Category Archives: Press

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Interview with Lorraine Vaillancourt, the premiere conductor of Kopernikus

By | Kopernikus, Press | No Comments

Introducing Claude Vivier (Pt.2): a three-part series on the life and works of Claude Vivier by Against the Grain’s Media Attaché, Michael Zarathus-Cook

Against the Grain Theatre will be staging Kopernikus, an opera by Montrealais composer Claude Vivier, from April 4th to 13th. In anticipation of that we are excited to talk to conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt—the premiere conductor of Kopernikus almost 40 years ago—about some of her memories and impressions from her collaborations and friendship with Vivier.

Born in Quebec in 1947, Lorraine Vaillancourt has been a prolific member of Montreal’s contemporary orchestral music scene since the 70’s. Trained as a pianist and conductor at the Conservatoire de musique du Quebec and thereafter in Paris at the Ecole normale de musique, she went on to become the director of University of Montreal’s contemporary music workshop showcasing works ranging from Cage to Stockhausen. She is now the conductor of one of the world’s premier chamber orchestras, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, which she founded in 1989. Arguably her most unique creation, however, was the result of a collaboration with Vivier:

At 9pm on the ninth day of the month, since 1978 and as late and 1990, a concert society in Montreal produced a performance for avant-garde and contemporary compositions with a mission of “removing barriers between historical periods and musical categories.”. The founding members of the society Les Événements du neuf were an eclectic group of nine, which included Vaillancourt and Vivier. After conducting the premier of Kopernikus on May 9th 1980, she thereafter toured the opera in Montreal and Paris between 1986 and 1989, and was a catalyst to the proliferation of Vivier’s works in the immediate years after his death.

Their relationship dates as early as 1978 when Vaillancourt conducted Vivier’s Chants (1973), a choral work for sevens voices, shortly after they met at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Music. Recalling the near-instantaneous attraction to his musical sensibilities she describes the short trajectory of collaborations that led to Kopernikus:

I immediately wanted to work on this piece for seven women’s voices that seemed particularly inspired and inspiring to me—and I had a team of thunder! This was when a concert project was born…Friendship and love for music already united Claude and I. This concert, being very well received, was the launch of the concert society “Evenements du neuf”.

At the end of this program, Claude (among others) started his doctoral project (he would study with composer Serge Garant) which was an opera composed specifically for my Atelier and what was then called the “The stage play workshop” (now l’Atelier d’opera) directed by Mrs. Marthe Forget. Thus Kopernikus was conceived in 1979.

Vaillancourt’s body of work throughout the 80’s was especially focused on promoting avant garde compositions that combined historical periods and musical styles, as such Vivier’s penchant for the experimental fringes for voice and ensemble was a welcome opportunity for Vaillancourt. It was the complexity of Vivier’s spiritually adventurous musicality that inspired their collaboration:

Vivier was an enlightened being. The emotion I often felt while directing his music (Chants, Kopernikus, Prologue for a Marco Polo, Wo bist Du Licht) is absolutely unique and I did not find this poetry, this interiority, anywhere else. His influence on me was manifested within our small team of Evenements du Neuf (1976-1988) since we were doing programming collectively. Claude, like all of us, respected his fellow composers and showed the healthiest curiosities about worlds that did not necessarily resemble his own.

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From left to right: Claude Vivier, Lorraine Vaillancourt, and José Evangelista

Besides his oddities in socializing—a nervous, raucous laugh and the less than pleasant smell of the biker’s jacket he always wore—Vaillancourt also remembers Vivier for his enthusiasm in connecting a community of creatives in Montreal, albeit his social instincts contended with the solitary spirituality that his music pursued:

Claude Vivier was a star! And his terrible death contributed to his notoriety. We can only imagine everything he could have still given us. Claude was also a beloved and much appreciated person in Montreal. His network of acquaintances and friends was immense. He considered the premiere of his opera an event not to be missed, and he took charge of filling the National Monument Hall. Claude had a kind of faith in his music that was rather touching, and what might have seemed pretentious in someone else was actually a gesture of love.

She added, in the same breath, a reminder of the importance of staging Canadian opera in Canada, and the significance of small opera companies to the growth and relevance of the operatic repertoire…

Today there are many operas “resolutely modern” and that are still quite interesting. If we do not have more audiences this is due to the reluctance of the big boxes that are the major opera houses. Just because we program an opera that is composed in 2019 does not mean we are contributing to enriching the repertoire: we often have to deal with voiceless music, writing that is very conformist and academic, without being interesting … just a good show! The presence of an open, curious and stated artistic direction makes all the difference. Toronto, among others, has dared to create beautiful creations and should serve as an example.

