Category Archives: Press

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

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

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:

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.

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For images, interviews and more information, please contact:

Caitlin Coull
Communications Director
Against the Grain Theatre

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’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.