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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

By | Auditions | No Comments

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!

 

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New Sponsor for 2018/19 Season!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We’re very excited to announce that Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery is our newest sponsor for our 2018/19 season.

Be sure to stop by and celebrate with us.  We will be toasting at our Opera in the Garden event following our inaugural AtG Intensive, August 19, 2018 at 3pm EST.
After opening in 2009, it has been a whirlwind of ultimate experiences, from Weddings to Corporate Dinners to Food Truck Events and Niagara Icewine Programs. Concerts and Fashion Shows, they can now add Opera to their list.

 

Click on the following link for an introduction to this great Estate Winery: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlN-NrDPH54

 

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Toi x 3 to Orphée⁺ in Banff!

By | Banff, Dora Awards, Joel Ivany, Orphee | No Comments

With the thrill of the 12 Dora Nominations, and the 5 wins (including Outstanding Production) still fresh in our minds, we’re sending out a huge TOI x 3 to the entire cast, creative team, crew, administrators, and volunteers at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity on OPENING NIGHT of the production that was the highlight of Toronto’s opera season, Orphée⁺.

But enough with the sentimental formalities! Let’s get the real-time, late-night, post-prosecco Facebook reactions from the administrators and creatives behind this Toronto project…

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 1.35.08 PMJoel actually flew in the night of the awards ceremony, arriving to our nervous pre-cocktail event in a Spiderman tee-shirt fresh off the flight from Calgary. He brought a button up *just-in-case*.
Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 1.34.35 PMWe’re not kidding about the late night Skype/Slack sessions… o_O
Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 1.35.24 PMCommunity! Exactly the people you are surrounded by, who celebrate and cheer with you at every success and failure.

[First photo in post was taken at the Dora Award Ceremony – From Left-Right: Jonathan MacArthur, General Manager (AtG), Amanda Hadi, Editorial & Digital Manaer (AtG), Joel Ivany, Founder and Artistic Director (AtG), Peggy Kriha-Dye, General and Artistic Director (Opera Columbus)]

 

Music Director Topher Mokrzewski in rehearsal with Miriam Khalil for AtG's BOUND, photo Darryl Block

Just announced: Against the Grain Summer Intensive

By | Canadian Opera Company, Joel Ivany, Media Release, Summer Intensive, Upcoming | No Comments

“A professional and educational summer training program for today’s musician.”

This exclusive professional summer training program (running over August 13–19, 2018 in downtown Toronto, Canada) is tailor-made to individual singers’ needs.

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. Bring us your Mozart. Bring us your weird. Bring us that random piece you really want on your audition package but it’s “just not coached enough”. Or, work on your upcoming roles for the 18-19 Season. We’re here to make this program uniquely yours, and we want to make sure you get what you need to set you up for success.

Guided by some of the core members from the Against the Grain Theatre Creative Team (Joel Ivany, Topher Mokrzewski and Miriam Khalil), applicants will be offered individual coaching, voice lessons, scene study, masterclasses, professional organization skills and a new headshot (optional).

Deadline to apply: Friday, May 25, 2018 at midnight EST. (Candidates will hear back from AtG by June 1.)

Cost: $500, with 50% deposit due June 15. (Remainder due July 15.) Payment can be made by e-transfer to info@againstthegraintheatre.com or in cash.

Location: 227 Front Street East, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5A 1E8

Questions? Contact info@againstthegraintheatre.com with “[Your Full Name] + Against the Grain Summer Intensive” in the subjectline and a real human will reply ASAP.

How to Apply: See below.

Photo: Darryl Block

Complete our Online Submissions form by Friday, May 25, 2018 at midnight EST.

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Your tickets to Orphée⁺ 🔥 What You Need to Know

By | Bound | No Comments

Your visit to The Underworld

Doors open at 7:30pm. Orphée⁺ begins at 8pm, and is under 2 hours long (including one 20-minute intermission). Please allow yourself time to pass through the gates of Hell (it’s a bit of labyrinth).

Tickets

This email is not your ticket. Your physical tickets will be available for pickup at the Venue Box Office the night of the performance. (Unless you ordered “Direct Mail” delivery, in which case tickets were shipped to your home. Don’t have them Don’t worry! Box Office will help.)

Venue Box Office (Fleck Dance Theatre)
Located on the same level as the theatre (see more below)
Opens 6pm each night — we recommend picking up tickets up to 30 minutes before showtime

All tickets are seating-assigned, and your physical ticket will have your seat number & section printed on it. This venue is wheelchair accessible.

At-the-door Tickets

Have a friend who wants to attend the performance because they heard it was a damned delight? Tickets are available for purchase at the Venue Box Office (cash/credit welcome).

Getting here

Fleck Dance Theatre (Third Floor)
207 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON, M5J 1A7
Enter front building marked “207 Queens Quay”

Detailed map of venue

By Car

The closest on-site parking is the “P2” (York Quay Underground) lot. Evening rates: $18–24. More info here.

Accessibility

Pull up and stop for a direct drop-off if desired. This venue is wheelchair accessible; let us know in advance if you are arriving in an assisted mobility device.

Elevator access to the Theatre Box Office and Theatre Entrance (both on the third floor) is available from the main floor, at the south end of the building, directly opposite the Brookfield common cafeteria seating.

By Bike

Bike lock stands are located at the corners of the building. (Try the North end of the building, near the Sobey’s storefront.)

By TTC

Take the 510 Spadina or 509 Harbourfront streetcar; stop is “Queens Quay West at Harbourfront”

What to expect

Aerial artistry, burlesque dancers and a virtual choir of 100 singers from around the world and…

Drinks!

In keeping with the AtG spirit, The Fleck Dance Theatre is fully equipped with two bars (tap-only credit card and cash) right in our performance space (upper and lower level). Skip the lines, and place your intermission drink orders as soon as you arrive at the theatre: enjoy some wine, beer, spirits, non-alcoholic bevs and snaaaaacks.

Pre-show chats!

We know you have questions, and we thought we’d put stage director and AtG Artistic Director/Founder Joel Ivany in the hot seat. Head to the upper level/dance studio of the venue at 7:45pm.

Pasties!

Tonight’s performance features dancers from NYC’s Company XIV, a unique blend of circus, Baroque dance, ballet, opera, live music and lavish design.

Where to eat

207 Queens Quay “Terminal Building” may not sound exciting, but it boasts a bunch of hidden gem eateries and patios facing the waterfront, like the Goodman Pub & Kitchen and Joe Bird.

(There’s also a pharmacy, grocery store and barber inside the building if you’re looking to run some errands before the show. Just don’t forget to pick up the thing.)

 

What to read

This show is great, but don’t just take our word for it.

It’s an electronic, baroque, burlesque trip into hell and Marcy Richardson has a bird’s-eye view | Toronto Star

Why soprano Marcy Richardson—who sings, acts and dances in the air, without a safety apparatus—is used to looking down to see “jaws drop wide open” during her performances.

Why Orphée+ Might Be The Most “Authentic” Opera You’ll See All Year | Ludwig van Toronto

“A list of 4 reasons why AtG’s approach to Orphée et Eurydice continues a lineage of adaptation seen over the past 200 years…”

Culture Countdown: Orphée⁺ | Toronto Life

“It’s the most adventurous musical event of the month.”

Newfangled production of French opera a surprising success | Opera Columbus

“The show is a smashing success — an ideal instance of the old being made marvellously, yet thoughtfully, new.”

Soprano Mireille Asselin steps into baroque era to find strong women of opera | The Globe & Mail

“This will likely be the first time Orphée is performed with burlesque dancers, aerialists and electronic music.”

Orphée⁺ “How do we grieve in 2018?” | Schmopera

“Against the Grain Theatre’s spring production is upon us, and it boasts all the innovation and surprises for which the award-winning company is known.”

Eagerly anticipating Against the Grain’s Orphée next week | barczablog

A reviewer shares his anticipation.

Read our house program

 

 

Marcy Richardson

Orphée⁺ — An email conversation with Marcy Richardson

By | Behind the scenes, Orphee, Upcoming | No Comments

Curious about Orphée⁺ , our contemporary re-imagining of the Gluck baroque opera? Joel Ivany knows you, and our cast, have a lot of questions about our ambitious undertaking (electric instruments! baroque dancers! aerial artistry! a virtual global chorus!). So, Joel sparked an email conversation with New York-based classical soprano, aerialist and burlesque performer Marcy Richardson (aka @operagaga, of Company XIV), who will sing the role Amour airborne.

Orphée⁺ is a new AtG co-production with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Opera Columbus.
April 26, 27, 28 at 8 p.m.
Fleck Dance Theatre
207 Queens Quay West, Toronto

Buy tickets ($42–$110) online at againstthegraintheatre.com/orphee, by phone (416-973-4000, press 1), or at the Harbourfront Box Office (no fees!).

 


FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

Hi Marcy,

Hope all is well!

I just saw your performance at the Gala for Opera Columbus. You were singing, spinning and making it look so so so easy.

When you’re performing like this, does one ever take precedence over the other? Is it constantly switching?

You must have such control!

Joel

 


FROM: MARCY RICHARDSON
TO: JOEL IVANY

Hi Joel! Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed and were able to check it out!

Singing is always the most important. My priority is that if you close your eyes, it sounds just as perfect and beautiful as if I were just standing there. It is inevitable that sometimes you hear heavier breathing because of the physicality and I do have to breathe more frequently. But if the singing is not really beautiful, [the aerial performance] is just a gimmick and makes it look like you’re trying to distract or hide a flaw. Which defeats the purpose in my mind—I want the combination to elevate the singing and music and make it even more beautiful and transportive.

That being said, my voice teacher actually thinks my singing is the strongest when I’m in the air or inverted, because my core and lower support is so activated, and my head and neck even more free, so I am never concerned about the singing suffering at this point.

The key is really making any transitions between phrases so as not to bump the vocal line, or to know which transitions are possible to do in the middle of a line without disturbing it.

I do have a lot of control, yes! I am thankful for it of course—I started studying pole and acrobatics almost eight years ago, and the control comes over time like with dance or any other physical skill I guess! :)

M


FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

May sound silly, but have you ever had a voice lesson in the air?

Or does your teacher come to performances?

Joel


FROM: MARCY RICHARDSON
TO: JOEL IVANY

My teacher has not come, no—it’s not so easy for her to come to stuff, especially if it’s further in Brooklyn. (Plus she is always insanely booked/busy!)

But she’s seen a zillion videos and we Snapchat videos from shows and lessons to one another—she actually thinks many vocal things she wants from me happen naturally in the air, so it wouldn’t be necessary.

M


FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

I love that the freest singing can be done up there.

Have any other singers you know given it a try?

Do you miss being in the air when you sing in an opera where you’re just walking around? :)

Joel


FROM: MARCY RICHARDSON
TO: JOEL IVANY

There are some singers I’ve seen testing the waters in workshops, student showcases, etc., but I’m the only one doing it as pretty much my main profession—AND I’m the only one I know of equally adept at doing it on Lyra/hoop, silks, and acrobatic pole. It’s taken a lot of work to be performing at a professional level in all three, though hoop and pole are my favourite.

Of course I do lots of gigs where I’m just doing aerial work without singing, and gigs where I’m just singing without aerial work. With just an aerial gig, I’m able to enjoy the music (I’ll often perform improvising in the air with a live band/rock singer and love reacting to them with movement). I also love the stand-and-sing concert format as well or fully staged operas — at that point, it is all about the character or musicality. That’s beautiful in its own right. I think it would be boring to not have that variety!

M


FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

Variety is key!

Is there anything you’re curious about in this production coming up?

Will it work? Do you think all the elements (virtual chorus, aerial and burlesque performance, digital orchestra, projections) are too much?

I’ve been telling people that the way we digest information has never been more overwhelming in terms of sheer volume. We enjoy stimulation and details subconsciously in a weird way, which still allows us to focus on the dominant voice.

Joel


FROM: MARCY RICHARDSON
TO: JOEL IVANY

As far as all the elements in Orphée—there’s never too much!

I’m actually most curious about Act 2 and the parts of Act 3 where my character [Amour] isn’t even involved. What does the underworld look like? How do the Company XIV dancers come to play in that space?

M


 
FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

That’s what’s kind of cool.

In my mind, you don’t disappear in Acts 2 and 3. I see your character more as Orphée’s subconscious.

In Act 1, when he’s all alone and no one is around, you show up and speak to him.

For me, what he sees in Act 2 and 3 are manifestations of you.

We know in the opera he descends to the underworld to retrieve his lost lover, Eurydice. But in this production, in reality, he hasn’t even left his room (or forest spot)—rather it’s his subconsciousthat takes him on this journey.

Act 2 is everything missing in his life that he remembers as erotic, sensual, carnal; it’s one part of his love for Eurydice. And it’s something he won’t get back (from that one woman).

Act 3 is what he imagines to be the peaceful, the tranquil, the “better place” underworld. It’s a place so wonderful that even if we knew our lost loves still lived on there, we’d still want to pull them back. Because as humans we’re selfish beings.

Also love is a powerful thing.

