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The Stars Shine in Luminato: Luminato 2008

Toronto’s rich and tightly woven tapestry of cultures connects at almost every level: social, economic, culinary, artistic—the list goes on. It’s hardly surprising, then, that such diversity is reflected in Luminato, the city’s celebration of the arts and creativity. Even as the massive multidisciplinary festival aims the spotlight on Toronto, it’s the world that truly shines.

Luminato welcomes hundreds of local and international artists presenting an unparalleled program of theatre, dance, music, visual arts, literature and more. This year’s festivities promise to be even more engaging and eclectic than 2007’s incredibly successful inaugural event, which attracted one million visitors. Choose from almost 150 world-class performances and happenings that are guaranteed to entertain while they enlighten. Best of all, many of them are free! How to choose among all of these hotly anticipated shows? Read on for a rundown of programs that prove in Toronto, everything is illuminated.

BEGIN WITH A BASH
June 6 & 7

If you’re anywhere near Toronto’s downtown core on Luminato’s opening weekend, you can’t miss the celebrations. And really, why would you want to? The festival kickoff is a huge three-venue party boasting hours of free music and dancing.

Festival hub Yonge-Dundas Square (Yonge and Dundas streets) has been transformed for the occasion: head down early Friday evening for the first of six free daily dance lessons as part of Telus Light On Your Feet (June 6 at 6:30 p.m., June 7 to 11 at 7 p.m., then show off your hot-stepping during a concert by 14-year-old jazz-singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky with the Count Basie Orchestra. The revelry continues Saturday with folk songs and fiddling at the Scottish Music Festival (1:30 to 11 p.m.).

Also on Saturday, get down at nearby Nathan Phillips Square (Bay Street and Queen Street West) with the On the One: Luminato Funk Festival (1 to 11 p.m.), an all-day blowout featuring mind-melting performances by James Brown’s Soul Generals, Morris Day and the Time, and many others. Or travel further west to Grange Park (100 McCaul St.) for the Queen Street Celebration (noon to 10 p.m.), which pays homage to the ’80s with a retro-music mélange of Toronto punk, new wave and world-beat stalwarts.

DYNAMIC DANCE
The Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group—famed both for its inventive interpretations of classics like The Nutcracker and Dido and Aeneas, and its thrilling original dance works—presents a trio of contemporary performances.

MOZART DANCES June 6 to 8
Sixteen skilled dancers interpret three of Mozart’s compositions for piano and orchestra in a production that the New York Times has called “a masterpiece.”

ALL FOURS/VIOLET CAVERN June 10 & 11
Béla Bartók’s String Quartet no. 4 inspires the five-movement dance suite All Fours, while the energetic Violet Cavern is performed to music by powerhouse jazz trio The Bad Plus.

LIEBESLIEDER WALTZES/GRAND DUO June 14 & 15
Love’s myriad emotions are at the heart of the balletic Liebeslieder Waltzes, set to Brahms, and Grand Duo presents even more vital steps in a tribal group piece with virtuoso music for violin and piano. All three shows at MacMillan Theatre, 80 Queen’s Park, $50 to $70.

WORLD-CLASS COLLABORATIONS
For a dose of artistic alchemy, check out these creative pairings.
LOUIS NEGIN + MARIE BRASSARD June 10 to 13
An unusual synthesis brings together veteran Toronto actor Negin and Montreal-based director and playwright Brassard for The Glass Eye. This hybridized “play around a play” takes a 2005 one-man show by Negin as its starting point, and with directorial insight from Brassard, morphs into a dreamlike reflection on celebrity, theatre, sex and love. Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W., $35.

KRONOS QUARTET + TANYA TAGAQ June 12 & 13
The boundary-blurring string quartet (renowned for its work with everyone from Philip Glass to Dave Matthews) joins forces with distinguished Inuit throat singer Tagaq for two performances of Nunavut, an exploration of the Far North’s unique musical genres. Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., $40 to $50.

ALBERTA BALLET + JONI MITCHELL June 13 to 22
For one of the festival’s showcase events, acclaimed Alberta Ballet director and choreographer Jean Grand-Maître teamed up with beloved songwriter Mitchell to create The Fiddle and the Drum, a timely critique of humanity’s seemingly infinite capacity for destruction. The semi-abstract narrative tableau is accompanied by two pieces—Etudes and strong>The Second Detail—by the The National Ballet of Canada. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., $20 to $200.

