Category Archives: Press

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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

 

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

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.

 

 

 

Topher Mokrzewski at the piano. Photo: Darryl Block

National Post: How Against The Grain changed the opera game with modernized productions in bars, galleries and studios

By | A Little Too Cozy, AtG in the News, Ayre, Press, The Rape of Lucretia | No Comments

Writer Catherine Kustanczy just blew our minds with this glowing editorial in The National Post on how “AtG became one of Canada’s top opera companies.”

Read the full article here.

A Little Too Cozy, photographed by Darryl Block

Your evening links: The Cozy reviews are in!

By | A Little Too Cozy, AtG in the News, Press | No Comments

Amadeus meets The Bachelor in Against the Grain’s A Little Too Cozy | The Globe and Mail
“We modern opera-goers got to feel like the original audiences to all the classics of the opera repertoire: We heard a libretto that was written for us and our times – that was funny, clever, pointed, meaningful.”

Review: A Little Too Cozy | Schmopera
“With his trademark energy and style, Topher Mokrzewski guided the cast and pit through the incredibly dense score that is Così as only he can — and you understand in one moment why he’s so in demand as a Musical Director across the country.”

Review: Cozy Fantastic | barczablog
“The CBC’s Studio 42 is just about the coolest place I’ve ever been to see an opera… Cozy is quite a remarkable creation, one that adds extraordinary energy to the original. I can’t recommend this highly enough.”

Review: A Little Too Cozy | Mooney on Theatre
“All of Mozart’s stunningly lyrical and captivating arias, duets, and ensembles are present… This production is a must see. It is a fresh, innovative, funny, and visceral characterization of love in the technological age.”

A Little Too Cozy a wild romp that subverts Mozart: review | Toronto Star
“Against the Grain lives up to its name with sassy English-language take on Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.”

Cozying up to The Bachelor | NOW Magazine
“Mokrzewski says, “These Mozart adaptations are statements of love for Joel and me, using a different lens to look at Mozart classics. They’re acts of love, not sacrilege.””

A Little too Cozy is a reality show romp — opera-style | Toronto Star
“Sung in English laced with slang and technical references, the “transladaptation” moves the comedy of manners from 18th-century Naples to a modern-day wedding reality TV show in CBC Toronto’s Studio 42.”

A Little Too Cozy updates Mozart for the reality-TV world | The Globe and Mail
“The result is A Little Too Cozy, which opens on Thursday, an adaptation of Così that does for it what Against the Grain’s #UncleJohn did for Don Giovanni a year or so ago.”

John Doyle: In defence of reality TV and so-called trash TV | The Globe and Mail
“It all makes perfect sense, this interpretation… All you have to do is look up a plot summary of Così fan tutte to see that it’s a hilarious farce no less ridiculous in its bones than The Bachelorette.”

Meet the Contestants of A Little Too Cozy | Schmopera
“We asked Felicity, Elmo, Dora, and Fernando about how their romances have blossomed so far, and whether or not they think they’ll find true love on A Little Too Cozy.”

Cairan Ryan as Donald L. Fonzo in A Little Too Cozy, photo by Darryl Block

Your evening links: The Toronto Star and NOW Magazine on Cozy

By | A Little Too Cozy, AtG in the News, Press | No Comments

If you’re a reality show fan, you know that programs like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette are full of inflated, overly dramatic emotional climaxes — operatic moments, if you like.

“Così is my favourite opera of the three,” admits Mokrzewski, who’s also resident conductor at the Calgary Opera.

“I know that for some people the story gets in the way – it’s arguably misogynistic, silly and cynical – but Mozart infused it with ideas about relationships and how easy it is to switch affections. The music is profound and filled with humanity, and appeals to any listener.

Continue reading Glenn Sumi for NOW Magazine: “Cozying up to The Bachelor”

 

Four opera singers have spent months preparing for their roles in A Little Too Cozy, but it hasn’t been by singing scales.

They’ve been downhill skiing and riding snow machines, writing love letters and drinking wine at the beach as they create videos and back stories for the four contestants in the reality TV show that they portray in the opera opening Thursday.