Joel

 


FROM: MARCY RICHARDSON
TO: JOEL IVANY

Hmmm—so do you think love conquers all in the end, and that Eurydice is reunited with Orpheé in real life, or was it all somewhat of a dream brought on by his subconscious?

In any case, love IS a powerful thing. I think it’s easy to look at Amour as a character and interpret her (or him) as something cute or childlike, when in reality, amour or “love” is strong and powerful. I hope to bring, quite literally, strength to the character/Orpheé’s subconscious, and can really see “love” being the powerful driving force that takes him on this journey.

M


FROM: JOEL IVANY
TO: MARCY RICHARDSON

Yes.

And not just on this journey of the opera, but past the opera… and for us all.

It’s universal.

I don’t think Eurydice comes back to life in the end.

It’s all a learning/coping mechanism of Orphée’s, simply because no one tells us how to grieve.

We experience it. We can’t know what it’s like until it arrives.

And you, Marcy, are a main main main part of this story.

Can’t wait!

Joel

***

Photo: Marcy Richardson (Company XIV), by Corey Weaver

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 AtG wants you to join us in hell: Orphée⁺ 

By | Orphee, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 23 February, 2018

Against the Grain Theatre presents an electronic, baroque burlesque descent into hell

Against the Grain Theatre’s fervour for pushing the boundaries of opera and art continues this spring with a reinvention of Berlioz’s arrangement of Gluck’s baroque masterpiece Orphée et Eurydice. In an international co-production between AtG, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and Opera Columbus, the three companies are banding together to thrust a score written in 1762 into the 21st century. To complement the story in an unusual, beautiful way, Orphée⁺ will boldly blend an orchestra that mixes acoustic and electric instruments, feature baroque-burlesque dancers, and include a global virtual chorus.

While remaining true to the score, AtG presents the question, “How could Berlioz have updated Gluck’s opera if he had the tools of 2018?” In 1859, Berlioz revised  both Gluck’s Italian and French versions combining them into a new arrangement.  He stitched together a work that has since become standard repertoire of opera houses worldwide. This new co-production aims to go further by incorporating  an international cast of 100 virtual chorus members as the narrative voices Orphée⁺, and introducing a new orchestral arrangement that creates an atmospheric, electronic soundscape while maintaining the integrity of the original music.

“There is no battle between the baroque here,” director Joel Ivany says on the music for Orphée⁺. “Instead of changing the music, we’re using the score as the backbone for a new soundscape to complement our current environment. The intent is to discover something new and thrust a timeless story into a contemporary setting.”

Peggy Kriha Dye, Artistic Director of Opera Columbus says, “We are looking to innovate and transform the way that this spectacular opera — which was cutting-edge when it first premiered — is presented and experienced.”

In Orphée⁺, the hero is portrayed as a modern man who is grieving the death of his greatest love, Eurydice. We witness his traumatic journey, which takes him through the depths of sorrow to hell and back again in an attempt to bring back his lost love. His mourning is expressed traditionally through music, word, movement, and now technology.

The cast features Korean countertenor Siman Chung in the title role,Canadian soprano Mireille Asselin as his love Eurydice and American aerialist and soprano Marcy Richardson who will portray Amour, the inner conscience of our hero. A cast of dancers from NYC’s acclaimedCompany XIV (known for their annual burlesque Nutcracker Rouge) act as witnesses along Orphée’s journey.

Stage direction is by AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, theset and projection design by is by S. Katy Tucker, and will be lit by JAX MessengerOrphée⁺ is choreographed by Austin McCormick, Director and Choreographer of Company XIV in New York City, with costume design by Zane Pihlström. Featuring sound design by John Gzowskiand a reduced orchestra of eleven players which include electric guitarand synthesizer. This work is conducted by AtG’s Music Director and Founding Member, Topher Mokrzewski, and features members of the new AtG Ensemble: Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, violin/viola and Brad Cherwin, clarinet.

Orphée⁺ is sung in French with English surtitles. Three performances take place at Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, third floor, onApril 26, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40 – $110 and are available beginning Thursday, March 1 at 10 a.m. fromagainstthegraintheatre.comharbourfrontcentre.com and the Harbourfront Box Office.

LISTING INFORMATION
Against the Grain Theatre’s Orphée⁺
April 26, 27, and 28, 2018
8 p.m.
Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, Third Floor
Tickets: $40 – $110
More info: www.againstthegraintheatre.com

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 Hadi,David EliakisJason HandMiriam KhalilMichaela Dickey, Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, and Brad Cherwin.

