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.”
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.
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Founding Member & Communications Director
Against the Grain Theatre