THERE ARE ALWAYS SO MANY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO. GET OUT AND ENJOY SOME OF THE MANY GREAT PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN MAY!
ALL MONTH LONG The Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival has long been defined by its annual theme, an umbrella under which its exhibitions—these days numbering more than 200, on display across Toronto—could assemble, provoking discussion about the medium and its impact on the way we see ourselves. This year, the event is notable for its lack of a theme. It’s anything goes, though Contact’s guiding principle remains in place: the world’s most innovative photo-based art, collected in a single city, and available to be seen by one and all. Drop into venues including MOCCA, the Contact Gallery and the Ryerson Image Centre to view some of Contact’s primary exhibitions, or check out the full list of shows at scotiabankcontactphoto.com.
ALL MONTH LONG No subject is taboo for The Second City. The famed improv troupe is notorious for its jocular examinations of pop culture, social issues and news headlines. Its spring revue, How to Kill a Comedian, takes on such politically charged topics as free speech, the media, sexism and even whether or not The Cosby Show is still good television—all with a sense of humour, of course. Navigate to secondcity.com for further details.
MAY 1 TO 10 Singers, songwriters, recording engineers and concertgoers pack Toronto as densely as Phil Spector’s wall of sound for Canadian Music Week. The annual all-in-one conference and trade show features keynote interviews offering insight from the studio, the executive suite and everywhere in between. Of course, if you just want to be entertained, the week includes concerts by Death Cab for Cutie, Daniel Lanois, Magic!, Brave Shores and many other notable names. Music-focused film screenings—as well as select comedy performances—round out the multifaceted showcase. Visit cmw.net for more information.
MAY 2 Connoisseurs of whisky have reason to raise their (old fashioned) glasses: the Spirit of Toronto is back for its 11th edition with an evening of live jazz, master classes and, of course, tutored tastings of more than 100 whiskies, fine spirits and cocktails from the likes of Jack Daniels, Glenlivet, Benromach and J.P. Wiser. Reserve your spot in workshops—led by local bartenders and brand ambassadors—on topics including the history and future of Irish whisky, the craft of small-batch bourbon, and appreciating Caribbean rum. Visit roythomsonhall.com to purchase tickets.
TO MAY 3 An all-female lineup of comedians celebrates girl power as the SheDot Festival returns for a second year. Catch stand-up acts, sketch and improv shows, workshops and panels like SheBrash (an unfiltered show), SheFresh (rising new talent) and SheTDot (a showcase of local comediennes). Outspoken American comic Margaret Cho, known for using humour to highlight social issues like LGBT rights, same-sex marriage and Asian-American stereotypes, performs at the closing-night gala on May 3. See shedotfestival.com for a full performance schedule.
MAY 6 TO 23 This month sees the Canadian Opera Company revive Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung, a double bill directed by groundbreaking Quebec theatre artist Robert LePage. The 2001 performance of these LePage-helmed operas, respectively composed by Bartók and Schoenberg, helped put the COC on the map. Back in the company’s repertoire more than a decade later, the production no doubt aims to equal its initial success—not to mention that of LePage’s more recent operatic tour-de-force, 2009’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Check out coc.ca for full performance details.
MAY 9 The Toronto Flower Market is back for another May-to-October run with an abundance of seasonal blooms. This month brings the likes of peonies and tulips from Ontario greenhouses to the pop-up floral bazaar, which is located in a new home in the east end of the city. Pick up a pre-made arrangement or individual stems from such vendors as Sweet Woodruff, Blush & Bloom, Pink Twig, Floralora Flowers and Wild Lark Studio. (Even more handy, Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 10, for those who may wish to hand-deliver something to mom.) See torontoflowermarket.ca for details.
MAY 19 TO JUNE 21 James Cameron may have cemented the RMS Titanic’s place in popular culture, but his blockbuster film is hardly the only story of the vessel’s historic sinking. Take, for example, the stage production of Titanic, starring celebrated tenor Ben Heppner as a prominent American politician and businessman who embarks with his wife on the passenger liner’s maiden voyage. The Tony-winning musical recounts the fatal journey while exploring the lives of status-conscious travellers—lowly immigrants in third-class steerage, working professionals in second class and high-ranking elites in first class. Visit mirvish.com to buy tickets.
TO MAY 22 Spanish theatre collective Els Comediants pairs with the Canadian Opera Company for a production of Gioacchino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, one of the most-performed pieces in the operatic repertoire. The troupe was last here in 2011—also collaborating with the COC, for a staging of another Rossini work, Cinderella (La Cenerentola). This fresh take on the classic love story, in which Count Almaviva seeks to win the heart of Rosina with the assistance of the cunning Figaro, is brought to life with playful sets and costumes. See coc.ca for more information.
MAY 23 & 24 For one weekend each year, the city welcomes guests into some of its most private and distinguished spaces for self-guided tours. More than 150 historically, culturally and spiritually compelling buildings are accessible to the public for free during Doors Open; Toronto’s version of the cross-Canada event is Canada’s largest. This year’s highlights include City Hall, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on the University of Toronto campus, the Fort York Armoury, and the City and Omni television studios. For a list of participating venues, see toronto.ca.
TO MAY 24 Admire the physical beauty, strength and seamless interaction of horses and humans in Cavalia’s Odysseo, back in Toronto after a three-year hiatus. The equine-oriented production dazzles with a number of vignettes that feature skilled acrobats, aerialists and dancers, as well as stallions trotting in unison, and horses and riders in dressage. The splashy finale sees 300,000 litres of water flooding the stage to create a man-made pond that’s promptly descended upon by galloping horses. See cavalia.net for showtimes and to purchase tickets.
