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Luminato Preview—Theatre, Dance, Music and Wonder

These highly anticipated events are to keep you entertained during Toronto’s illuminating festival arts festival.

The Children's Crusade finds hope in conflict (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann).

The Children's Crusade finds hope in conflict (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann).

JUNE 5 & 6, 8 TO 11 Over its previous two editions some of Luminato’s most ambitious and awe-inspiring performances have been those commissioned specifically for the festival. Among this year’s slate of world premieres is The Children’s Crusade, a highly anticipated new opera by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. Featuring more than 100 diverse performers and a battery of medieval instruments, the 90-minute work is based on the tragic story of a 13th-century expedition involving thousands of young people who set out for the Holy Land to spread hope in a time of conflict. Something of a hybrid piece, The Children’s Crusade also incorporates contemporary sonic and visual elements: notably, innovative director Tim Albery stages the opera in a strikingly derelict warehouse; the standing audience moves through the space, following the company on its inspiring, yet ultimately doomed campaign. 153 Dufferin St., 8 p.m., $40.

JUNE 6 TO 10 High-spirited hot steppers mob Luminato’s Yonge-Dundas Square hub for Light On Your Feet, a public dance party that returns after its jubilant debut last year. Arrive every evening at 7 p.m. for a free lesson, then start dancing under the stars with live salsa, country, Bollywood, disco and swing music from 8 to 11 p.m. Need to cool your heels? Admire a trio of Nederlands Dans Theater pieces from June 11 to 13 a MacMillan Theatre (80 Queen’s Park, 416-978-3744, 8 p.m., $60 to $80), or be moved by the movement of Red Sky Performance’s world premiere, Tono, from June 5 to 7 at Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000, various times, $35 to $45).

Canadian theatrical visionary Robert Lepage explores the power of the human voice in his epic Lipsynch

Visionary director Robert Lepage explores the power of the human voice in his epic Lipsynch.

JUNE 6, 7, 9, 13 & 14 The groundbreaking productions of theatrical Renaissance man Robert Lepage have been dazzling audiences for more than 20 years. This month, Luminato presents the Quebec director’s most ambitious work yet, a nine-hour multimedia tour de force entitled Lipsynch, in which interconnected stories explore the multifarious incarnations and power of the human voice. Don’t be daunted by the length: intermissions and meal breaks are built in, allowing you to stretch your legs—and your vocal chords. St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, (27 Front St. E., 416-366-1656), various times, $75 to $125.

JUNE 10 In a festival filled with grand premieres, one of Luminato’s most anticipated events is actually an update of a returning hit. Last year, The Canadian Songbook thrilled music lovers with its assemblage of current artists interpreting cherished national classics. For the 2009 version, a star-studded ensemble re-creates in full Neil Young’s January 19, 1971 appearance at Massey Hall—a near-mythic night in popular music history when Canadian audiences were first treated to such enduring tunes as “Old Man,” “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “A Man Needs a Maid.” Contemporary performers including former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, multifaceted chanteuse Holly Cole, guitar icons Bill Frisell, Colin Linden and Harry Manx, and Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett lend their talents to this melodious evening, made all the more special for being in the same hallowed venue as Young’s original concert. Massey Hall (178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255), 8 p.m., $59.50 to $79.50.

JUNE 12 TO 14 The world’s best-known collective of acrobats, contortionists and clowns closes Luminato with a spectacle like none they’ve ever created. Along Toronto’s waterfront, members of Cirque du Soleil form two “communities” representing the natural world and urban life. As the weekend progresses these two dichotomous groups intermingle, bringing Cirque’s trademark wonderment out from beneath the big top. Between Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Music Garden, beginning Friday evening, free.

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