Category Archives: La Boheme

_BPH5481

The reviews are in: La Boheme

By | AtG in the News, La Boheme, Press | No Comments

"Modest in concept but rich in imagination, it’s the don’t-miss performance of the month."

− Toronto Life

"AtG's La bohème is just as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you cry."

− Schmopera

"The production’s accessibility to Toronto audiences is unmissable, with references to familiar locations like Future’s Bakery and William Lyon MacKenzie on the Canadian currency."

− Musical Toronto

"With this production, they now stand as one of the most creative theatrical and musical groups in the country."

− The Globe and Mail

"It's intelligent, funny and very millennial... Topher Mokrzewski seems to play more notes on the piano than two hands have ever played — his orchestral reduction is lush."

− Broadway World

"A raucous, energetic, site-specific version of La Bohème, performed in an Annex club and featuring characters who are completely true to the spirit of Puccini’s original while also commenting on contemporary issues like soaring rents, hookup culture and millennial underemployment."

− NOW Magazine

Read the reviews:

La Boheme set in contemporary Toronto soars | NOW Magazine

AtG’s La Bohème six years on | Operaramblings

Hype for a reason: AtG’s La bohème | Schmopera

Rent in the 6ix Meets Opera in Against the Grain Theatre’s LA BOHÈME | Broadway World

Read the previews:

Against The Grain’s La Bohème is back for round 2 | The Globe and Mail

A very Bohemian undertaking | Schmopera

How A Toronto Neighbourhood Inspired A Homegrown La bohème | Musical Toronto

A comprimario amid a “huge, sweeping, romantic love story” | Schmopera

A free Meat Loaf concert, an opera in a bar and six other things to see, do, read and hear this week | Toronto Life

CRITIC’S PICKS: 9 Classical Music Shows You Should Absolutely See This Week | Musical Toronto

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Rent is Too Damn High

By | La Boheme | No Comments

Each week, the editors of  La Bohème newspaper pick a theme for their issue, and solicit real stories from real Torontonians. This week’s story: “The Rent Is Too Damn High”

Recently, Craigslist listed a semi-private studio apartment for $1,750/month. This apartment, which the ad described as being “full of character” and offering “a unique immersive experience of Toronto’s vibrant street life,” is actually an unroofed laneway off Brunswick Avenue.

“When you look around, there’s no realer place for a writer. This is what Balzac and Hugo were talking about,” Rodolfo said. An aspiring screenwriter, he rents the laneway with an OCAD student named Marcello, who is is transforming their refurbished furniture into an art project for GradEx. “It’s a conversation-starter with our guests. Or any pedestrians that wander into the laneway, really. And the silver lining is there’s always a parking space available. If we ever have a car, that’ll be cool.” Originally from Ottawa, Rodolfo was unfamiliar with Toronto’s neighbourhoods, but he’d seen Kids in the Hall, and, he said, “I pretty much knew I was going to live in the West End.”

Rodolfo continues, “The rent is pretty reasonable for this area.” He’d checked out one-bedroom apartments in Queen West, where the average monthly rent is $1,900 (plus utilities) a month. He almost signed one of those apartments but he didn’t have the necessary paperwork to close the deal: landlords now demand 10 post-dated cheques, first and last month’s rent, a cleaning deposit, a repair deposit (your landlord isn’t going to fix that thing on their own), a reference letter from all former employers going back five years, dental records, access to social media accounts and, in some cases, a fresh urine sample. So, Rodolfo eventually landed here: the Mirvish Village laneway with “unbeatable” rent.

The laneway is prone to intermittent power outages. The thin insulation makes heating a wild fantasy. (From the ad: “This laneway has EXPOSED BRICK! The brick from the outside of the building is visible from inside the laneway!!!”) The smell can only be described as “ripe.” And the landlord prefers the housemates have “NO guests and MUST be there as little as possible during the day.” But its location boasts the the Holy Trinity of “B’s” worshipped by every twentysomething: Beer, brunch, and BMV.

And, Rodolfo adds, “It could be worse. At least it’s not Liberty Village, right?”

When asked for comment, landlord Benoît Baule stated that he planned to raise the rent by $250 a month when the current lease expires in June.