MAY 28 Sake, Japan’s alcoholic beverage of choice, continues to gain popularity in Canada. The multifaceted drink can be served chilled, warmed or at room temperature. Like wine, it comes in many varities, depending on factors such as the degree to which its main ingredient, rice, has been polished, whether or not it’s been diluted, and the type of cask in which it’s been aged. This month, Kampai Toronto returns to honour rice wine for a fourth year. Fittingly hosted at the Distillery District’s fermenting cellar, the evening affords the chance to meet brewmasters and sample more than 150 blends from Japanese, Canadian and American sake producers. The largest event of its kind in Canada also features small bites from such local establishments as Ki Modern Japanese + Bar, Blowfish, Fonda Lola and Guu. Check out kampaitoronto.com for further details.
ALSO THIS MONTH!
MAY 1 Soulful crooner Leon Bridges has drawn (fully warranted) comparisons to Sam Cooke and Bill Withers. Find out why tonight at the Drake Hotel.
MAY 1 Soulpepper Theatre Company opens the month with the matrimonial funny business of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce.
MAY 1 & 2 We’ll get straight to the point. John Mellencamp‘s “Plain Spoken” tour rolls into the Sony Centre for the a two-night stand.
MAY 2 Another Soulpepper offering! This one a remount of its acclaimed Of Human Bondage production—William Somerset Maugham’s tale of lust, obsession and the pursuit of beauty.
MAY 2 Ron Sexsmith, one of Canada’s acknowledged contemporary masters of song, makes a visit to Massey Hall.
MAY 3 & 4 Former Oasis guitar hero and current celebrity curiosity Noel Gallagher hopes that his High Flying Birds will soar at the Sony Centre.
MAY 3 TO 5 As part of the National Geographic Live series, acclaimed photographer Pete McBride talks about his experiences documenting the world’s great rivers, from the Colorado to the Ganges.
MAY 4 Massey Hall goes a bit twee for Icelandic indie-folk favourites Of Monsters and Men.
MAY 5 And the Danforth Music Hall goes seriously eclectic with the unclassifiable Toro y Moi.
MAY 7 Remember that band you loved because of The O.C.? Yep, Death Cab for Cutie‘s still making music, specifically on this night, at the Sony Centre.
MAY 9 More music at the Sony Centre: San Francisco alt-metal legends Faith No More are slated to take the stage and blow out the speakers.
MAY 9 Those nylon strings, they will be a-picked—when Jesse Cook brings his flamenco guitar stylings to Massey Hall.
MAY 9 TO 31 Staged entirely without the use of electricity, theatre troupe Outside the March’s Mr. Burns: A Post-Apocalyptic Play is part chilling allegory and part Simpsons homage at the historic east-end Aztec Theatre.
MAY 10 The Garrison proffers a lo-fi high courtesy of Pitchfork-approved Waxahatchee.
MAY 11 Comedy leads to insight as funnyman Colin Mochrie and his wife, Debra McGrath, talk about life in show business, as part of the Unique Lives series at Roy Thomson Hall.
MAY 14 Now elder statesmen of West Coast alt-rock, Counting Crows bring their dynamic live show (and two decades worth of songs) to Massey Hall.
MAY 16 The Sony Centre welcomes David Sedaris, one of America’s premier humourists, for an evening of wit and wisdom.
MAY 16 TO 30 At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, playwright Julia Cho’s Durango follows a Korean-American family’s impromptu road trip and the rifts that arise between a father and his sons.
MAY 19 Let’s see how Massey Hall’s pristine acoustics hold up to the swirling neo-psychedelia of Tame Impala.
MAY 20 Dan Deacon traffics in blissfully cathartic break beats at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.
MAY 20 TO 24 The Royal Conservatory brings back what has become known as one of the city’s most daring concert series, the 21c Music Festival. This year’s modern-classical lineup boasts a multimedia performance by the Gryphon Trio, a new work by Stewart Copeland (yes, the former Police drummer) and much more.
MAY 21 Expect sophisticated songcraft and soaring harmonies as Dostoevsky-referencing quintet Ivan and Alyosha step on stage at the Silver Dollar Room.
MAY 22 Pioneering Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon brings his Fly International Luxurious Art to the Phoenix.
MAY 22 & 23 Canada’s smoky-voiced chanteuse, Diana Krall, sings her jazz-pop standards at Massey Hall.
MAY 23 “Sexy, explosive, original and accessible,” BJM–Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal dances up a storm at the Sony Centre.
MAY 23 Hope for summery weather as the CBCMusic.ca Festival sprawls out at Echo Beach—with performances by the likes of Bahamas, Shad, Patrick Watson, and yes, renowned children’s entertainer Fred Penner.
MAY 24 & 25 The Sony Centre continues to draw audiences—this time with an intimate performance by Indian composer A.R. Rahman.
MAY 27 Early-aughts Canadian music power couple Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk entwine their voices at the Mod Club.
MAY 27 Constantines, those vaunted rock ‘n’ roll road warriors, check in for a night at Massey Hall.
MAY 27 Patsy Cline meets k.d. lang in the music of Brandi Carlile, who performs songs from her latest at the Danforth Music Hall.
MAY 29 The world’s most famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, performs with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Pretty much a no-brainer for fans of brainy music.
MAY 30 A new installment of Harbourfront Centre’s “Torn from the Pages” series has musicians and writers debuting new works inspired by Giller Prize-nominated author Miriam Toews.
MAY 30 Bobby McFerrin visits Roy Thomson Hall for an interactive, improvisatory performance—featuring his iconic vocal acrobatics, naturally.
MAY 30 TO JUNE 6 The National Ballet of Canada presents a riveting trio of contemporary danceworks—Guillaume Côté’s Sartre-inspired Being and Nothingness, sandwiched by a pair of pieces from Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy.
MAY 31 Esoteric Swedish quartet Little Dragon performs at the Danforth Music Hall.