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Kopernikus: Canada’s most famous unknown opera

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TORONTO — The turbulent life of Montréalais composer Claude Vivier (1948-1983) came to end at the age of 35 when he was murdered in his Parisian hotel room. Against the Grain’s mission of pushing the boundaries of opera returns with Vivier’s Kopernikus: A Ritual Opera of Death, a culmination of the composer’s unconventional career and rejection of many traditional ideas of life, music and opera. Its Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity workshop premiere in 2017 earned praise from The National Post as an opera “made for some supreme theatre” and was hailed by Opera Going Toronto as “utterly extraordinary.”

Set in two acts for seven singers and instrumentalists, Kopernikus challenges the norms of classical opera with its innovative use of compositional and technical devices to create a vivid meditation on self-transcendence with a series of music-theatre tableaux. “I think this is Canada’s greatest opera ever written. Vivier was unique, he was an innovator and a true artist,” says stage director Joel Ivany of what is perhaps one of the most staged Canadian operas outside of Canada.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan revives her role as Agni, the central character who travels to an unknown space suspended in time wherein she meets the fragmented embodiment of many eclectic characters, the likes of Tristan and Isolde, Copernicus, Lewis Caroll and Mozart. Filling in the roles on this list are mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó; bass Alain Coulombe; baritone Dion Mazerolle; sopranos Nathalie Paulin and Jonelle Sills and baritone Bruno Roy. Joining this outstanding ensemble on stage are dancers Anisa Tejpar and William Yong as they bring strong and supple expression to choreographer Matjash Mrozewski’s vision. In the boisterously irreverent spirit of seeking out new and engaging interpretations of the operatic experience, AtG has taken an innovative twist on orchestration by incorporating members of the orchestra into on-stage roles of the ensemble as part of the production concept. The orchestra ensemble includes violinist Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh; clarinetists Brad CherwinMarc Blouin and Peter StollMichael Fedyshyn on trumpet; Paul Tarussov on trombone and Carly Gordon on oboe.

AtG’s resident lighting designer Jason Hand is both set and lighting designer for this project, creating an environment that hearkens back to the original usage of Theatre Passe Muraille’s unique space. Leela Gildayacts as dramaturge alongside Marissa Kochanski’s original costume design. Musical director Topher Mokrzewski takes on the challenge of conducting a dispersed ensemble through Vivier’s cosmic and ethereal orchestration.

It’s been nearly 40 years since the premiere of Kopernikus’ epic journey of fire, life, death and ultimately, hope. A profound and spiritual experience invented by a composer who, despite his intrigue as a grand-eccentric, was a profoundly spiritual man. “Find the soul of the human race” Viver said “and place it there in front of the human race, make the individuals face up to themselves again…”

Join us for AtG’s Kopernikus, an adventure into Canada’s most famous unknown opera. The production will be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) on April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, 2019 with all performances at 8pm and doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $25 – $85 and are available now from Against the Grain TheatreArts Box Office

Audience member uses smart phone to take photo of two singers embracing on stage.

AtG launches opera streaming research project with national partners

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Against the Grain Theatre, Toronto’s visionary chamber opera company, has always asked questions about what it means to be an opera company in the 21st century. Starting today, the company begins a comprehensive digital research project examining online trends and behaviours of opera audiences towards live streamed performances. This research will inform future initiatives.

The project is led by digital consultant Michael Morreale, and is being conducted in partnership with the Canadian Opera Company, Canadian Music Centre, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, with support from the Canada Council Digital Strategy Fund. More partner organisations will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Digital Opera Research and Intelligence Study (“DORIS”) consists of a national audience survey and discussions with international experts in the field of performing arts streaming. A final research paper in English and French will be available for free on Against the Grain’s website this spring, with ongoing blog updates leading up to its release.

“To be able to add someone like Michael to the AtG team, with his vast experience both in the arts and technology is a win not just our company, but for opera in Canada”, says Founder and Artistic Director, Joel Ivany. “We’ll be able to ask, test and hopefully have some answers for questions that have always been at the forefront of our arts practice.”

“The future is digital.” says General Manager Jonathan MacArthur. “This project is pivotal in learning how to engage with our growing generation of online art consumers while also uniting niche opera lovers world-wide.”

“These audience insights are a crucial part of forming a digital strategy for any Canadian arts organisation,” says Michael, who has produced streams and recordings for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Royal Conservatory and CBC Music. “I’m thrilled to work with a forward-thinking company like Against the Grain, who are asking these important questions about what modern online audiences want.”

Follow updates on the project here.

For more information, please contact: michael@againstthegraintheatre.com.

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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.

 

Against the Grain Theatre Opera Pub at Amsterdam Bicycle Club. Photo: Darryl Block

Q&A with Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill

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home-4Karen Cargill is a Scottish operatic mezzo-soprano who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera and at the Edinburgh International Festival among other organizations.

We’re fortunate to have Karen on our faculty for Summer Modern Intensive 2019!

Karen sings some of the larger rep in the world of opera (Wagner, Wagner, Wagner).  We had some baby-Wagner singers last summer at our Intensive and so we wanted to have some teachers with us who could inspire them.  Karen is one of those teachers (Heidi is the other).  We asked Karen about some questions about singing big rep and small rep and why she likes working with singers.

Q:  When you were well on the opera train, how did you know when you were ready to move from safer rep to some of the heavier stuff.  How did you get into Wagner and know that it was both safe and what fit.

A:  I’ve had an interesting journey with singing once I graduated from the National Opera Studio in London. I started singing the usual beginner roles Third lady in Magic Flute, Suzuki in Butterfly, Sesto, when the music director at Scottish Opera offered me the chance to sing Rosina in Barbiere di Siviglia. I was convinced I couldn’t do it and it ended up being the most amazing time of exploration. At the same time I was offered the cover of Waltraute in Götterdämmerung for the BBC proms which I then ended up performing. That meant doing both roles at the same time which was a gift, the Rossini became very lyrical and the Wagner stayed fresh and not over-sung. That’s the thing about Wagner: if you study the score carefully, the vocal parts are so well written that the accompaniment should never push the voice too much. We need to be brave enough as singers to never push.

I spent a long time with Waltraute and the Wesendonck lieder making sure that I got to grips with Wagner’s musical language before moving on to other roles and I took my time with each role I’ve tackled since; the Norns, Brangäne, parts of Kundry, Fricka for the first time only recently, Erda for the first time this season. Make sure you have trusted ears with you when you start and ALWAYS begin with the text!!

Q:  What is it about a singer working with a singer that works so well?

A:  There’s nothing better than working with someone who knows the inner workings of your job, whatever field you might be in, whether you are a plumber or a teacher or a musician. To be able to share thoughts and ideas with someone who fully understands the trials and tribulations that we go through as a performer is an invaluable lesson. One of the things I love about working with other singers is the sharing of ideas, the fresh perspective that we can all gain whether you’ve been working for 5 months or 15 years. Being able to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained about the business is something I take very seriously.

Q:  What would you say to your younger self now?

A:  I had an epiphany about 12 years ago watching a well known singer give a recital. They didn’t ‘try’ to be anyone, anything, they were just present. Along with that came a stage presence that many singing teachers would criticize, blowing their nose, having the words in the piano, not always facing the audience, the thing was that it was completely real. I changed my perspective right there and promised to no longer ‘try’ to give a performance but just be me. In short my advice would be to be authentic, shut out the noise of chasing perfection, it doesn’t exist and that’s actually the place where great art lies. Whoa…. that is PROFOUND!!!

Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was the winner of the 2002 Kathleen Ferrier Award.  On the opera stage she will appear as Waltraute in Götterdammerung at the Royal Opera Covent Garden and has three return invitations to the Metropolitan Opera, with roles including Erda and Mère Marie.

You can still apply for AtG and U of T Opera’s Summer Modern Intensive.

Click HERE to apply. The application is free. There is no audition for this program.

Program Dates: Thursday, August 8, 2019 — Friday, August 22, 2019
Deadline to Apply: Friday, January 25, 2019

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(La) voix humaine

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Click here to purchase tickets.

Against the Grain is hanging up on fachs with (La) voix humaine – a gender-bent re-imagining of Francis Poulenc’s one-woman show La voix humaine.

AtG asks: How does this system limit our ability to breathe new life into established pieces?

As the first project for our AtG Incubator initiative, (La) voix humaine explores the potential of the human voice by co-opting a well-established soprano role to challenge depictions of masculinity in the operatic canon. The project was proposed by Tenor Jacques Arsenault who has been paired with AtG Musical Director, Topher Mokrzewski and Stage Director, Aria Umezawa. Arsenault will re-frame the role of Elle as Lui, and portray the grief, angst, and neurosis of a man confronting his ex-lover over the phone.

