golijov) begins at 8pm; there is a 20-minute intermission and Part II, our fully staged presentation of Ayre, begins at 9:20pm.

Tickets

Please note: This email is not your ticket. Check your inbox for your electronic tickets from TicketLeap, which you can print or display to us on your phone/tablet for entry. (In the TicketLeap email, click the link “Download the barcode ticket”.)

I want to buy more tickets

About the Ismaili Centre

Set within a 6.8 hectare park, the Ismaili Centre shares a site with the Aga Khan Museum—and both have been acclaimed as twin masterpieces, designed by two of the world’s greatest architects: Charles Correa of Mumbai and Fumihiko Maki of Japan.

The entire complex is a harmonious union of the spiritual, artistic and natural worlds, and a space designed for reflection, gathering, and celebration.

 

Getting here

The Ismaili Centre
49 Wynford Drive
Toronto, ON M3C 1K1

By car (Free parking!)

The Ismaili Centre has two parking lots which they are offering to Ayreticket-holders at no cost (so ignore those pay-parking machines). We recommend parking in the spacious, underground parking lot. Access this lot by entering the Ismaili Centre drive and making a right. Attendants will be on hand to direct you.

By TTC

From Eglington Subway Station, take the 34C Eglinton East bus, which stops just outside the Ismaili Centre.

Accessibility

The Ismaili Centre’s entrance is fully accessible. Drive up the valet parkade and stop for a direct drop-off if desired.

What to expect

Wander through sacred halls

Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is actually an immersive, two-part experience. “Part I” of our evening features a promenade of music and art: you’ll walk down sacred halls to experience an exhibition by artist Jamelie Hassan and a special concert of three short works by the composer, performed by the Glenn Gould Ensemble and sopranos Adanya Dunn and Ellen McAteer. After a short intermission, we begin “Part II”, our staged presentation of Ayre.

Discover Part I

Refreshments and snacks

Enjoy complimentary coffee, tea, mango & pomegranate juice, lemon water and delicious Middle Eastern cookies — courtesy our wonderful hosts at the Ismaili Centre.

Smartphones

Take photos and live-tweet before the performance, during intermission, and after the performance. (Just no audio or video recording, please.) Use the hashtag #AtGAyre and @atgtheatre on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

What to read

In many worlds at the same time

In 2004, Osvaldo Golijov wrote his song cycle Ayre for a voice nobody had heard before. Toronto writer Nikita Gourski recounts the music’s criss-crossing pilgrimage from the mind of an Argentine-Jewish composer-in-exile to the voice of a Lebanese-Canadian soprano.

The history of Ayre

 

Check out these articles and previews

Against the Grain’s Ayre to deliver powerful evening of cultural mash-ups | The Globe and Mail

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine

 

Read the house program Read the libretto

 

 

Photos: Ismaili Centre by Gary Otte; Video by Half-Inch’d Films; Part I of Ayre by Darryl Block

Osvaldo Golijov - Alt - Photo John Sann

In many worlds at the same time

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In 2004, the Argentine-born composer Osvaldo Golijov wrote his song cycle Ayre for a voice nobody had heard before.

The voice was famous and celebrated, belonging to American soprano Dawn Upshaw, but it had never sounded like this, with rich shades of darkness and flashes of menace—even violence—intermingling with the purity and angelic stillness that was more typical of her identity as a vocalist.

Ayre—which Upshaw sang at its world premiere in 2004—required her to assume a plurality of emotional registers, while summoning, at Golijov’s urging, something darker and unexplored from within. After recording the song cycle for Deutsche Grammophon in 2005, she told music writer John Schaefer: “I never knew I had a lot of these voices [in me until Golijov wrote the music]. I don’t understand how he knew I could even make certain sounds without hearing them first.”

When soprano Miriam Khalil first heard the recording of Ayre, she was instantly transfixed, both on a personal level and as a singer.

Especially because some of the material wasn’t new to her. Traditional Arabic songs, “Wa Habibi” and “Aiini taqtiru,” which Golijov had arranged for the middle section of Ayre, had been a part of Miriam’s childhood in Ottawa ever since she and her family had settled there after emigrating from Syria. In the nation’s capital, at the Melkite Catholic Church, she heard those two songs “every single year of my life” during Easter mass. It would prove to be a valuable experience to draw on this past summer, as she plunged into Ayre as a performer at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

When I called Golijov to ask about Miriam’s performance in Ayre, he observed, “It’s very interesting. I wrote [the song cycle] with Dawn [Upshaw] so much in my mind, but Miriam takes it to a whole new place.

“The fact that she speaks Arabic from her childhood makes the Arabic sound very true. But also every other song she sings, there is this torrential power in her voice. That’s something that I love. Even when she restrains it, you can sense the energy and the undercurrent, that tension between sometimes singing very intimately but with that wonderful and sweeping undercurrent.”

“The first thing [Osvaldo] told me,” Miriam recalled, “was ‘I don’t want it to sound like opera at all. These are folk songs.’”

The experience of hearing Ayre for the first time is both vivid and disorienting.