Lorraine Vaillancourt is the current Musical Director of Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, and has been an advocate for the production of Vivier’s works in Canada and abroad, since the year of his death.

Article by Michael Zarathus-Cook, Against the Grain’s Media Attaché
To purchase tickets to Against the Grain’s Kopernikus (April 4 – 13) click here.

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Kopernikus: Canada’s most famous unknown opera

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TORONTO — The turbulent life of Montréalais composer Claude Vivier (1948-1983) came to end at the age of 35 when he was murdered in his Parisian hotel room. Against the Grain’s mission of pushing the boundaries of opera returns with Vivier’s Kopernikus: A Ritual Opera of Death, a culmination of the composer’s unconventional career and rejection of many traditional ideas of life, music and opera. Its Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity workshop premiere in 2017 earned praise from The National Post as an opera “made for some supreme theatre” and was hailed by Opera Going Toronto as “utterly extraordinary.”

Set in two acts for seven singers and instrumentalists, Kopernikus challenges the norms of classical opera with its innovative use of compositional and technical devices to create a vivid meditation on self-transcendence with a series of music-theatre tableaux. “I think this is Canada’s greatest opera ever written. Vivier was unique, he was an innovator and a true artist,” says stage director Joel Ivany of what is perhaps one of the most staged Canadian operas outside of Canada.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan revives her role as Agni, the central character who travels to an unknown space suspended in time wherein she meets the fragmented embodiment of many eclectic characters, the likes of Tristan and Isolde, Copernicus, Lewis Caroll and Mozart. Filling in the roles on this list are mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó; bass Alain Coulombe; baritone Dion Mazerolle; sopranos Anne-Marie MacIntosh and Jonelle Sills and baritone Bruno Roy. Joining this outstanding ensemble on stage are dancers Anisa Tejpar and William Yong as they bring strong and supple expression to choreographer Matjash Mrozewski’s vision. In the boisterously irreverent spirit of seeking out new and engaging interpretations of the operatic experience, AtG has taken an innovative twist on orchestration by incorporating members of the orchestra into on-stage roles of the ensemble as part of the production concept. The orchestra ensemble includes violinist Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh; clarinetists Brad CherwinMarc Blouin and Peter StollMichael Fedyshyn on trumpet; Paul Tarussov on trombone and Carly Gordon on oboe.

AtG’s resident lighting designer Jason Hand is both set and lighting designer for this project, creating an environment that hearkens back to the original usage of Theatre Passe Muraille’s unique space. Leela Gildayacts as dramaturge alongside Marissa Kochanski’s original costume design. Musical director Topher Mokrzewski takes on the challenge of conducting a dispersed ensemble through Vivier’s cosmic and ethereal orchestration.

It’s been nearly 40 years since the premiere of Kopernikus’ epic journey of fire, life, death and ultimately, hope. A profound and spiritual experience invented by a composer who, despite his intrigue as a grand-eccentric, was a profoundly spiritual man. “Find the soul of the human race” Viver said “and place it there in front of the human race, make the individuals face up to themselves again…”

Join us for AtG’s Kopernikus, an adventure into Canada’s most famous unknown opera. The production will be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) on April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, 2019 with all performances at 8pm and doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $25 – $85 and are available now from Against the Grain TheatreArts Box Office

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AtG Goes North

By | Joel Ivany, Opera Pub, Press, Uncategorized, Upcoming | No Comments

In a dynamic new partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre, AtG reaches further north than ever before in “Life, Love and Drinking Alone: the artist’s guide to smashing your phone”

This November, Against the Grain Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, Music Director Topher Mokrzewski and baritone Andrew Love (who we last loved as Marcello in AtG’s La bohème) travel to Whitehorse and Dawson City, Yukon. “The Yukon Arts Centre is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Against The Grain Theatre to bring its fiery, irreverent approach to opera to Canada’s North.” says Yukon Arts Centre’s CEO Casey Prescott.

This exciting new program will feature a staged Kurt Weill song recital titled “Life, Love and Drinking Alone: the artist’s guide to smashing your phone”.

Join Sam as he both celebrates and grieves at the end of a relationship. From bar to bar, drink to drink, lounge to floor to gutter, he works through what went wrong, facebook stalks, falls down the infamous instagram rabbit hole, reminisces, and dismisses… all while maintaining his greatest relationship of all… with his true love… his smartphone.
This cabaret features music from Opera to Musical Theatre, Pop to Country, (to maybe even rap), with a special emphasis given to the brilliant music of Kurt Weill. Lead from the piano by Topher Mokrzewski (bartender), this cabaret has been conceived, staged and will be performed by baritone Andrew Love (Sam).