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

– 30 –
Media Contact

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

Photo: Marcy Richardson (Company XIV), by Corey Weaver

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

“Opera Pub brings this most secret of pleasures to astonished newcomers”

By | AtG in the News, Opera Pub, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

Looks like Toronto’s best-kept secret is out… The Globe and Mail secretly attended our last free Opera Pub and gave us two pints up 

Next event: Feb 1, 9pm at the The Amsterdam Bicycle Club

"Full-scale opera is daunting to attend largely because of the cost of it. Making it free and intimate is showing to ever-larger groups of astonished newcomers how thrilling it is to hear a beautiful trained voice singing a famous work of art. Ventures like these, as they pop up around the world, are the best way of publicizing this most secret of pleasures."

− The Globe and Mail

"The audience – lots of bearded youth mixed in with the white heads – is not typical for opera. Quite a few hands went up when asked who had never seen an opera before."

− The Globe and Mail

Miriam Khalil in Bound, photo Darryl Block for Against the Grain Theatre

Opera in the age of Trumpism: An interview with Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil

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FROM THE CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY’S

ISSUE 3 of NOTES

A Conversation with 

SOPRANO MIRIAM KHALIL


As part of their work in the COC’s Company-in-Residence program, Against the Grain Theatre has been developing a new opera. BOUND  takes Handel arias and ensembles, reconstructs them through a new interpretation by composer Kevin Lau, and layers the music against new English-language texts drawn from real-life world events. In the leadup to tonight’s opening, we asked Founding AtG member and Ensemble Studio graduate Miriam Khalil to share her thoughts on the challenging process of creating art that responds to contemporary realities of persecution, oppression, and asylum.

n BOUND each artist’s performance is informed by a real-life story in the news. What’s the background of the character you portray?

My character is based in part on Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a Muslim-American journalist who was detained upon her arrival at an airport in France and forced to remove her hijab under threat of deportation.

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How are the singers being tasked with developing these characters?

The past couple of weeks have been spent in challenging discussions about the real-life stories that serve as the launching pad for our characters, but we’ve also been bringing them out of the documentary realm into interpretation and characterization. It is a true collective endeavour, in that all of us are researching our characters deeply and then bringing that back to the rest of the creative team for continued exchange and collaborative dialogue. It’s a powerful process that builds a kind of shared reserve of empathy and nuance that we can draw on to get closer to these realities.


I understand you’ve also been having lots of conversations with subject matter experts in refugee and immigration law, trans rights, and marginalized and underrepresented people as part of the project. What’s that been like?

Alia Rosenstock, a Toronto-based immigration and refugee lawyer, explained the basics of Canada’s refugee system. We learned about some aspects of a refugee’s experience that we wouldn’t ordinarily encounter, including the hardships people are willing to endure to escape to Canada and some of the obstacles they face upon arrival.

Many refugees are illegally detained and tortured in their countries of origin, only to be detained again, once they’ve arrived in countries where they’re seeking asylum, including the USA and Canada.

Some are detained for long stretches of time, while their files are being processed. The effects of long-term detention can be devastating to an individual’s mental health and on the family members who rely on them, including children.

With Rania Younes, a representative from the Canadian Arab Institute, we talked about the hijab, women’s rights in Canada, and Islam. For her personally, wearing the hijab remains a form of self-empowerment.

But there are also prejudices that affect so many aspects of daily life for a hijab-wearing woman in today’s political climate, from obstacles to full participation in the public sector, to feelings of invisibility to being treated with hostility.

Of course we could only absorb a small amount of what she goes through, but it was sobering to begin understanding what it takes simply to practice the freedom that our country guarantees.

I’m really in awe of each and every one of our special guests for their openness, generosity, and curiosity. For my colleagues and me this whole project is about much more than just an opera production—it’s about an expanding scope for empathy and inclusion that we can carry with us as artists and human beings.

Detail of BOUND poster, designed by Eitan Zohar, illustration by Dmitry Bondarenko

Detail of BOUND poster, designed by Eitan Zohar,
illustration by Dmitry Bondarenko

Your family immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. The lived experience of people of colour in this country is often at odds with the way Canada likes to present itself as an almost utopian post-national state. What was your experience growing up here?

My immigration to Canada was mostly positive. I was bullied for a time, but I don’t know if that had anything to do with race. I attended a small school and I was the new girl that didn’t speak the language (my first language was Arabic).

