Skip to main content
//empty //empty

The upcoming Luminato Festival Toronto will be the first wholly programmed by new artistic director Naomi Campbell.

Taku Kumabe

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

Right from its launch in 2007, Luminato has had identity issues. Toronto’s major international arts festival may have given its audiences some indelible experiences over the years – the Philip Glass-Robert Wilson masterpiece Einstein on the Beach and the National Theatre of Scotland’s James Plays are just two favourites that spring to mind – but it still struggles to define itself among the city’s other artistic offerings.

Hence the decision to start calling itself Luminato Festival Toronto.

Story continues below advertisement

Adding “Toronto” to its name signals the festival’s commitment both to showcasing local artists and to serving the wider community, Luminato chief executive officer Anthony Sargent explains. “It’s about making explicit our relationship with the city, which has become more and more important in recent years,” he says.

The name change comes with a sneak peek at Luminato’s 2020 programming – the announcement of two international shows that will be part of the 40-plus events at this year’s festival, which runs from June 11 to 28.

The shows are Requiem pour L., a radical remix of Mozart’s Requiem from Belgium’s les ballets C de la B, and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in a celebrated production by Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre that will be making its Canadian premiere.

Les ballets C de la B is no stranger to Luminato, having made a splash at the 2017 festival with its tragicomic ode to marching bands, En avant, marche! The Cherry Orchard, meanwhile, marks another of the festival’s collaborations with local Russian-language presenters Show One.

Both shows, while welcome, are no clear indication of what Luminato’s new artistic director, Naomi Campbell, is planning for the festival – the first one she has programmed in its entirety. (Although she took the reins last year, departing artistic director Josephine Ridge had largely put the 2019 festival in place.) The rest of the lineup won’t be revealed until April.

“There’s an emphasis on local work as well as international work,” Campbell says, including events that speak directly to the Toronto community. “There will also be a lot of free programming – and different free programming from what you’d expect,” she adds. All very mysterious. We do know, however, that Campbell’s long history in Canadian indie theatre – before becoming a producer at the festival in 2013 – has already made itself felt. Luminato has forged a relationship with Toronto’s Theatre Centre, and the past two festivals included the premieres of new works by local playwrights Susanna Fournier (Four Sisters) and Yolanda Bonnell (Bug – recently remounted at Theatre Passe Muraille).

Having a Canadian direct the festival – Ridge came from Australia and her predecessor, Jörn Weisbrodt, from Germany – has made a significant difference, Sargent says. “Naomi knows the Canadian arts scene with a profound depth,” he says. “It’s absolutely helped define the direction in which we’re heading for future years.”

Story continues below advertisement

Not that there wasn’t a Canadian component to Luminato when it began, but it was often overshadowed by big-ticket items from the world stage. Founded by Tony Gagliano and the late David Pecaut, the festival started out with a sizable budget, including $15-million from the province and a substantial corporate sponsorship from L’Oreal. That allowed it to bring in some spectacular, attention-grabbing shows, but less money was devoted to other programming.

Today, the festival’s budget is smaller – a little more than $6-million annually – but Sargent says the spending is more evenly spread among international, national and emerging local artists. “We’ve found a really good balance where all those things are important and we don’t do any of them at the expense of any of the others,” he says.

And ironically, founding board members and donors have told him the festival has finally become what they imagined it to be. Better late than never.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies