"Our vision started with the premise that Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, has the potential to become one of the most creative cities as well," said Tony Gagliano, co-founder of the C$10 million arts extravaganza, when he announced the programming earlier this year. "Luminato, in time, will bring the best of the world to Toronto, and the best of Toronto to the world."
Two of Luminato's headline projects get their world premieres on the festival's opening night.
The first is Book of Longing, a music-theater work by Philip Glass (whose 70th birthday last January is being celebrated by the music world all year) based on a recent collection of poetry by renowned Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Following the Toronto performances this weekend (June 1-3), Book of Longing continues to Charleston for its U.S. premiere at Spoleto Festival USA (June 7) and to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York (July 14-15).
The other musical work debuting tonight is an oratorio called Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), by Spamalot creators John Du Prez and Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame). Idle himself will serve as narrator, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, vocal soloists and members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir under the baton of Peter Oundjian, who is both the TSO's music director and Idle's first cousin. The piece is based on the film Monty Python's Life of Brian; Idle says that "It will be funnier than Handel, though not as good."
Other classical music events at Luminato 2007 include Constantinople, a "fantastic fusion of light, movement and sound" conceived by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis and featuring the Gryphon Trio (June 7-9); and "Luna," an evening of opera arias and ensembles featuring ten Canadian singers, including sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian, Adrianne Pieczonka and Sondra Radvanovsky, tenor Richard Margison and baritone Russell Braun.
Among the many other events at Luminato are a free live simulcast of a performance by the National Ballet of Canada (June 7); Shen Wei Dance Arts' version of The Rite of Spring, in its first Canadian performances (June 6-9); the Muhtadi International Festival of Drumming (June 2-3); Auroras/Testimony, a multi-media co-creation by film director (and Armenian-Canadian) Atom Egoyan and artist (and Turkish-Argentine) Kutlug Ataman; and the Spiegeltent 'n' Tavern, a sort of non-stop cabaret/performance art fair under canvas (with drinks!).
More information is available at www.luminato.com.