Hit international arrivals including an Irish reimagining of Swan Lake and a Belarus company banned from performing in its home country will be the highlights of the Toronto arts festival Luminato for 2018.
The annual summer affair, expanded from 10 days to 19, has announced a robust schedule of programming that includes 29 events all told. Eight are the fruit of collaborations between Luminato and Toronto-based arts companies, while four Luminato commissions are world premieres. The festival takes place June 6 to 24, across the city’s downtown.
Swan Lake/Loch na hEala is an adaptation of the Tchaikovsky ballet by Ireland’s Michael Keegan-Dolan, a dancemaker who sets the classic story in the Irish Midlands. Presented by 13 performers, the production utilizes Nordic and Irish traditional music with minimalist and experimental influences.
The other high-sparking import is Burning Doors, from Belarus Free Theatre and Maria Alyokhina, a Russian political activist and rock-star member of the anti-Putinist punk group Pussy Riot. The Belarus Free Theatre operates as an underground troupe based in Minsk, with another branch in London. Burning Door uses the company’s own experience of political repression in its telling of the stories of a trio of persecuted artists.
“Over the course of the past year, vital discussions have erupted around the world,” Luminato artistic director Josephine Ridge said in a media statement. “As a festival of ideas and creativity, I believe it’s important for Luminato to engage with those discussions and to offer a program that connects the voice of the artist with the conversations.”
As such, major thematic threads connecting the festival’s programming include human rights, the status of women and justice-system inequities.
In that vein, making a one-night appearance is the Beirut-born British barrister and international-human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who will engage in an on-stage conversation at Roy Thomson Hall with her father-in-law, the American journalist Nick Clooney.
On the music side of programming, the inimitable singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt (of the American folk-rock band the Magnetic Fields) presents his 50 Song Memoir, a self-descriptive two-night multimedia concert.
One of the world-premiere commissions is While 100 Guitars Gently Weep, Concerto for George. The new piece from Montreal composer-guitarist Tim Brady celebrates what would have been the 75th birthday this year of Beatles guitarist George Harrison.
If guitars gently cry, ukuleles laugh and smile. Preceding the concerto, hundreds of young ukulele players will perform a selection of Harrison’s most beloved compositions. “Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is crackers,” Harrison once explained. “You can’t play it and not laugh!”
More upbeat entertainment comes in the form of At the Illusionist’s Table. Nights of storytelling, fine-dining and something-up-his-sleeves shenanigans are hosted by Scottish illusionist Scott Silven at historic Casa Loma.
Speaking to the festival’s mix of serious and lighthearted fare, with international productions and local ones too, artistic director Ridge said it is the aim of Luminato to reflect and to respond to today’s place and time and also to engage with the specifics of Toronto. “There are an infinite number of ways to achieve this and it’s true that a valuable point can be made as effectively with a wink, a smile and a sprinkle of magic as it can be with confrontation.”