Golijov has called it a “forest that can grow in all directions;” a diary that explores “the music I inhabit;” and a journey, in both spiritual and geographic terms. Eleven folk songs chart a pilgrimage along the Mediterranean coast, moving from southern Spain to Italy to Jerusalem (with two small detours to Argentina through original compositions by guitarist, producer, and frequent Golijov-collaborator Gustavo Santaolalla). That the cycle begins in southern Spain during a moment of cross-cultural harmony (Jews, Arabs, and Christians lived in relative peace on the Iberian Peninsula until the Alhambra Decree of 1492 expelled non-Catholics from Spain) poignantly connects with our current reality of massive dislocation and refugee migration.

Most of the melodies are based on traditional material from Jewish, Arabic, and Christian cultures. The earliest texts date back to the 12th century. The sung languages include Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Sardinian, and Ladino (a nearly extinct vernacular spoken by Sephardic Jews in 15th-century Spain). It’s a living history of musical echoings and borrowings, of deeply personal routes of exile criss-crossing the boundaries of language, time, and the shifting ground of one’s own identity. The atmospheric multiplicity of the piece is dazzling: it veers from the semi-chaos of a medieval street fair to the tenderness of a lullaby (whose quiet words belie the uncanny terror of the text); from an angry mob alive with violence, to a mother’s ethereal voice in the night offering comfort to her child.

“My constant state of exile defines who I am.”

Golijov told me during our conversation: “Even when I was a child in Argentina, I was living in many worlds at the same time.”

Those worlds included European classical music, traditional Jewish and klezmer songs, as well as the new forms of tango emerging from the composer Astor Piazzolla, whose performances Golijov experienced live in Argentina.

If it was an eclectic musical education, it also imbued Golijov with the belief that authentic creation was not the exclusive provenance of European capitals and centres; that other places on the world map had a legitimate stake in the project of musical expression. Meanwhile, under the regime of General Videla, Golijov became increasingly aware that his Jewishness was incompatible with Argentina’s powerful elite, and moved to Jerusalem. He lost his home, but gained a vital encounter with Arabic music and language, slotting it into the ever-expanding cosmos of his orbiting influences.

The simultaneity of Golijov’s different worlds is acutely felt and heard in Ayre.

The klezmer of American clarinettist David Krakauer, the folk songs of Lebanese superstar Fairuz, the climbing scales of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis all intermingle with traditional melodies of manifold origins. Similarly Golijov’s arrangements deploy not only traditional chamber instruments but also ones like the ronroco (a small Andean guitar), and the laptop, grafting the new with the old, and setting many worlds in motion at the same time.

The perceptual mode of simultaneity manifests itself another way. In a late trilogy of songs, Golijov layers the verse of Mahmoud Darwish, the national Palestinian poet, with work from Yehudah Halevi, the 12th-century Jewish poet of exile. Nine hundred years of history evaporate as the Jewish poet from the medieval era and the eloquent voice of the nationless Palestinian people seem to recognize each other—suspended in a human oneness that is simultaneously solid and dissolving, of two worlds at once.

Nikita Gourski is a Toronto-based editor, writer and opera enthusiast. He hails from Belarus.

Photo: Osvaldo Golijov by John Sann

New video: Behind the scenes of Ayre

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“It’s important for [Toronto’s classical music scene] to get outside their comfort zone and reflect the diversity of the city.”

Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and director Joel Ivany stopped by the Ismaili Centre Toronto to explore the cultural threads of Osvaldo Golijov’s electric song cycle Ayre. (The title in medieval Spanish means “air” in both the sense of “song” and the air we breathe.)

Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is presented in partnership with the Aga Khan Council for Canada, and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Tickets selling quickly – only one(ish) week left to purchase!
November 10–12  8pm
Ismaili Centre, 49 Wynford Drive, Toronto

 

Video Production by Half-Inch’d Films

Director/Editor Andrew Martin-Smith

Director of Photography Adrian Merritt Smith

Ismaili Centre Toronto by Amanda Hadi

A performance that lets you wander through a sacred hall

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Our upcoming performance Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is actually an immersive experience. Upon your arrival to the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, you’ll be taken to various parts of the hall to experience “Part I” of our evening. This includes Jamelie Hassan’s exhibition Light Upon Light, and special concert of three of the composer’s short works performed by the Glenn Gould Ensemble and sopranos Adanya Dunn and Ellen McAteer. Surrounded by Islamic art and architecture, from centuries-old tapestries to contemporary mosaics and intricately carved ivory walls, you’ll be transfixed and transported by the evening.

Yiddishbbuk (1992)

“A broken song played on a shattered cimbalom.” Thus, writes Kafka, begins Yiddishbbuk, a collection of apocryphal psalms. Golijov attempts to reconstruct that disappeared music, creating a three-movement work “in the mode of the Babylonic Lamentations.”

Lúa Descolorida (2002)

Based on a poem by 19th-century romanticist María Rosalía de Castro and written in Gallego (the language of Spain’s Galician region), this haunting nocturne is sung by a lover to the moon.

Tenebrae (2002)

Golijov imagined this music “as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript.” Melismatic elongations of syllables from the Hebrew alphabet signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section built around a single, repeated word: “Jerusalem.”

 

Buy tickets to Ayre (November 10, 11, 12 2016)