Join AtG at the Gallery 345 on February 16, 8:00 p.m. to get a glimpse into the creative process of this new exploration, which seeks to demonstrate that just like the human voice, opera’s ability to tell compelling and relevant stories is limitless.

Event Information:

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Doors: 7:30 p.m.
Show: 8:00 p.m.
Location: 345 Sorauren Avenue, Toronto, ON M6R 2G5
Tickets: $35

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Summer Modern Intensive

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A summer training program for opera singers

Building upon last summer’s successful intensive training program, Against the Grain Theatre joins University of Toronto Opera to immerse established and emerging artists in a two-week program focusing on the exciting canon of modern-contemporary works. This program lets you bring your best, your worst, your tired, your polished, (and the ones you won’t do for many many years, but want to look at it) into a space to work on the development of your craft. This intensive is meant for you to prioritize your individual artistic needs, in the middle of August when audition season is just around the corner. And by looking at the hidden gems of opera’s 20th century treasures and looking at contemporary operas 21st century current works, we will provide valuable insight to artists as they aim to develop, specialize and perfect their modern opera roles. Against the Grain Theatre’s outside the box approach to traditional opera matched with UofT Opera’s educational excellence will be a hub for singers to learn and perform.  “As a graduate of this storied institution, my foundation for opera was built at U of T Opera.  Our General Manager, Jonathan MacArthur is also a graduate of this program and together we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Sandra and Michael,” says Against the Grain Artistic Director Joel Ivany.

Over the course of two-weeks, singers will take part in masterclasses, movement classes, staging, daily one-on-one coaching sessions, perform in Opera Pub and end the program performing modern opera scenes with both the performers and audience members right on the MacMillan Theatre Stage.

Sessions will take place at the Edward Johnson Building (80 Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario). Further opportunities include mentorship, career guidance, round-table discussions with industry professionals, a professional headshot, a recorded aria video, and much more!

Meet some of our faculty:

Voice Instructors:
Miriam Khalil
Heidi Melton
Karen Cargill

Music Faculty:
Sandra Horst
Topher Mokrzewski
Andrea Grant
David Eliakis

Stage Direction/Acting Faculty:
Joel Ivany
Michael Albano

Click HERE to apply. The application is free. There is no audition to this program.

Program Dates: Thursday, August 8, 2019 — Thursday, August 22, 2019
Deadline to Apply: January 25, 2019
Participants will be notified by end mid-February of their acceptance
Cost: $1,750 CAD
Payments due: 50% on April 1st, and the remainder of tuition June 1st.

Questions? Email: info@againstthegraintheatre.com

Ayre Live CD

Stunning new interpretation of Golijov’s Ayre launches Against The Grain Records

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“A perfect and tremendously satisfying example of cultural transcendence”  –The Globe and Mail

Golijov’s Haunting Song Cycle Ayre Receives Powerful New Interpretation by Soprano Miriam Khalil

Live Recording to Launch Against The Grain Records Label on December 7

TORONTO, Canada – November 7, 2018 – Against The Grain Theatre, Toronto’s visionary chamber opera company, is known for electric performances that act as “a bracing wake-up call to the spirit” (The Globe and Mail). That daring candor is now being channeled via its new in-house recording label, which launches with a live recording of Osvaldo Golijov’s “ecstatically beautiful…radical and disorienting” song cycle Ayre this December (The New Yorker).

Informed by the composer’s personal history as a Romanian Jew born in Argentina, Ayre blends traditional and electronic instruments with elements of Byzantine chant, Sephardic lullabies, Sardinian protest songs, and Arabic, Hebrew, and Christian texts. Praised by Gramophone as “an intoxicating, endlessly haunting mixture of styles and musical cultures,” the technically exacting song cycle has become a signature piece for AtG Founding Member Miriam Khalil.

Khalil, a Lebanese Christian raised in Damascus, Syria, until her family immigrated to Canada, was immediately drawn to the eclectic textures and melodies of Ayre.

“When I first heard Ayre, I was mesmerized. I recognized two of the pieces as songs I had sung since childhood – songs my mother and father taught me,” said Khalil. “With all the anti-Arab propaganda on the news, it was very moving to hear holy music from Arabic culture framed so beautifully, enveloped with real respect by Hebrew and Christian traditions.”

