In the beginning there was darkness. Then David Pecaut and Tony Gagliano had lunch and said, "Let there be Luminato." And, in spring 2007, there was Luminato, and tens of thousands saw that it was good. And lo there has been Luminato, a.k.a. Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity, every year since.
The biblical cadences are only partly in jest because Luminato did seem to arrive on the scene virtually fully formed and all at once as an ambitious, high-powered, multidisciplinary cultural celebration. Whereas other arts festivals may start small(ish) then grow, Luminato started big and, in the past five years, has only gotten bigger. Below, a few events lauded by our critics as the best of the fest. .
One Thousand and One Nights
One of Luminato's boldest commissions to date pairs British director Tim Supple with Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh for a theatrical retelling of Scheherazade's famous stories. Performed in Arabic, French and English - with surtitles - by an international cast, this epic will have its world premiere in Toronto before travelling to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Edinburgh International Festival. - J. Kelly Nestruck
June 11 to 12, 14 to 19, times vary, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, $55.50 to $121.50 ($94.50-$213.50 for two-part package).
The acclaimed Toronto company run by Daniel Brooks is premiering two buzz-worthy shows during Luminato. In Tout Comme Elle (Just Like Her), Siminovitch Prize-winning director Brigitte Haentjens explores relationships between daughters and mothers with a cast of 50. And Scottish director Graham McLaren helms a new adaptation of Racine's Andromache with a top-notch cast headed by Arsinée Khanjian. - J.K.N.
Tout Comme Elle: June 14 to 18, Bluma Appel Theatre, $55.50-$95.50.
Andromache: June 11 to 12, 14 to 19, The Theatre Centre, $51.50.
The Canadian Songbook: Ron Sexsmith
A diverse cast featuring Barenaked Ladies, Andy Kim, Kevin Drew, Measha Brueggergosman, Greg Keelor and Mr. Sexsmith himself perform the graceful melodies and dead-on wordplay of a songwriter's songwriter. - B.W.
June 15, 7:30 p.m., Massey Hall, $61.50 to $91.50.
Habit inhabits that grey zone in which theatre melds with performance art melds with installation art melds with … well, you get the picture. Writer Jason Grote and director David Levine set their 90-minute play in a fully functioning four-room house where three actors loop through the same dialogue for eight hours a day. You watch the "action" through the house's windows. Performed in workshop earlier this year at MASS MoCA, Habit has its world premiere here. - James Adams
June 11, June 13 to 19, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Ontario College of Art and Design, free.
Starchitect Santiago Calatrava's elegant Allen Lambert Galleria gets "jungle-ized" courtesy of the digital wizardry of artist/architect Philip Beesley, who last year transformed the Canadian Pavilion in Venice into an immersive, interactive environment. This installation is called Sargasso, after the mid-North Atlantic "sea" famous for its vast, tangled mass of seaweed, eels, human detritus and turtles. - J.A.
To June 18, all day, Brookfield Place, free.
My Name Is Raj
A meeting of minds and images, this installation piece sounds fascinating. Indo-Canadian director Srinivas Krishna, who is best known for his exemplary Masala, is paying homage to Indian film pioneer Raj Kapoor, who, alas, is barely known here. That's a shame because Mr. Kapoor, in the persona of his Chaplinesque tramp, was a major populist figure in Hindi cinema. Trading on that populist theme, the installation invites viewers not just to watch clips from Mr. Kapoor's canon but to Photoshop their own faces directly into his film world. He was us, and now we are him. - Rick Groen
To June 12, June 14 to 19, 12 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox, free.
Choreographer Lata Pada's lavish, multimedia dance theatre piece is inspired by the love story behind the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan's magnificent tribute to his beloved wife. Set among the Mogul court intrigues of 17th-century India, Taj stars Bollywood superstar Kabir Bedi and gorgeous Toronto actress Lisa Ray, with a script by John Murrell and direction by Tom Diamond. - Paula Citron
June 11, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., June 12, 2 p.m. Fleck Dance Theatre, $51.50 to $71.50.
Superhot British contemporary choreographer Akram Khan joins forces with his long-time collaborator, composer Nitin Sawhney, to create a fascinating movement/music dialogue. Mr. Khan and his dancers, and Mr. Sawhney and his musicians, perform both highlights from past pieces and a brand new work. The result is a compelling inside look at the creative process between two highly acclaimed artists. - P.C.
June 16 to 18, 8 p.m., MacMillan Theatre; $31.50 to $71.50.
A Chinese Home
The Kronos Quartet teams up with pipa virtuoso Wu Man for this Canadian premiere, developed by Wu Man, Kronos violinist David Hetherington and director Chen Shi-Zheng. The program, one of four by Kronos, also includes pieces by Terry Riley and Philip Glass. - Robert Everett-Green
June 15, 8 p.m., Jane Mallett Theatre, $51.50 to $91.50.
Ms. lang and her Siss Boom Bang group bring a good new collection of songs, from her album Sing It Loud, to that open space between Roy Thomson Hall and Metro Hall. Expect a bit more country than you've heard from Ms. lang recently and a couple of original tributes to Roy Orbison. - R.E. G.
June 17, 8 p.m., David Pecaut Square, free.
For more information:luminato.com.