Category Archives: Ayre

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.

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

The reviews are in: Ayre

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

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

− The Globe and Mail

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

− barczablog

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

− Schmopera

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

− Opera Ramblings

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

− The Globe and Mail

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

− Opera Going Toronto

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

− Opera Going Toronto

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

− Schmopera

 

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

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

—Ian Ritchie

 

Read more reviews and previews:

In Review: Ayre Schmopera

Review: Ayre | Opera Going Toronto

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

Ayre: An Evening with Osvaldo Golijov | Opera Ramblings

Review: Ayre | barczablog

Don’t miss Ayre | Schmopera

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

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine

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

Everything You Need to Know About Attending Ayre

By | Ayre | No Comments

We’re looking forward to seeing you at Ayre

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

Tickets

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

I want to buy more tickets

About the Ismaili Centre

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

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

 

Getting here

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

By car (Free parking!)

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

By TTC

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

Accessibility

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

What to expect

Wander through sacred halls

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

Discover Part I

Refreshments and snacks

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

Smartphones

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

What to read

In many worlds at the same time

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

The history of Ayre

 

Check out these articles and previews

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

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine

 

Read the house program Read the libretto

 

 

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

Osvaldo Golijov - Alt - Photo John Sann

In many worlds at the same time

By | Ayre | No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Osvaldo Golijov by John Sann

New video: Behind the scenes of Ayre

By | Ayre, Video | No Comments

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

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

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

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

 

Video Production by Half-Inch’d Films

Director/Editor Andrew Martin-Smith

Director of Photography Adrian Merritt Smith

Ismaili Centre Toronto by Amanda Hadi

A performance that lets you wander through a sacred hall

By | Ayre | No Comments

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

Yiddishbbuk (1992)

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

Lúa Descolorida (2002)

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

Tenebrae (2002)

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

 

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

atg volunteers

Work with AtG!

By | Ayre, Volunteer | No Comments

We’re looking for friendly and outgoing volunteers for Ayre (November 10, 11, 12), taking place at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto. This is your chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at our production process, learn from our crew, hear fantastic music and, of course, hang out with some awesome people. To get involved for one, two, or as many performances as you like, email us here! (And don’t forget to tag/share with any friends who might be interested.)

Photo: Brent Calis

ayre2

Against the Grain Theatre goes back to its roots for seventh season in 2016/2017

By | Ayre, Media Release | No Comments

A classic remount and a residency with the Canadian Opera Company bring AtG back to where it all began

TORONTO — Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) celebrates its seventh season this year by returning to its roots, offering a fully staged remount of its popular La bohème in a bar, a daring chamber concert of song, a new series of operatic pub nights, and a residency at the Canadian Opera Company,where AtG’s founding members got their start in the business.

After presenting Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre this past summer at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and taking it on the road to the Ottawa International Chamber Festival, AtG brings this haunting song cycle of Arabic, Ladino, Sardinian and Spanish texts home to Toronto audiences in November. It won some kudos along the way, withMusical Toronto commenting that “along with the quality and verve that we have come to expect from AtG, this music is fertile ground for a clever, young company on the rise.” Soprano and AtG Founding Member Miriam Khalilsings this technically challenging and deeply moving song cycle with accompaniment by an 11-member chamber orchestra. The performance is staged by AtG founder and artistic director Joel Ivany, and an evocative setting praised by audiences and critics alike is lit by AtG resident lighting designer Jason Hand.

Ayre takes place at Toronto’s breathtaking Ismaili Centre, 49 Wynford Drive, on Nov. 10, 11 and 12, 2016. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with performances of additional works by Golijov offered by students of the Royal Conservatory of Music commencing the program at 8 p.m. For tickets, please visit www.againstthegraintheatre.com. Ayre is presented in partnership with the Aga Khan Council for Canada and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

A special preview of Ayre will be offered on Nov. 10, 2016 at 12 p.m. as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, presented by the Canadian Opera Company (COC) at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Details about the series may be found atwww.coc.ca.