In this issue, we tackle the beast that is the Toronto rental market (will it cool down with Ontario’s recently introduced Fair Housing Plan?), hear from the other side (the landlord), and profile broke folks still living large and aspiring to the bourgeois life.

Image: blogTO

early_hype_05_lg

What I learned from trying (and failing and trying again) to evict my deadbeat tenants

By | La Boheme | No Comments

Gregory FinneyBy Benoît Baule, special to La Bohème

Each week, the editors of La Bohème newspaper pick a theme for their issue, and solicit real stories from real Torontonians. In our “Rent Is Too Damn High” issue, our Perspectives Column was penned by concerned citizen and landlord Benoît Baule.

We’ve all read stories about the lousy kinds of landlords around our great city. In the last few years, “The Six” has seen a spate of terrible, just terrible landlords treating their tenants badly. They ignore repairs, raise the rent, or evict without notice — you name it. But, I have to ask: What do you do if it’s the tenants who are the problem?

I live in the West End* and I’ve been a very successful, very trustworthy landlord in Toronto for many years. I rent properties in Corso Italia, Little Italy, the Annex and the former Mirvish Village area — and I have to tell you, nobody’s ever had a problem with me. Ask any of my old renters and they’ll say, “Benoît? Big Ben? Most trustworthy landlord I ever had. What a guy.”**

Now, the problem tenants in question, who are a couple of young guys, rent an apartment on Brunswick Street. I admit it’s no Palais Royale. But I charge a modest, competitive rate and I include hot water and a parking space — and they still act like they live in a cave. I just heard complaints that they were burning a fire — a literal fire — in the living room for heat, which I’m sure is because they had their electricity cut for not paying their bills. I haven’t gotten a rent payment from these two “artists” in months, but whenever I show up to get my money, guess what? There’s always drinks available! I have a line of potential renters who would kill for a great apartment like this one, and wouldn’t stiff me month after month with promises of “Once my script gets picked up” and on and on…

I’m a patient guy, and I’ve tried many, many times to get them out of there. Somehow, they end up appealing to my sense of goodwill and charity, and I give them another chance. My wife was right, I need to be tougher with these tenants. But I can’t help it. I guess I’m just a humanist.

I’ve got no choice left but to go over there and give them official notice that come the New Year, New People will be living in that space — ones who’ll understand that you can’t take advantage of Big Ben.

———

*Oakville

**Note from the Editor: Former tenants declined to respond to our request for veracity.

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

La Bohème 🍁 is SOLD OUT (for now)

By | La Boheme | No Comments

We have some news – great for us, but maybe sad for you: AtG’s La Bohème has completely sold out. And when I say “sold out,” I mean all of our tickets for our 8 performances — even for our new show date, May 31 — have gone like the wind. This was our earliest on-sale ever (a full 3.5 months ahead of the show date), and the fastest we have ever sold out the entire run of a show. We’re overwhelmed, gobsmacked and happy but also trying to figure out what that means for possible new fans of AtG who wanted to check out our hit show but maybe waited just a little too long to get their act together.

 

Stay tuned: We’ll have updates about whether we can offer additional seats/tickets as soon as possible.

In the meantime:

  1. Attend our free Opera Pubs. Running the first Thursday of every month, AtG Opera Pub nights are improvised, wild nights that offer up your favourite beer with a side of operatic arias and ensembles, performed by both established and emerging opera talent performed on our very own Craigslist piano. Free admission, $3.50 bottles of beer. Next event: 6 April 2017, at 9pm.
  2. Get tickets to our March 12 show: A concert of Viver and Schoenberg at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets are $14 ($12 for TIFF Members) and include admission to a screening of Schoenberg’s unfinished opera Moses and Aaron.
Boheme_NikPix_516

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.

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

Boheme_NikPix_124

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

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.

Joel Ivany

News: “Has Against The Grain Theatre’s Time Finally Come?”

By | AtG in the News, Canadian Opera Company, La Boheme, Opera Pub, Press | No Comments

Musical Toronto is getting pumped for our 2016/2017 season, calling it a (possibly) pivotal year for AtG.

Finally, there just might be some big resources to back their big ideas.

Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) offered a box full of opera goodies this week with the announcement of their upcoming 2016–17 season. AtG fans will see a return of a bar-bound La bohème, a monthly opera pub night, and a new gilded residency with the Canadian Opera Company.

Read the full article.