MAJOR DEBUTS
POWERFUL PLAY June 6 to 15
Humanity and politics collide in Black Watch, a stage show that has been captivating audiences with its harrowing tale inspired by the accounts of Scottish veterans of the Iraq war. Varsity Arena, 275 Bloor St. W., $46.

MEMORABLE DREAM June 6 to 15
Could Shakespeare have imagined A Midsummer Night’s Dream like this one? A cast of Indian and Sri Lankan actors, dancers, musicians, acrobats and martial artists offers an intensely sensual—and multilingual—take on the classic play of love, lust and a forest full of fairies. Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St., $50 to $70.

AMERICAN TUNE June 13 & 14
Laurie Anderson, one of the United States’ most provocative multidisciplinary artists, brings Homeland to Toronto. In a tour de force of both music and spoken poetry, Anderson scrutinizes the security-obsessed landscape of modern America. The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., $40 to $50.

HOMEGROWN TALENT
The Canadian contingent at this year’s festival reveals the country’s artistic diaspora.

NATIVE STORY June 7 & 8
The lingering personal and communal toll of historical attempts to assimilate Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is the powerful subject of Where the Blood Mixes, a world premiere drama by Vancouver-based First Nations playwright Kevin Loring. Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St., $35.

HISTORY IN SONG June 9
The allure of Canada’s expansive landscape and unique (if relatively short) history has long influenced the country’s musical repertoire—from the earliest folk ballads to the popular songs of Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and others. Hear these tunes in a new way as contemporary artists like Marika Bournaki, Luke Doucet and Jean Stilwell perform The Canadian Songbook. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., $40 to $60.

THE COLOUR AND THE SOUND June 9
Experience the neurological mystery of synesthesia—whereby the stimulation of one sense prompts a response in another—as Toronto’s Gryphon Trio performs Colour?.?.?.?for the End of Time, a transcendent marriage of music by Olivier Messiaen (a noted synesthete) and vibrant, abstract imagery. Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., $25 to $35.

ART WITH AMBITION
American avant-garde composer Mikel Rouse brings to Toronto his trilogy of modern multimedia operas.

DENNIS CLEVELAND June 7 & 8
Set in a television studio, this tale of a trashy talk-show host and his ill-fated guests offers a critique of popular culture’s promise of success. Toronto Film School Studio, 39 John St., $35.

THE END OF CINEMATICS June 10 to 12
Music, theatre and film combine in an immersive meditation on cinema’s corporate transformation and the fragmentation of the modern media-viewing experience. Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E., $25 to $45.

FAILING KANSAS June 13 tp 15
The notorious events described in Truman Capote’s 1966 book In Cold Blood are the basis for this audio-visual interpretation of ritual, religion and the mystery of fate. Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St., $35.

BRING THE KIDS
Luminato is designed to be accessible to art lovers of all ages. A variety of events are certain to engage young (and grown-up) imaginations.

ROCKET AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS June 8 to 15
Toronto’s Roseneath Theatre Company premieres this play in which puppetry, shadow theatre and live performance tell the story of a boy who must overcome the monsters in his dreams. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E., $15 to $25.

SANCTUARY SONG June 6 to 14
This world premiere mixes opera, theatre and dance to interpret an elephant’s lifetime of memories. Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St., $15 to $25.

DAN ZANES AND FRIENDS June 15
The Grammy winner plays two sets packed with everything from sea shanties to rock ‘n’ roll to West Indian folk songs. The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., $25 to $35.

END WITH A SPLASH
June 13 to 15 Luminato’s grand finale takes place along the shores of Lake Ontario with Luminat’eau: Carnival H2O. Over three days, Harbourfront Centre presents this free, family-friendly carnival with water dances, wakeboarding demos and music from around the world. Don’t miss the boisterous fire-walk parade on Saturday night.

Further down the shoreline, the cobbled streets of the Distillery Historic District host Luminato at the Distillery, a weekend-long party with open-air concerts, theatrical performances by the Soulpepper Academy and gourmet street food prepared by some of the city’s top chefs. While you’re there, check out the district’s myriad contemporary art galleries and upscale specialty retailers. It’s easy to travel between both closing-weekend locations: the Luminato Link offers free transportation by boat and shuttle bus.

Purchase tickets for shows at Luminato, or call 416-872-1111.

Tip! Enhance your Luminato experience by visiting the festival website, www.luminato.com. Here, you can find more details on every scheduled event and interact with other festival-goers through the “Luminato Lens.”

For more about Luminato, see Luminato Lights Up Toronto.

—Craig Moy

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