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La Bohème, Toronto-Style 🍁

By | La Boheme | No Comments

On sale Feb 1 at 10am
Running May 19–June 2

AtG’s La Bohème: Where an artist, a musician, a writer, a philosophy student and a not-so-happy landlord might cross paths in 2017 Toronto.

Everything about Puccini’s hyper-popular 1896 opera is relatable today: low-income artists and freelancers still haunt cafes, landlords will still “forget” to turn on the heat, and rent is still too damn high.

Pull a group of twentysomethings off the street on Bloor West — and that’s the cast of La Bohème.

In 2011, instead of trying to “bring new audiences to the opera house,” (and because we lacked an opera house entirely) we created a production that brought the opera to them—to the places our friends might hang out after work for a very, very cheap beer.

Our adaptation still kept Puccini’s characters and music, but we retold it for a contemporary audience, in English. And the story actually took place where folks were watching at the Tranzac Club: In Act I, Rodolfo and Marcello were sitting at shared tables with the audience. In Act II, the bar at the end of the room became the Café Momus.

This production, created on a shoestring budget by a handful of founding members, started our company. And it also began the tradition of convincing Music Director Topher Mokrzewski to become a one-man orchestra using an upright piano. (We think he’s OK with it now.)

So if you’re hungry for an updated #AtGBoheme with an entirely new cast, and want to see why Toronto is becoming one of the freshest destinations for opera, save the date:

At 10am on February 1, we start selling tickets to our 100-seat venue at the Tranzac Club.

We’ll see you at the bar.

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RGD Jury names AtG’s creative identity “one of the top case studies in 2016”

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

We couldn’t be prouder to have a visual identity created by our friend Michael Barker at Acme Art and Design… The fact that it’s now an acclaimed case study is just icing on the cake. This month, an esteemed RGD jury selected Michael’s case study about our AtG rebrand as “one of the top case studies in 2016.”

Acme Art & Design captures the spirit of a unique cultural experience with visual identity for Against the Grain Theatre

A powerful graphic and clever visual device that tickles your brain and pulls you directly into the purpose of the client – clearly demonstrating what Against the Grain Theatre looks like and invites you to learn more.

—RGD

Click here to read the full article on the top case studies selected

Click here to read Michael’s case study about designing our visual identity

 

pelleaset melisande

New Upstairs Neighbours

By | AtG in the News, Behind the scenes, Canadian Opera Company | No Comments

There is nothing quite like last week’s season launch.  There’s cheek-kissing, and glass-raising, and a hall filled with tipsy opera fanatics.  Conversations are all abuzz with season suspicions and differing opinions.  And here we are, tucked up in the third ring listening for AtG’s introduction into the COC Company in Residence Program.  Cue the applause!

But what does this mean for AtG?

AtG is in a period of growth which many emerging opera organizations are faced with as they seek to reach a place of sustainability.  As our company grows, our talented administrative infrastructure must be strengthened and supported so that we can reach our full organizational potential.  AtG will be in what we are calling an incubation period as the COC Company in Residence.  As we nest with the COC, we continue to groom our organizational goals with the mentorship and resources of industry professionals at the COC.  And as we develop in this program, we are shaping the residency to be unique to us and our needs as an emerging opera company while operating independently and creating our own administrative guidelines.  We are bringing the company forward through innovative company relationships with the COC.

We now have designated headquarters on the fourth floor at 227 Front Street East, and our office almost overlooks the gazebo outback.  Sky Blue Sky Sandwich Company is just a simple e-order away and  Rooster Coffee is busy with opera’s rising stars sipping coffees and reading scores.  AtG should fit right in.

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

Opera Pub – Un-Valentine’s Day Edition

By | La Boheme, Opera Pub | No Comments

Join us! For a raucous un-Valentine’s Day evening
as we sing hits from Puccini’s LA BOHEME (and more)
because
Nothing says “romance” like watching young bohemian couples unable to pay their rent and slowly dying of tuberculosis.

Thursday, February 2 at 9pm
at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club
54 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON
Free admission

Tickets to our next show, a remount of our smash-hit La Bohème, go on sale February 1. You can get a preview of the production at this free Opera Pub.

About AtG’s Opera Pubs

“It can all get a little wild.”
againstthegraintheatre.com/opera-pub/

Running the first Thursday of every month, AtG Opera Pub nights are improvised, wild nights that offer up your favourite beer on tap with a side of operatic arias and ensembles, performed by both established and emerging opera talent. Free admission, $3.50 bottles of beer.

“[Opera Pub] has the feeling of an after party when musicians kick back, loosen up and playfully make music with their friends.” —Musical Toronto 

“It’s a simple idea, and one that could be a fantastic introduction for an opera newcomer. In the familiar environment of a pub, with no oppressive silence or close-quarters seating, people can enjoy opera in short bursts. Listeners have a drink in hand, they can get up and leave whenever they want, and they’re essentially left wanting more. Opera truly is best consumed live, and it’s hard to get more real-life than in a cozy pub.” —Schmopera

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Topher on going back to La Bohème in 2017

By | La Boheme | No Comments

In a few months, we’re presenting a fully-staged remount of our English “transladaptation” of the Puccini classic—which shifted the tale of struggling artists to the present day—and return to our first venue: the historic Tranzac Club in Toronto’s Annex.