Continue reading Trish Crawford for the Toronto Star: “A Little too Cozy is a reality show romp — opera-style”

 

Your evening links: The Globe and Mail on Cozy

By | A Little Too Cozy, AtG in the News, Joel Ivany, Press | No Comments

The Globe and Mail have written not one but two(!) previews of A Little Too Cozy which we recommend reading:

 

Enter Joel Ivany and Topher Mokrzewski, the brilliant duo at the creative heart of Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre Company. On the one hand, what Ivany and Mokrzewski have done with Così fan tutte has a 220-year tradition behind it – because Ivany, too, has rewritten the story. But unlike all their previous adapter colleagues, the two have done something new – they have rewritten Così fan tutte to make it more itself, to make it both more relevant to our times and more relevant to its own times. Something of a minor miracle.

Continue reading Robert Harris’ “A Little Too Cozy updates Mozart for the reality-TV world”

 

It all makes perfect sense, this interpretation… All you have to do is look up a plot summary of Così fan tutte to see that it’s a hilarious farce no less ridiculous in its bones than The Bachelorette.

Continue reading TV critic John Doyle’s  “In defence of reality TV and so-called trash TV”

 

AtG presents its biggest, boldest 
opera production to date in CBC television studio

By | A Little Too Cozy, Media Release, Press | No Comments

TORONTO – Continuing its tradition of turning opera sideways, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) presents its biggest, boldest production to date this spring. A Little Too Cozy (#ALittleTooCozy), a modern-day adaptation of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, runs from May 12 to 21, 2016, and will be staged entirely in a television studio at CBC Toronto’s headquarters. Tickets are now on sale at againstthegraintheatre.com.

A Little Too Cozy marks the third and final instalment in a trilogy of Mozart “transladaptations” developed by AtG, which marry the musical genius of Mozart’s creations with modern, topical language and references, as seen in the company’s sell-out hits Figaro’s Wedding and #UncleJohn (The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, respectively). Featuring a new English libretto by AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, the opera is reset as a modern-day wedding reality TV show, where the final four contestants have found their match… but as expected, there’s always a catch.

After being workshopped at The Banff Centre last summer and presented to rave reviews, A Little Too Cozy is ready for Toronto audiences and has found the perfect home in Studio 42 at CBC Toronto. AtG is known both for its site-specific productions (venues have included dive bars, courtyards, art galleries, yoga studios and a historic manor) and for pushing the boundaries of audience expectations and roleplay. In this case ticketholders arrive as members of the studio audience for a live taping of A Little Too Cozy, where they’ll witness the final episode of the reality show that asks its contestants: “Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met?”

The creative team that led A Little Too Cozy to success at The Banff Centre reunites to serve a feast for the eyes and ears. Directed by Joel Ivany, with AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski at the head of a 5-piece chamber orchestra, the opera-turned-TV show is brought to life by AtG Resident Lighting Designer Jason Hand, responsible for a dazzling display worthy of ABC’s The Bachelor, and by set and costume designer Snezana Pesic, whose creations will make the audience forget that they’re not actually at a taping of CBC’s hottest new series.

The four contestants — who appear on the program looking for love in the age of social media — are sung by soprano Shantelle Przybylo, mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, tenor Aaron Sheppard and baritone Clarence Frazer. Baritone Cairan Ryan and soprano Caitlin Wood reprise their roles as the TV show’s irrepressible host Donald L. Fonzo and Female Handler Despina, respectively.

“This production is a benchmark show for AtG,” says Joel Ivany. “It’s our most ambitious, exciting production to date, and staging it live in such a landmark venue as a CBC studio is definitely a highlight for our young company.”

Seven performances take place in Studio 42 at CBC Toronto’s headquarters, 25 John Street, from May 12 to 21, 2016 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $95, and are available at againstthegraintheatre.com.

LISTING INFORMATION
Against the Grain Theatre’s A Little Too Cozy
May 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20 and 21, 2016
8 p.m.
CBC Toronto, 25 John St.
Tickets: $35 to $95
More info: againstthegraintheatre.com

ABOUT AtG
In December of 2010, Toronto’s opera scene received a jolt of energy with the formation of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), a visionary young start-up founded by Joel Ivany and a small group of friends who worked in the “biz.” With a goal of reinvigorating the operatic art form by presenting classical repertoire 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 acclaim that has even surprised its own members. Maclean’s has referred to AtG as “the most successful of the indies,” and the Calgary Herald called it “one of the most important opera companies in Canada.” AtG’s 2013 production of Figaro’s Wedding received seven Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, winning the award for Best New Musical/Opera. It also received several nominations for the innovative 2014 production of #UncleJohn. 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. AtG is a proud member of Indie Opera T.O.