To those distressed by endless media reports highlighting the rise of nationalistic movements across the globe, Ayre’s reverence for seemingly conflicting cultures can act as an injection of hope. It offers us a glimpse of shared humanity – of the ties we can more easily perceive through music, poetry, and common experience. As The Globe and Mail has recognized, Ayre is “an evening of power and resonance, the kind of which deep memories are made.”

The composer, a 2003 MacArthur Fellow, believes that Ayre’s resonance is heightened by Khalil’s performance – including her ability to deliver the texts in their original Arabic, rather than in English translation.

“No one owns this piece in the way that Miriam Khalil does,” said Golijov. “It is as if she was born to sing it.”

Critics from Ottawa to Buenos Aires have praised Khalil’s interpretation of Ayre as a powerful and visceral reminder that humanity has the capacity to transcend the cultural barriers that seem to accost us daily. Golijov’s conscious weaving of linguistic and musical threads represents a more accepting form of cultural pluralism, where historically competing traditions can coexist, complementing each other more beautifully than an assimilated society might anticipate.

According to Against the Grain Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, the preservation of such transformative works was a major motivator in the establishment of the theatre’s in-house label. “At AtG, we have made it our mandate to create fresh and daring experiences for our audiences – and with this new facet of our work, we’re now able to capture and share moments of our acclaimed limited production runs.”

“Against the Grain is thrilled to be able to share the immediacy and emotion of this live performance, recorded at the breathtaking Ismaili Center in Toronto, with a broader audience,” he said. “Ayre is an extraordinary and unforgettable adventure.”

In this video, Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and director Joel Ivany explore the cultural threads of Osvaldo Golijov’s beguiling song cycle Ayre.

About Miriam Khalil

One of Canada’s acclaimed singers, Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil is lauded as a “skilled, versatile artist” whose “signature warm lyrical voice” makes “her fine soprano express every emotion with exactness and feeling.” An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Great Lakes Region) and subsequently appeared in the 2007 documentary The Audition. Her performance credits include Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Tampa, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Hamilton, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Lyra Ottawa, and prominent orchestras across Canada, in roles such as Mimì (La bohème), Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Almirena (Rinaldo), and the title role in Alcina. Ms. Khalil’s 2018/19 season includes appearances as Mimì in La bohème with the Canadian Opera Company, Marzelline in Fidelio at Pacific Opera Victoria, Eurydice in Orphée at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Noor Haddad in AtG’s Handel mash-up BOUND.

About Osvaldo Golijov

Osvaldo Golijov is a composer who blends classical forms with the rhythms and melodies of other genres to create a concert experience that resonates deeply with contemporary audiences. Drawing on diverse musical and literary traditions (from tango and klezmer to the poems of Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda), Golijov’s compositions exhibit a fresh, powerful style. Among Osvaldo Golijov’s best known works are the St Mark Passion; the opera Ainadamar; a cello concerto, Azul, and the song cycle Ayre. He has also written soundtracks for films by Francis Ford Coppola (Tetro, Youth Without Youth), and arranged music from many places in the world, primarily for the Kronos Quartet. He is currently working on Falling Out of Time, a song cycle for the Silk Road Ensemble, based on a book by David Grossman. He was born in Argentina in 1960, lived in Jerusalem in his youth, and moved to Massachusetts in 1991, where he is the Loyola Professor of Music at the College of the Holy Cross.

Images by Darryl Block

Press Contact: Beth Stewart

Verismo Communications

Tel: 618.444.3183 | Email: beth@verismocommunications.com

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AtG Goes North

By | Joel Ivany, Opera Pub, Press, Uncategorized, Upcoming | No Comments

In a dynamic new partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre, AtG reaches further north than ever before in “Life, Love and Drinking Alone: the artist’s guide to smashing your phone”

This November, Against the Grain Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, Music Director Topher Mokrzewski and baritone Andrew Love (who we last loved as Marcello in AtG’s La bohème) travel to Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon. “The Yukon Arts Centre is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Against The Grain Theatre to bring its fiery, irreverent approach to opera to Canada’s North.” says Yukon Arts Centre’s CEO Casey Prescott.

This exciting new program will feature a staged Kurt Weill song recital titled “Life, Love and Drinking Alone: the artist’s guide to smashing your phone”.