There’s a certain aspect of nostalgia in going back to the show that put us on the map in the first place. It was the first thing we did that got this massive attention and it was a moment that defined the ethos of the company: staging classical music in unconventional spaces; and presenting certain operas in English, to make it a more direct experience.

But what’s neat about remounting it in 2017? We’ll be updating the staging, libretto and cast, and we’ll be bringing a new perspective. But it’s also about going back to the AtG basics: small venue, small orchestra (me and a piano), and an intimate, immersive experience for you. We’ll also have gained a lot more fans since we last staged this show, so it will be the first AtGBohème for new audience members who haven’t been with us since 2010. We’re really excited to share this with you.

 

Christopher Mokrzewski

Topher Mokrzewski
Music Director
Against the Grain Theatre

A Little Too Cozy

AtG tops the “Best of 2016” Lists

By | A Little Too Cozy, Ayre, The Rape of Lucretia | No Comments

We produced a handful of productions, both at home and in Banff and Ottawa, that we were really proud to see make year-end Best of Lists:

A Little Too Cozy: “A risk-taking production that soared to victory.”
—The Globe and Mail

Ayre “was one of those nights when you go to a show and immediately wish you could see it again after the curtain.”
—Schmopera

The Rape of Lucretia and A Little Too Cozy: “Another good year for AtG.”
—Opera Ramblings

A Little Too Cozy: “Smart, engaging, fun, brilliant.”
—PlayAnon

Ayre “represented what I believe will be an increasingly important direction in classical music; an approach that not only looks, but sounds like our ever-changing cultural mosaic.”
—Musical Toronto

Liked what you saw this year? We have big plans for 2017, including an ambitious remount of La Bohème, and need your help. Your financial support goes directly into producing our next opera, and helps us hire young Canadian artists who are itching for more opportunities.

If you’ve ever wanted to help out, now’s your chance. Each and every dollar makes a difference. (And makes a great holiday present in someone’s name.)

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

We turned 6 in 2016 🎉

By | A Little Too Cozy, Ayre, Banff, Joel Ivany, La Boheme, Opera Pub, The Rape of Lucretia | No Comments

I never would have thought, six years after our first production, that Against the Grain Theatre would have the presence it does in the city, province and throughout Canada.

What drives this little company is the people that come together to make indie opera — our casts, crew, and volunteer staff. Our fuel is their passion.  I’m sure you’ve felt it.

You felt this passion whether you saw Toronto’s first Mozart opera staged as a live TV show: A Little Too Cozy at the CBC’s Studio 42.

Or if you went out to Banff to experience the thrilling, Hitchcockian Mozart Mashup Murder Mystery (No One’s Safe).

Or if you watched Britten’s haunting chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia, which we presented with the Toronto Summer Music Festival at the stunning Winter Garden Theatre.

Or if you were transfixed by three different performances of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre. Performances that, after the U.S. Election, reminded us why we make music in a city as diverse and supportive as Toronto.

Our new favourite event is Opera Pub, a monthly series we launched last October. Wild, improvised opera performances that give emerging singers a chance to flex their chops, surrounded by classical fans (and new fans in the making) in a friendly environment. That’s what AtG is about.

For all we’ve been able to achieve in 2016, we say thank you and wish you and yours the happiest holidays.

Jonathan Russell MacArthur

Meet our new Interim General Manager

By | AtG in the News, Behind the scenes | No Comments

Our fabulous General Manager Joanna Barrotta is taking some time away from AtG — as she’s making an exciting move to the Hammer! But we’re happy to announce that Jonathan MacArthur will be stepping in as Interim GM. You may have seen him both in performance and administrative roles around town: he was most recently the GM of FAWN Chamber Creative, and has worked with Tapestry Opera.  Please join us in welcoming Jon!

“I’m over the moon to be a member of AtG, and am ready to get my feet wet! This is an incredible opportunity for me as an arts administrator, and I am totally thrilled and honoured to call myself an Against the Grain-er. I look forward to being a part of one of Toronto’s hottest opera gangs, and can’t wait to bring Bohème back to this city’s devoted opera goers.”

Jonathan MacArthur is known as both a producer and performer in the Toronto arts scene. He is a Masters graduate of the University of Toronto Opera program, and has studied abroad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia. He is a passionate performer of the Baroque and New Music genres, and was an ensemble member of AtG’s Dora Award winning performance of AtG’s Messiah. Having worked closely with FAWN Chamber Creative, and Tapestry Opera, Jonathan adds another colourful feather to his Indie Opera TO hat as interim General Manager at AtG.

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