Category Archives: Press

BOUND.Website-Header2

A mash-up of Handel’s music with a new transladaptation

By | Behind the scenes, Bound, Joel Ivany, Media Release, Press | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 31 October, 2017

BOUND uses baroque music to highlight stories of citizen displacement, fear, hope and reconciliation

TORONTO — This December, Against the Grain Theatre’s Artistic Director Joel Ivany matches one of opera’s most dramatic composers to a narrative inspired by the current, chilling refugee stories populating our newsfeeds: stories of migration and displacement due to war, discrimination, hate, and intolerance. The result is a newly created AtG “transladaptation” for the 21st century, BOUND, which will break down Handel arias and ensembles in form and text, and reconstruct them to highlight the current state of those displaced, dehumanized and mistreated across the globe.

“Handel was one of opera’s most dramatic composers,” says director Joel Ivany of the source inspiration for BOUND. “His music constantly explored stories of abandonment, neglect and betrayal. We aim to look at contemporary world events through his musical lens.”

To bring Handel’s music into the present, Ivany and AtG Founding Member and Music Director Topher Mokrzewski collaborate with recent Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award winner, composer Kevin Lau, who will introduce new sound ideas and compositional devices. BOUND will be developed at the Canadian Opera Company’s Jackman Studio over multiple weeks of workshop sessions with finished presentations, featuring the piano accompaniment of Mokrzewski, that will showcase the intensive weeks of development. This is the first iteration of a three-year concept-to-realization production: each year, the workshop will focus on different aspects of operatic creation, from sets and costume design, to orchestral transcription. Over the next few seasons, BOUND will continue to develop, grow and return in new forms.

“We’re looking at how we as artists can express ourselves in a political capacity using our strengths, and our voice,” Ivany continued. “At a time where the world seems to be spinning away from hope and unity, BOUND will look to moments of beauty, acceptance and diversity. These are themes that are important now more than ever to iterate, proclaim and stand by.”

The premise: Seven citizens are detained by a government and held against their will in a waiting room; the audience will watch and hear about their struggles, hopes and fears. Drawing from the experiences of artists, and individuals the world over, BOUND will be a Handel mash-up for the ages.

The cast of BOUND features a roster of Canadian talent, including COC Ensemble member and soprano Danika Lorèn, recent DORA Award-winner and tenor Asitha Tennekoon, counter-tenor David Trudgen, baritoneJustin Welsh, bass Michael Uloth, mezzo-soprano Victoria Marshall and AtG Founding Member and soprano Miriam Khalil. This workshop will be lit by Resident Lighting Designer Jason Hand and presented in the COC’s Jackman Studio (227 Front Street East, Toronto) at 8 p.m. on December 14, 15, and at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on December 16, 2017. With one night sold out, limited tickets ($35) are still available for the remaining three presentations: againstthegraintheatre.ticketleap.com/bound/

A special preview of BOUND will be offered on December 13, 2017 at 12 p.m. as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Details about the series may be found at coc.ca.

LISTING INFORMATION
Against the Grain Theatre’s BOUND
December 14, 15 at 8 p.m.
December 16 at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Doors open 30 minutes before curtain
COC’s Jackman Studio (227 Front Street East, Toronto)
Tickets: $35
More info: againstthegraintheatre.com/bound

ABOUT AtG
Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has invigorated opera audiences since its first sold-out production to an audience of fifty guests in December of 2010. AtG revitalizes the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways. Since its first season, AtG has consistently performed to standing room-only crowds, to both critical and public acclaim, and continues to introduce hundreds of new opera-goers to the art form. Founded by an adventurous collective of friends and artists, the company endeavours to be serious in intent and execution, yet fun and irreverent in spirit. Current members include Joel IvanyTopher MokrzewskiJonathan MacArthurAmanda Hadi,David EliakisJason HandMiriam Khalil, and Michaela Dickey.

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

– 30 –

Media contact:
Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
media@againstthegraintheatre.com or gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

 

Design: Eitan Zohar | Illustration: Dmitry Bondarenko

Banff Kopernikus Against the Grain Theatre

The reviews are in: Kopernikus

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

Each summer, we take a break from Toronto and return to the drawing board to reconnect, recharge, and brainstorm new works (which will eventually make their way back to TO). We head to the mountains, to the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, for the country’s de-facto national opera lab: the program Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century, a five-week residency partnership created by us, Banff and the COC.  Singers and apprentice pianists from across Canada join us to work with our Artistic Director Joel Ivany, AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski, and a faculty of renowned teachers and coaches. For our fourth residency this summer, we created a production of Canadian composer Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus, an electrifying chamber piece in which a young woman finds renewed existence after death — and the reviews are in.

"Ivany and Mokrzewski have created something exceptional, uniquely gripping, generously inclusive. A transformative production. Limitless. Heartening. Utterly extraordinary."

− Opera Going Toronto

"An astounding revelation of an older work made new again... it constitutes a full step into a new directional maturity for the Ivany/Mokrzewski creative team."

− National Post

"Kopernikus is astonishing... give the damn thing a national tour."

− Musical Toronto
 

Read the reviews:

Review: Vivier’s Kopernikus at Banff Centre the ideal opera of the future | National Post

Kopernikus Heralds Opera In The 21st Century | Musical Toronto

Review: Kopernikus | Opera Going Toronto

Vivier’s Kopernikus in rehearsal at Banff

Preview: Centering Kopernikus | Opera Going Toronto

 

Learn more about our collaboration at the Banff Centre:

Opera in the 21st Century: Against the Grain Theatre and the Future of Opera

 

 

 

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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 Revival Fresh And Endearing | Musical Toronto

La Bohème Review | Opera Going Toronto

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

Against the Grain’s La Bohème II closes a sold-out run | Definitely the Opera

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

 

13

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”