Join Sam as he both celebrates and grieves at the end of a relationship. From bar to bar, drink to drink, lounge to floor to gutter, he works through what went wrong, facebook stalks, falls down the infamous instagram rabbit hole, reminisces, and dismisses… all while maintaining his greatest relationship of all… with his true love… his smartphone.
This cabaret features music from Opera to Musical Theatre, Pop to Country, (to maybe even rap), with a special emphasis given to the brilliant music of Kurt Weill. Lead from the piano by Topher Mokrzewski (bartender), this cabaret has been conceived, staged and will be performed by baritone Andrew Love (Sam).

Produced by Against the Grain Theatre and the Yukon Arts Centre.

The tour will also include community workshops, talks and roundtables.

Events Listing
7:00 PM Thursday, November 29
At the Old Fire Hall, Whitehorse, Yukon
8:00 PM Friday, November 30
At KIAC Ballroom, Dawson City, Yukon

About the Yukon Arts Centre
The Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) is a not for profit charitable organization dedicated to the development of the arts as an important cultural, social and economic force in the Yukon. We intend to be a model for the development of the arts in the North and a stimulus for a vibrant and creative territory. YAC is the territory’s premier venue for performing and visual arts.

About the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture
The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture is of one of the many volunteer driven not-for-profit initiatives that are vital to the social, cultural and economic health of Dawson City. The Klondike Visitors Association plans activities and events that attract thousands of visitors to Dawson City each year. The Dawson City Music Festival is legendary for its ability to present Canada’s finest musical talent to the community both at the July festival, and at concerts during the year. Other organizations such as the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, Dawson Museum Society, and CFYT Radio add to Dawson’s rich cultural milieu, which is somewhat unexpected in a small northern town that’s only a few hours drive from the Arctic Circle.

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What does opera in the age of Trumpism look like? #AtGBOUND

By | Bound, Joel Ivany, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 18 October, 2018

Kevin Lau’s newly commissioned opera BOUND v. 2 in concert performance with Toronto’s acclaimed indie opera company Against the Grain Theatre

TORONTO – Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has matched one of opera’s most dramatic composers, George Frideric Handel, to a narrative inspired by the current, chilling refugee stories populating our newsfeeds — stories of migration and displacement due to war, discrimination, hate, and intolerance. AtG’s Artistic Director and librettist Joel Ivany alongside composer Kevin Lau begin the indie-company’s ninth season by digging deeper into the music and text of BOUND. This November, AtG presents their first commissioned opera written by Toronto composer Kevin Lau in a concert presentation called BOUND v. 2. November’s concert (part-two of a three-year concept-to-realization project) focuses on where Lau’s new composition intersects with the melodies of Handel’s music. A mash-up of centuries, styles, and stories.
 
“Bringing Handel’s music into the 21st century is a way for us to directly grapple with the big issues of tradition versus change that face our society today,” said Lau. The development of BOUND began as a mash up of Handel arias and ensembles used to highlight the current state of those dehumanized and mistreated across the globe. “Our opera does delve into darker themes—among them, the ethical consequences of trading individual freedoms for national security, an issue which grows more relevant every day—but ultimately our hope is to sow musical seeds of empathy, by finding truth among differences.” 
 
AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany has created a new English libretto, minting another AtG transladaptation to express the plight of the characters—who are based on real people—in BOUND v. 2. The opera centres around four citizens who are detained by an omnipotent and oppressive government; the State.  We watch and hear about their struggles, hopes and fears.
 
The development of this opera began in 2017: a week of inspired round-table discussions with Ivany, Lau, creative team and artists where they invited guest speakers that included survivors, storytellers, and members of communities that are too often overlooked to share their stories. “We asked them very personal and important questions,” said Miriam Khalil who portrays Noor Haddad, a journalist detained for refusing to remove her hijab at a border crossing. In her role, for example, Khalil balances between baroque flourishes and maqamat embellishments, “with Kevin, we explored how these unique experiences would colour our music and shape our characters.” With teeming collaboration, the singers eventually chose the news stories that best suited them and from those stories Ivany formed the base of the new libretto, which was then to be meshed with Handel’s music while Lau worked on his score and developed a new musical language for each character.
 