The season continues with a return to AtG’s roots: a fully staged production of Puccini’s La bohème, performed out of the Tranzac Club in Toronto’s Annex district. This remount hearkens back to AtG’s first season, when its Tranzac Club production of the beloved classic (with its new English libretto by Joel Ivany) put the company on the map. Joel Ivany directs, and Topher Mokrzewski music directs. Dates, casting and ticketing information will be released at a later date.

As part of its mandate to keep opera fresh, fun and accessible, AtG launches a new initiative this fall: Opera Pub. Launching on Oct. 13, 2016 at theAmsterdam Bicycle Club at 54 The Esplanade, Opera Pub nights are relaxed, casual nights out that offer up your favourite beer on tap with a side of operatic arias and ensembles, performed by both established and emerging opera talent. The festivities begin at 9 p.m. and will continue on the first Thursday of every month.

“This season highlights what AtG does best,” says AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany. “We push the envelope, tackle relevant themes within our community and strive for artistic excellence. Being able to present the music of Golijov is an honour, as he’s one of world’s leading dramatic composers. You won’t hear Ayre performed this way ever again.  La bohèmehasn’t been performed by us since our inaugural season and this feels like the perfect time to bring it back.  We look ahead to the future by initiating new endeavours and continue building on our growing relationships.”

In some of the most exciting news of AtG’s season, the company will be participating in a new residency program offered by the COC. Designed as a pilot project, the COC will act as an incubator for AtG during a two-year residency at the COC’s administrative offices at 227 Front St. E. in Toronto.

The COC’s pilot company-in-residence program is designed to support an individual opera company during the critical transition from its initial formation to growing into a more established organization with a viable infrastructure. The residency program is specifically aimed at opera companies that have been in existence for five years or less and offers, in addition to dedicated administrative space and resources, mentorship involving different departments and opportunities for job shadowing, as well as invitations to observe and/or participate in company meetings and events.

“This residency program is a formalization of a long-time mentorship that has existed between the COC and Against the Grain Theatre. Partnering with AtG during the program’s pilot stage gives the COC an opportunity to lend support to an emerging company while also receiving valuable feedback on how this kind of residency works and if it’s a viable structure we can build upon,” saysCOC General Director Alexander Neef. “It’s an exciting time for opera right now with so many independent opera companies establishing themselves within the arts community. Our hope with this residency program is to put a system in place that helps nurture those companies as they grow and seek to establish a sustainable future.”

“Building a company is tough in any industry, but especially in opera,” says AtG General Manager Joanna Barrotta.  “The COC’s leadership in mentoring young companies like ours gives us a stable platform to continue our growth, and allows us to make a meaningful contribution to the opera ecosystem.”

ABOUT AtG
In December of 2010, Toronto’s opera scene received a jolt of energy with the formation of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). With a goal to reinvigorate the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways, AtG staged its first performance to a sold-out audience of 50 people, and with that the company was off and running. Since that first season, AtG has packed every single one of its productions with standing room-only crowds, winning a consistent level of critical and public acclaim, and picking up two Dora Mavor Moore Awards along the way. The arts community has embraced the AtG, as has a much wider, more diverse audience of people who may have never considered attending an opera. Founded by an adventurous collective of friends and artists, the company’s mission is to preserve the company’s unique ability to be serious in intent and execution, yet fun and irreverent in spirit.

For more information, please visit AtG online at www.againstthegraintheatre.com, on Twitter @AtGTheatre and on Facebook at facebook.com/AtGTheatre.
– 30 –

Media contact:

Caitlin Coull
Founding Member & Communications Director
Against the Grain Theatre
cait@againstthegraintheatre.com

Miriam Khalil

Up next: An Evening with Against the Grain Theatre at Ottawa Chamberfest

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

This Saturday, we reteam with the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival to present two dynamic song cycles. Mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal and tenor Colin Ainsworth join forces with AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski in a reading of Leoš Janáček’s emotional and mysterious The Diary of One Who Disappeared (which AtG first presented in 2013). Soprano Miriam Khalil and a cohort of 11 instrumentalists unleash Argentinean-born composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre, a lush fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic folk melodies and texts.

Saturday, July 30 at 7pm
Dominion-Chalmers United Church
355 Cooper St, Ottawa, ON

Click here to buy tickets