First Canadian school photo, courtesy of Miriam Khalil

First Canadian school photo, courtesy of Miriam Khalil

My parents and older brothers had much bigger struggles and were much more alert to the pressures of assimilation. My father worked odd jobs for the first year and eventually bought a restaurant (Italian, of course), where he and my brothers worked until my father’s retirement. My brothers each pursued their own career path while helping at the restaurant and are all business owners now.

My parents worked really hard to build a life for us in Canada. My mother was a stay-at-home mom in Damascus, but when we moved to Canada she learned English, learned how to drive, and took Early Childhood Education courses. She became a licensed caregiver and eventually ran a home daycare after years of working in the Ottawa School Board.

First summer in Ottawa: Miriam’s mother Taghrid (standing in the middle) surrounded by her children Nabil and Wassim (also standing) and Miriam and Maher (crouching in front). Photo courtesy of Miriam Khalil.

First summer in Ottawa: Miriam’s mother Taghrid (standing in the middle) surrounded by her children Nabil and Wassim (also standing) and Miriam and Maher (crouching in front). Photo courtesy of Miriam Khalil.

 

In a big way, we were very lucky because we had family in Ottawa and there is a large Lebanese/Arab community that welcomed us from the beginning. I remember being amazed at the amount of family we finally had in one place.


Tell me about the Handel aria you sing.

“Ah! mio cor, schernito sei,” from Alcina.

It has an introduction of dissonant chords finding resolution and clashing again in a heartbeat-like pulse. It’s very contemporary sounding for its time and is really quite moving.

The B section moves faster and suggests a growing strength, as the character moves to anger and determination, collapsing again into the A section which restates its emotions quite beautifully to find resolution in a tone of sadness.

Music Director Topher Mokrzewski in rehearsal with Miriam Khalil for AtG's BOUND, photo Darryl Block

Music Director Topher Mokrzewski in rehearsal with Miriam Khalil for AtG’s BOUND, photo Darryl Block

 

Why is a Baroque composer like Handel being used to tell these stories?

Handel’s music covers such a wide range of emotions and is so beautiful in its purity. His music breathes and can seem bare at times, which makes it so vulnerable and human and so apt in exploring the emotional journeys of the oppressed.

And then composer Kevin Lau—who has been with us since day one, immersed in our conversations, etc.—will actually orchestrate and manipulate Handel’s music with electronic amplification to create new juxtapositions for future workshops.

“At a time when the world seems to be spinning away from hope and unity, BOUND will look to moments of beauty, acceptance, and diversity.” —AtG Director Joel Ivany. Photo Darryl Block

“At a time when the world seems to be spinning away from hope and unity, BOUND will look to moments of beauty, acceptance, and diversity.” —AtG Director Joel Ivany. Photo Darryl Block.

 

What happens when you bring Baroque music into contact with stories that have a contemporary sense of cultural and political urgency?

Most of Handel’s operas deal with the big themes: war, love, hate, and death. Baroque music can be incredibly moving because it takes on these essential concerns with emotional honesty and musical simplicity. Within that basic vocabulary, however, Handel develops these intricate relationships with dissonance and resolution, which pull the music forward into emotional waves and gestures that seem perfectly matched for our own political and cultural upheavals.

 

What role does art play in the age of Trumpism?

That’s one of the big discussions we’ve been having throughout the rehearsal process: “Can art really make a difference?” I don’t have an answer to that.

I can say that this week has been incredibly transformative for me. We talked about issues related to the Travel Ban on Muslim countries, human rights violations, our right to privacy, and the freedom to wear what we want. As artists I think we’re all so fortunate to be in a creative community in which we can take a week to discuss and debate the injustice that we see on our newsfeeds and meaningfully apply those conversations, those breakthrough moments, to our work.

The depth of these discussions has left me restless and curious.

In the age of Trumpism, it is so easy to feel helpless and voiceless. The blatant disregard of a very specific set of individuals and the lack of care for their well-being is disheartening. However, in discussion with these open-hearted artists, I find myself hopeful and excited by what art can do to create change in our times.

We have it in us to create a higher sense of awareness of the bigger issues and to lay down a foundation of empathy for “the other.”

Miriam Khalil is a Lebanese-Canadian soprano performing in Against the Grain Theatre’s Handel mash-up BOUND, running December 14–16 at the COC’s Culture Hub, 227 Front St. E. in Toronto. Rush tickets ($35 cash only) are available at the door for each performance. Thank you to the Canadian Opera Company and Nikita Gourski for sharing this Issue of NOTES. AtG is proud to be the inaugural Company-in-Residence of the Canadian Opera Company.