Kevin Lau’s BOUND v. 2 is written for chamber orchestra, four singers, actor and digital sound artist. The ensemble will be led by AtG music director Topher Mokrzewksi and features AtG Founding Member and soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji and baritone Justin Welsh as the cast of detainees, Martha Burns as the voice of the state, and the electronic stylings of Acote.
 
This workshop concert will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H3) on November 19, 20 and 21, 2018. Sung in English. All performances begin at 8pm with doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets ranging from $35 – $80 are now on sale at www.againstthegraintheatre.com

LISTING INFORMATION
Bound v. 2
Against the Grain Theatre  
November 19, 20, and 21
8 p.m.
The Great Hall — Longboat Hall, 1087 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H3
Tickets: $35 – $80
More info: www.againstthegraintheatre.com/bound/

ABOUT AtG
Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has invigorated opera audiences since its first sold-out production to an audience of fifty guests in December of 2010. AtG revitalizes the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways. Since its first season, AtG has consistently performed to standing room-only crowds, to both critical and public acclaim, and continues to introduce hundreds of new opera-goers to the art form. Founded by an adventurous collective of friends and artists, the company endeavours to be serious in intent and execution, yet fun and irreverent in spirit. Current members include Joel IvanyTopher MokrzewskiJonathan MacArthurAmanda HadiDavid EliakisJason HandMiriam Khalil, and Michaela Dickey.

For more information, please visit AtG online at www.againstthegraintheatre.com, on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram @AtGTheatre and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AtGTheatre

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Media Contact

Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

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Against the Grain Theatre goes CanCon for pivotal 9th season

By | Ayre, Bound, Kopernikus, Opera Pub, Press | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 September 2018

AtG presents Handel revisited through a contemporary Canadian lens, and Kopernikus by Canadian composer Claude Vivier

TORONTO – Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) enters in its ninth season on the heels of receiving an astonishing 12 Dora Mavor Moore award nominations and taking home five awards, including Outstanding Production for Orphée⁺. Their ninth season will see the second workshop of BOUND, the launch of in-house record label AtG Records, and the presentation of Claude Vivier’s masterpiece Kopernikus. AtG’s “standing room only” #OperaPub series also returns for another season at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club; they present a free concert at the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre under the title “AtG Retro”; and oh so much more.

BOUND was developed in December 2017 as a reaction to those displaced, dehumanized and mistreated in today’s world. AtG Artistic Director Joel Ivanyhas written original text and drawn from news articles and international current events as source inspiration for the story of BOUND. With the assistance of a commissioning grant from the Ontario Arts Council, AtG commissioned composer Kevin Lau to keep the backbone of Handel’s music while infusing his own contemporary themes, music and ideas. He says, “Expect to hear Handel like you’ve never heard it before. I see this opera as a hybrid—music created by Handel from the perspective of Lau (or will it be the other way around?).” The second instalment of this three-year concept-to-realization plan introduces a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski, and introduces digital sound artist Acote who adds his experience in techno music, and previous collaborations with AtG at Banff Centre to this workshop phase. The cast includes soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh.  This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19, 20 and 21, 2018. All performances begin at 8pm with doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets (starting at $35) on sale Thursday, September 27 at 10am fromagainstthegraintheatre.com. 

On December 11, 2018, at 12pm, AtG will once again be featured as part of the Free Concert Series in The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. “AtG Retro” will be a retrospective look back at some of AtG’s most acclaimed works from the past eight years.

After premiering at Banff Centre in 2017, Kopernikus “made for some supreme theatre” (The National Post) and was hailed by Opera Going Toronto as “utterly extraordinary.”  The opera’s Montréalais composer Claude Vivier(1948–1983) lived a hard and fast life; before he was found murdered in his hotel room in Paris at the age of 35, he had spent a career rejecting many traditional ideas of life, music and opera, which culminated in writing his only opera Kopernikus. “I think this could be Canada’s greatest opera ever written. Vivier was unique, he was an innovator and a true artist,” says stage director Joel Ivany. This production will uniquely immerse the orchestra into the choreography alongside singers and dancers. Matjash Mrozewskichoreographs, Leela Gilday acts as dramaturge, with Lighting and Set design by AtG Resident Designer Jason Hand. The cast features mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan making her AtG debut as Agni and welcomes acclaimed mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, bass Alain Coulombe, baritone Dion Mazerolle and soprano Nathalie Paulin as part of the Ensemble. The production will be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) on April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, 2019 with all performances at 8pm and doors open at 7:30pm.