Produced by Against the Grain Theatre and the Yukon Arts Centre.

The tour will also include community workshops, talks and roundtables.

Events Listing
7:00 PM Thursday, November 29
At the Old Fire Hall, Whitehorse, Yukon
8:00 PM Friday, November 30
At KIAC Ballroom, Dawson City, Yukon

About the Yukon Arts Centre
The Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) is a not for profit charitable organization dedicated to the development of the arts as an important cultural, social and economic force in the Yukon. We intend to be a model for the development of the arts in the North and a stimulus for a vibrant and creative territory. YAC is the territory’s premier venue for performing and visual arts.

About the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture
The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture is of one of the many volunteer driven not-for-profit initiatives that are vital to the social, cultural and economic health of Dawson City. The Klondike Visitors Association plans activities and events that attract thousands of visitors to Dawson City each year. The Dawson City Music Festival is legendary for its ability to present Canada’s finest musical talent to the community both at the July festival, and at concerts during the year. Other organizations such as the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, Dawson Museum Society, and CFYT Radio add to Dawson’s rich cultural milieu, which is somewhat unexpected in a small northern town that’s only a few hours drive from the Arctic Circle.

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What does opera in the age of Trumpism look like? #AtGBOUND

By | Bound, Joel Ivany, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 18 October, 2018

Kevin Lau’s newly commissioned opera BOUND v. 2 in concert performance with Toronto’s acclaimed indie opera company Against the Grain Theatre

TORONTO – Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) has matched one of opera’s most dramatic composers, George Frideric Handel, 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. AtG’s Artistic Director and librettist Joel Ivany alongside composer Kevin Lau begin the indie-company’s ninth season by digging deeper into the music and text of BOUND. This November, AtG presents their first commissioned opera written by Toronto composer Kevin Lau in a concert presentation called BOUND v. 2. November’s concert (part-two of a three-year concept-to-realization project) focuses on where Lau’s new composition intersects with the melodies of Handel’s music. A mash-up of centuries, styles, and stories.
 
“Bringing Handel’s music into the 21st century is a way for us to directly grapple with the big issues of tradition versus change that face our society today,” said Lau. The development of BOUND began as a mash up of Handel arias and ensembles used to highlight the current state of those dehumanized and mistreated across the globe. “Our opera does delve into darker themes—among them, the ethical consequences of trading individual freedoms for national security, an issue which grows more relevant every day—but ultimately our hope is to sow musical seeds of empathy, by finding truth among differences.” 
 
AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany has created a new English libretto, minting another AtG transladaptation to express the plight of the characters—who are based on real people—in BOUND v. 2. The opera centres around four citizens who are detained by an omnipotent and oppressive government; the State.  We watch and hear about their struggles, hopes and fears.
 
The development of this opera began in 2017: a week of inspired round-table discussions with Ivany, Lau, creative team and artists where they invited guest speakers that included survivors, storytellers, and members of communities that are too often overlooked to share their stories. “We asked them very personal and important questions,” said Miriam Khalil who portrays Noor Haddad, a journalist detained for refusing to remove her hijab at a border crossing. In her role, for example, Khalil balances between baroque flourishes and maqamat embellishments, “with Kevin, we explored how these unique experiences would colour our music and shape our characters.” With teeming collaboration, the singers eventually chose the news stories that best suited them and from those stories Ivany formed the base of the new libretto, which was then to be meshed with Handel’s music while Lau worked on his score and developed a new musical language for each character.
 
Kevin Lau’s BOUND v. 2 is written for chamber orchestra, four singers, actor and digital sound artist. The ensemble will be led by AtG music director Topher Mokrzewksi and features AtG Founding Member and soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji and baritone Justin Welsh as the cast of detainees, Martha Burns as the voice of the state, and the electronic stylings of Acote.
 
This workshop concert will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H3) on November 19, 20 and 21, 2018. Sung in English. All performances begin at 8pm with doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets ranging from $35 – $80 are now on sale at www.againstthegraintheatre.com

LISTING INFORMATION
Bound v. 2
Against the Grain Theatre  
November 19, 20, and 21
8 p.m.
The Great Hall — Longboat Hall, 1087 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H3
Tickets: $35 – $80
More info: www.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 HadiDavid EliakisJason HandMiriam Khalil, and Michaela Dickey.