– 30 –

For images, interviews and more information, please contact:

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

Toronto Star: Joel Ivany “a Torontonian to watch in 2016”

By | AtG in the News, Joel Ivany, Press | No Comments

I’ve been waiting for 2016 to arrive for some time.

Creatively you love having different sized canvases to use. I’m lucky enough that several projects this coming calendar year are not like each other. I’m lucky to work with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra for the first time in their big venue, Roy Thomson Hall. Then I make my Main Stage debut at the Four Season Centre for the Arts, directing Carmen for the Canadian Opera Company. Before the summer hits, we’re planning on presenting A Little Too Cozy which will be in a much smaller venue for a much smaller capacity.

The very cool aspect of all of these projects is that they all happen in Toronto. Anyone who works in opera, and if they’re working in opera, knows that your career will take you all over the world. To have three unique projects line up in your hometown is a treat.

The Toronto Star picked up on this and I was honoured to be considered for their list of Torontonians who are set to have big 2016’s.

Very thankful for the people around me who have made these opportunities possible. Toronto is a great city for the arts and for opera.

Joel Ivany

Toronto’s arts and culture scene should be as vibrant as ever in the new year. But for five city residents in particular — representing a range of disciplines from pop music and literature to art, opera and film — 2016 will present an opportunity to test their skills and creativity to the max.

JOEL IVANY
Joel Ivany’s long apprenticeship is paying off.

After studying opera at the University of the Toronto, Ivany, 35, did further study in Norway, Ireland, Washington and Minnesota before coming back to Toronto and founding his own independent company, Against the Grain Theatre, which he calls a “small and scrappy company which is growing with each production.”

His Dora-winning work has not gone unnoticed by two of the biggest players in the Toronto cultural landscape.
On Jan. 21, Ivany’s production of Mozart’s Requiem with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will debut at Roy Thomson Hall.

On April 12, Ivany will oversee a production of Carmen for the Canadian Opera Company.

“In North America, let alone the world, (the COC) is increasingly becoming known as a landing spot for top artists, for singers, for directors, for productions. So to be included in that company is very humbling, especially for someone who is Canadian, and grew up and trained in Canada,” Ivany said.

Death & Desire makes Globe and Mail’s Best of 2015

By | AtG in the News, Death & Desire, Press | No Comments

Globe and Mail critic John Doyle gave some love to our Spring 2015 production of Death & Desire in this roundup of top cultural moments of the year:

Death & Desire, at the Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery, Toronto

A mild evening in June in a tiny art gallery. A man strode to the piano and began playing Schubert. Two singers wandered through the audience. What ensued was dazzling, a rapturous evocation of naive, unbridled desire meeting neurotic, unfocussed longing. The naive desire was male, Stephen Hegedus singing Schubert’s delicate, inflamed Die Schone Mullerin (The Miller’s Lovely Daughter); and the manic longing was in Krisztina Szabo performing Olivier Messiaen’s starkly distraught Harawi: Chant d’amour et de mort (Song of Love and Death). This was Against the Grain’s Death & Desire, a fabulously inspired mash-up. Simply done, it was the most unforgettable night of the year and made, as a poet said, one little room an everywhere.

See more 2015 roundups that included Death & Desire:

2015 in Review | Opera Ramblings
“There was also much to like in the category of hard to define productions. Against the Grain produced two fine combinations of music and choreography. Death and Desire; a mash up of Die Schöne Müllerin and Messiaen’s Harawi featured a searing performance from Krisztina Szabó, well paired with Stephen Hegedus.”

Jon Kaplan’s Top 10 Theatre Artists of 2015 | NOW Magazine
“Mezzo Krisztina Szabó was equally haunting in the double bill of Die Schöne Müllerin/Harawi.”

End of Year Highlights | Definitely the Opera
Death & Desire named a 2015 highlight.