Against the Grain Theatre have announced an ambitious 2018/19 season. There are two main stage shows. The first is Bound, which had a first workshop outing in December 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress but there have been significant developments. Kevin Lau has been commissioned to inject his contemporary themes, music and ideas into the original music by Handel. Instead of piano there will be a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski with digital sound artist Acote. The cast will include soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh. This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018. For me, the acid test will be whether the dramaturgy and the text has been tightened up.
Spring 2019 sees perhaps the most exciting AtG show for a while, at least for me. They are bringing their Banff production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus to Toronto. We are promise a Joel Ivany production that “will uniquely immerse the orchestra into the choreography alongside singers and dancers”. Matjash Mrozewski(1) choreographs, Leela Gilday acts as dramaturge, with lighting and set design by Jason Hand. The cast features mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan (yay!) making her AtG debut as Agni aplus mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, bass Alain Coulombe, baritone Dion Mazerolle and soprano Nathalie Paulin. The production will play at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) on April 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th and 13th, 2019.
Besides the main stage shows there’s opera pub at the Amsterdam Bicyclig Club on the first Thursday of every month, an AtG “retrospective” in the free lunchtime series in the RBA, a Winter Intensive for young singers following up on this summer’s effort. There’s an AtG Incubator to help selected artists develop new ideas through the work shop phase. Last but hardly least, there’s the launch of AtG Records. The first release will be a live recording of Miriam Khalil’s performance of Golijov’s Ayre. Those fortunate enough to have been at the Aga Khan Museum to hear it will know why.
As it matures as a company AtG is becoming an essential part of the Toronto opera scene; arguably second only to the COC in importance. This new season rather seems to cement that. They have come a long way since that first La Bohème at the Tranzac.
(1)This is obviously a joke aimed at copy editors; Mokrzewski conducts, Mrozewski choreographs. No wonder copy editors are a dying breed.