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

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Media Contact

Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

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Against the Grain Theatre goes CanCon for pivotal 9th season

By | Ayre, Bound, Kopernikus, Opera Pub, Press | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 September 2018

AtG presents Handel revisited through a contemporary Canadian lens, and Kopernikus by Canadian composer Claude Vivier

TORONTO – Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) enters in its ninth season on the heels of receiving an astonishing 12 Dora Mavor Moore award nominations and taking home five awards, including Outstanding Production for Orphée⁺. Their ninth season will see the second workshop of BOUND, the launch of in-house record label AtG Records, and the presentation of Claude Vivier’s masterpiece Kopernikus. AtG’s “standing room only” #OperaPub series also returns for another season at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club; they present a free concert at the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre under the title “AtG Retro”; and oh so much more.

BOUND was developed in December 2017 as a reaction to those displaced, dehumanized and mistreated in today’s world. AtG Artistic Director Joel Ivanyhas written original text and drawn from news articles and international current events as source inspiration for the story of BOUND. With the assistance of a commissioning grant from the Ontario Arts Council, AtG commissioned composer Kevin Lau to keep the backbone of Handel’s music while infusing his own contemporary themes, music and ideas. He says, “Expect to hear Handel like you’ve never heard it before. I see this opera as a hybrid—music created by Handel from the perspective of Lau (or will it be the other way around?).” The second instalment of this three-year concept-to-realization plan introduces a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski, and introduces digital sound artist Acote who adds his experience in techno music, and previous collaborations with AtG at Banff Centre to this workshop phase. The cast includes soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh.  This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19, 20 and 21, 2018. All performances begin at 8pm with doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets (starting at $35) on sale Thursday, September 27 at 10am fromagainstthegraintheatre.com. 

On December 11, 2018, at 12pm, AtG will once again be featured as part of the Free Concert Series in The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. “AtG Retro” will be a retrospective look back at some of AtG’s most acclaimed works from the past eight years.

After premiering at Banff Centre in 2017, Kopernikus “made for some supreme theatre” (The National Post) and was hailed by Opera Going Toronto as “utterly extraordinary.”  The opera’s Montréalais composer Claude Vivier(1948–1983) lived a hard and fast life; before he was found murdered in his hotel room in Paris at the age of 35, he had spent a career rejecting many traditional ideas of life, music and opera, which culminated in writing his only opera Kopernikus. “I think this could be Canada’s greatest opera ever written. Vivier was unique, he was an innovator and a true artist,” says stage director Joel Ivany. This production will uniquely immerse the orchestra into the choreography alongside singers and dancers. Matjash Mrozewskichoreographs, Leela Gilday acts as dramaturge, with Lighting and Set design by AtG Resident Designer Jason Hand. The cast features mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan making her AtG debut as Agni and welcomes acclaimed mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, bass Alain Coulombe, baritone Dion Mazerolle and soprano Nathalie Paulin as part of the Ensemble. The production will be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) on April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13, 2019 with all performances at 8pm and doors open at 7:30pm.

Back by popular demand, AtG’s standing room only #OperaPub series returns October 4 at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club (54 The Esplanade). Hosted and programmed by AtG Collective member David Eliakis, these free events will continue to feature opera arias and ensembles alongside witty banter and craft beers. Festivities begin at 9pm on the first Thursday of every month, and continue until May 2 2018.

AtG will be undertaking many new initiatives this coming year, highlighted below:

Following the success of the inaugural Summer Intensive this past August (a workshop for singers at various stages of development addressing their immediate needs and goals) a Winter Intensive will take place in February 2019 as AtG continues to address the importance of training emerging opera singers for the 21st century music industry.

The AtG Incubator is a pilot program where artists may submit project applications on a rolling basis. AtG will assess projects based on merit and viability and then work with the artist to provide resources in a workshop capacity.

This season also marks the formation of AtG Records, a modern classical music-recording label. AtG Records first album release will be Ayre: Live a live recording from November 2016 of their acclaimed stage production, which prompted The Globe and Mail to call AtG Founding Member and soprano Miriam Khalil “…a mesmerizing, gorgeous presence in the piece.” Miriam Khalil has since performed Ayre, which has become her signature piece, in three countries and six different cities to great acclaim.  Composer Osvaldo Golijov writes: “I cannot even begin to express the emotion I feel when she sings Ayre; it is as if she was born to sing it, or, even better, born for each other, she and Ayre.”  The release of this first album will be this coming Fall.

AtG is now entering its final year as a participant in the Canadian Opera Company Academy, a home for Canada’s new wave of opera creators and an incubator for the future of the art form. The Academy’s Company-in-Residence stream is designed for independent companies looking to establish administrative stability and expand creative capacity. As AtG continues to grow, support through the COC Academy program has been a valuable lifeline of mentorship, collaboration, and shared learning.

