7 must-see performances at Luminato 2019

Sponsored feature: Luminato 2019

For the 18th year running, Luminato is ready to transform Toronto’s theatres and public spaces into a springboard for cutting-edge performance art, music, dance and theatre from around the globe.

Luminato also offers a rare chance to see exciting Canadian artists and performances before they take their show on the road — or to catch global performers make a rare (sometimes unprecedented) Canadian visit.

This year’s festival runs June 7 to 23, and with 165 artists and 88 performances we’ve rounded up some of the buzziest performances and installations to help you make your Luminato picks.

New Canadian works

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

This show has an origin story almost as epic as the performance itself: Evalyn Parry, a queer theatre creator, and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, an Inuk artist, met on an Arctic expedition from Iqaluit to Greenland and decided to join artistic forces. The result is a gripping piece of multidisciplinary storytelling that explores northern Canada’s relationship with the south through folk music, throat singing and traditional dance. 

June 12-16, Berkeley Street Theatre, from $50

Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook

In this new, homegrown musical work, renowned Canadian baritone Russell Braun portrays Hanns Eisler, who fled Nazi Germany to become one of the golden age of Hollywood’s most lauded composers before being deported at the dawn of the Cold War. While Eisler enjoyed mainstream success (including winning two Academy Awards), he poured his amusement and disgust at the artifice of Tinseltown, the trauma of Nazi Germany, and his longing for an eventual return to Europe into the Hollywood Songbook, which forms the backbone of this biographical work. Braun’s compelling, commanding voice carries the show, accompanied by Juno Award-winning pianist Serouj Kradjian.

June 19-23, Harbourfront Centre Theatre, from $45

Obeah Opera

Coming off of a smash hit run at Panamania, this “theatrical epic” draws deeply from the canon of Black music to tell the story of a Caribbean slave woman named Tituba, the first woman accused in the Salem witch trials. Performed a cappella in a twist on the traditional, Eurocentric opera, the cast of 20 weaves the story through songs that draw on African and Caribbean folk music, spirituals, Calypso, and even more modern styles like ska and jazz. The result is a stirring, powerful presentation that brings a seldom-heard historical voice back to life.

June 13-22, Fleck Dance Theatre, from $36

International works

House of Mirrors

A centrepiece of arts festivals in Melbourne and Adelaide by Australian artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, House of Mirrors will be making its North American debut at Luminato. In a surreal spin on the classic carnival attraction, guests are invited to get lost in a dizzying forest of 12-foot mirrors while encountering mind-bending reflections and optical illusions. In case you needed more arm-twisting, it’s free the first weekend of the festival.

June 7-23, Harbourfront Centre (East Campus), $10

Rite of Spring

Chinese dance icon Yang Liping offers a new take on Igor Stravinsky’s masterpiece in Rite of Spring. Known for her idiosyncratic dance style, Yang leads 15 dancers through a performance rich with symbolism thanks to the inclusion of Tibetan music and Chinese cultural traditions and rituals. Though Yang is a household name in China, where her performances have drawn sold-out crowds, Rite of Spring marks the first time her work has ever been produced in Canada.

June 20-22, MacMillan Theatre, from $55

Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen)

Avant-garde Colombian dance company Compañía del Cuerpo de Indias brings together the seemingly disparate work of two cultural icons — Canadian poet-musician Leonard Cohen and legendary Japanese butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno — in this breathtaking performance. Cohen’s music with choreography that evokes Ohno’s expressive style make for a uniquely moving experience. (Cohen saw and expressed praise for the work before his passing in 2016.)

June 19-22, Bluma Appel Theatre, from $45

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

The work of legendary (and legendarily controversial) photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is explored, critiqued and honoured in this new multidisciplinary piece spearheaded by The National guitarist Bryce Dessner. Triptych juxtaposes Mapplethorpe’s arresting images with poetry by Patti Smith, Essex Hemphill and Kode Arrington Tuttle (who also wrote the libretto for the piece) with Dessner’s score, brought to the stage by eight-person choral ensemble Roomful of Teeth and a chamber orchestra. With a one-night engagement, the examination of Mapplethorpe’s unflinching, transgressive work is one you won’t want to miss.

June 22, Sony Centre For The Performing Arts, from $35

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