Back by popular demand, AtG’s standing room only #OperaPub series returns October 4 at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club (54 The Esplanade). Hosted and programmed by AtG Collective member David Eliakis, these free events will continue to feature opera arias and ensembles alongside witty banter and craft beers. Festivities begin at 9pm on the first Thursday of every month, and continue until May 2 2018.

AtG will be undertaking many new initiatives this coming year, highlighted below:

Following the success of the inaugural Summer Intensive this past August (a workshop for singers at various stages of development addressing their immediate needs and goals) a Winter Intensive will take place in February 2019 as AtG continues to address the importance of training emerging opera singers for the 21st century music industry.

The AtG Incubator is a pilot program where artists may submit project applications on a rolling basis. AtG will assess projects based on merit and viability and then work with the artist to provide resources in a workshop capacity.

This season also marks the formation of AtG Records, a modern classical music-recording label. AtG Records first album release will be Ayre: Live a live recording from November 2016 of their acclaimed stage production, which prompted The Globe and Mail to call AtG Founding Member and soprano Miriam Khalil “…a mesmerizing, gorgeous presence in the piece.” Miriam Khalil has since performed Ayre, which has become her signature piece, in three countries and six different cities to great acclaim.  Composer Osvaldo Golijov writes: “I cannot even begin to express the emotion I feel when she sings Ayre; it is as if she was born to sing it, or, even better, born for each other, she and Ayre.”  The release of this first album will be this coming Fall.

AtG is now entering its final year as a participant in the Canadian Opera Company Academy, a home for Canada’s new wave of opera creators and an incubator for the future of the art form. The Academy’s Company-in-Residence stream is designed for independent companies looking to establish administrative stability and expand creative capacity. As AtG continues to grow, support through the COC Academy program has been a valuable lifeline of mentorship, collaboration, and shared learning.

ABOUT AtG
Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has invigorated opera audiences since its first sold-out production to an audience of fifty guests in December of 2010. AtG revitalizes the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways. Since its first season, AtG has consistently performed to standing room-only crowds, to both critical and public acclaim, and continues to introduce hundreds of new opera-goers to the art form. Founded by an adventurous collective of friends and artists, the company endeavours to be serious in intent and execution, yet fun and irreverent in spirit. Current members include Joel IvanyTopher MokrzewskiJonathan MacArthurAmanda HadiDavid EliakisJason HandMiriam KhalilMichaela Dickey.

For more information, please visit AtG online at www.againstthegraintheatre.com, on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram @AtGTheatre and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AtGTheatre

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Media Contact

Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

Against the Grain Theatre Summer Intensive Miriam Khalil, Joel Ivany, Topher Mokzrewski, Photo: Darryl Block

AUDITION ANNOUNCEMENT

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Back for it’s 9th season, Against the Grain is hosting auditions seeking artists (singers & instrumentalists) from our local scene for our upcoming projects.

We are hosting two days of auditions:

September 13, 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm – Singers Audition

September 15, 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm – Instrumental Auditions

September 15, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm – **Recently Added Singer Auditions**

These auditions will take place in Mazzoleni Hall. AtG will have a pianist available for singers on September 13th and should you like to work with them please bring $30 cash for your collaborative accompanist (and a copy of your music). You may alternatively bring your own collaborator if you wish.

Instrumental auditions will be heard unaccompanied on September 15th. You may choose to bring your own collaborator and there will be a piano in the space. We would like to hear strings, clarinet, flute, trombone, trumpet and bassoon.

These auditions will be heard on a first come first serve basis. Singers on the 13th, and Instrumentalists on the 15th. We are auditioning for upcoming projects as priority. If you are free for either of the periods below, please consider signing up.

Project #1 – with a strong affinity to “Early Music”

November 2 and November 10, 2018

November 16 – 21, 2018

Project #2 – with a strong affinity to Contemporary Music

March 18 – April 14 2019

Click here to begin your application

Please bring a couple numbers that best showcase your abilities. We encourage singers and instrumentalists to bring Handel/baroque and New Music. Sign Up and please let us know what instrument(s) you’ll play for your audition and/or your voice type.

We strongly believe that diversity of all kinds contributes to a broader collective perspective and we warmly encourage applicants from the many diverse communities of Toronto to apply!