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 HadiDavid EliakisJason HandMiriam KhalilMichaela Dickey.

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

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Media Contact

Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

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 AtG wants you to join us in hell: Orphée⁺ 

By | Orphee, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 23 February, 2018

Against the Grain Theatre presents an electronic, baroque burlesque descent into hell

Against the Grain Theatre’s fervour for pushing the boundaries of opera and art continues this spring with a reinvention of Berlioz’s arrangement of Gluck’s baroque masterpiece Orphée et Eurydice. In an international co-production between AtG, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and Opera Columbus, the three companies are banding together to thrust a score written in 1762 into the 21st century. To complement the story in an unusual, beautiful way, Orphée⁺ will boldly blend an orchestra that mixes acoustic and electric instruments, feature baroque-burlesque dancers, and include a global virtual chorus.

While remaining true to the score, AtG presents the question, “How could Berlioz have updated Gluck’s opera if he had the tools of 2018?” In 1859, Berlioz revised  both Gluck’s Italian and French versions combining them into a new arrangement.  He stitched together a work that has since become standard repertoire of opera houses worldwide. This new co-production aims to go further by incorporating  an international cast of 100 virtual chorus members as the narrative voices Orphée⁺, and introducing a new orchestral arrangement that creates an atmospheric, electronic soundscape while maintaining the integrity of the original music.

“There is no battle between the baroque here,” director Joel Ivany says on the music for Orphée⁺. “Instead of changing the music, we’re using the score as the backbone for a new soundscape to complement our current environment. The intent is to discover something new and thrust a timeless story into a contemporary setting.”

Peggy Kriha Dye, Artistic Director of Opera Columbus says, “We are looking to innovate and transform the way that this spectacular opera — which was cutting-edge when it first premiered — is presented and experienced.”

In Orphée⁺, the hero is portrayed as a modern man who is grieving the death of his greatest love, Eurydice. We witness his traumatic journey, which takes him through the depths of sorrow to hell and back again in an attempt to bring back his lost love. His mourning is expressed traditionally through music, word, movement, and now technology.

The cast features Korean countertenor Siman Chung in the title role,Canadian soprano Mireille Asselin as his love Eurydice and American aerialist and soprano Marcy Richardson who will portray Amour, the inner conscience of our hero. A cast of dancers from NYC’s acclaimedCompany XIV (known for their annual burlesque Nutcracker Rouge) act as witnesses along Orphée’s journey.

Stage direction is by AtG Founder and Artistic Director Joel Ivany, theset and projection design by is by S. Katy Tucker, and will be lit by JAX MessengerOrphée⁺ is choreographed by Austin McCormick, Director and Choreographer of Company XIV in New York City, with costume design by Zane Pihlström. Featuring sound design by John Gzowskiand a reduced orchestra of eleven players which include electric guitarand synthesizer. This work is conducted by AtG’s Music Director and Founding Member, Topher Mokrzewski, and features members of the new AtG Ensemble: Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, violin/viola and Brad Cherwin, clarinet.

Orphée⁺ is sung in French with English surtitles. Three performances take place at Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, third floor, onApril 26, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40 – $110 and are available beginning Thursday, March 1 at 10 a.m. fromagainstthegraintheatre.comharbourfrontcentre.com and the Harbourfront Box Office.

LISTING INFORMATION
Against the Grain Theatre’s Orphée⁺
April 26, 27, and 28, 2018
8 p.m.
Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West, Third Floor
Tickets: $40 – $110
More info: www.againstthegraintheatre.com

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 KhalilMichaela Dickey, Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, and Brad Cherwin.

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

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Media Contact

Toronto Inquiries:
Jonathan MacArthur
General Manager
Against the Grain Theatre
416-220-5376
gm@againstthegraintheatre.com

Photo: Marcy Richardson (Company XIV), by Corey Weaver

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

“Opera Pub brings this most secret of pleasures to astonished newcomers”

By | AtG in the News, Opera Pub, Press, Upcoming | No Comments

Looks like Toronto’s best-kept secret is out… The Globe and Mail secretly attended our last free Opera Pub and gave us two pints up 

Next event: Feb 1, 9pm at the The Amsterdam Bicycle Club

"Full-scale opera is daunting to attend largely because of the cost of it. Making it free and intimate is showing to ever-larger groups of astonished newcomers how thrilling it is to hear a beautiful trained voice singing a famous work of art. Ventures like these, as they pop up around the world, are the best way of publicizing this most secret of pleasures."

− The Globe and Mail

"The audience – lots of bearded youth mixed in with the white heads – is not typical for opera. Quite a few hands went up when asked who had never seen an opera before."

− The Globe and Mail

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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

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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