Luminato is an arts and culture festival that features many genres but don’t be intimated.
Now in its eighth year, Luminato brings many international stars from the world of music, theatre, dance, opera, visual arts and literature to Toronto for 10 days running June 6-16.
“Everything we do is something that no one else does in the city,” Luminato artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt says in an interview. “That’s one of the key elements, key thoughts, when I think about the program.”
Freelance arts writer and broadcaster Catherine Kustanczy says, “It’s fun and a whole pile of stuff is free. It sounds so corny but it has something for everybody.”
Kustanczy, who has followed the festival since its debut in 2007, says Weisbrodt brings a definite European sensibility and more experimental view to the festival lineup than founding artistic director Chris Lorway who had a New York sensibility.
Kustanczy says Weisbrodt, now in his third year as artistic director, is trying to elevate the tone of the festival to compete with international festivals like the Lincoln Center Out of Doors in New York.
Weisbrodt says he’s trying to mix up things even more this year, trying to create “a new dish in a new way.”
So what’s in store for festivalgoers? In keeping with the idea of experiencing Toronto in a different way, Luminato commissions contemporary artists each year to transform the festival hub at David Pecaut Square.
This year, the Cuban duo Los Carpinteros has turned the square into a beach oasis complete with umbrellas, deck chairs and lifeguard stations — all made of cardboard.
Cardboard Beach will be the heart of Luminato where festivalgoers can eat, drink and take in free concerts and performances. Some ticketed outdoor performances on the opening and closing weekends include concerts by The Roots and Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley.
In keeping with Weisbrodt’s mash-up strategy, Keys on the Street pairs together a recital of classical music and urban dance with pianist Angela Hewitt and choreography by So You Think You Can Dance judge Tre Armstrong.
Other cutting-edge performances across the city include Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno; Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall Live; and Terence Koh’s two installations at the McMichael Gallery, which is exhibiting the Canadian-raised enfant terrible’s premiere show in Canada.
There is also Matthew Barney’s epic film River of Fundament starring Paul Giamatti and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as a long overdue tribute to Canada’s Daniel Lanois and salute to WorldPride with Rufus Wainwright’s If I Loved You concert — an evening of Broadway love duets sung by men for men.
Here are some of our must-see picks:
1. In Green Porno, actress Isabella Rossellini gives a lecture in costume on the sex life of animals, based on short films she did for the Sundance Channel. Weisbrodt says it’s a “completely new story of the birds and the bees” given by the “incredibly charming” and funny Rossellini that will be “something for the whole family.”
There’s nothing dirty or offensive about the show but you walk out of it having learned a lot about the sex of animals, he says. “You also question the difficulties and taboos around certain sex and sex practices…because it’s all there in the animal kingdom.”
Rossellini will also do a TimesTalks on June 8 moderated by senior New York Times food editor Sam Sifton.
2. River of Fundament, a six-hour film by New York artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney with music composed by Jonathan Bepler, makes its Canadian premiere at the Elgin Theatre on June 6-8.
You can also hear the artist at the Art Gallery of Ontario in conversation with Weisbrodt and the gallery’s curator of modern and contemporary art, Kitty Scott, on June 7 at 2 p.m. Barney’s select video works Drawing Restraint will also be on exhibit at the AGO until Sept. 28.
The TIFF Bell Lightbox will be showing Barney’s first major masterpiece, the film series Cremaster Cycle on June 7.
The collaborations with the AGO and TIFF Bell Lightbox offers a 360-degree view of the artist. “That’s unique and special to Luminato,” Weisbrodt says.
3. DJ and music producer Kid Koala will bring to life his graphic novel, Nufonia Must Fall, for three nights at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, beginning June 7. Kid Koala will perform his original score on piano and scratch table as puppeteers bring to life his kid-friendly characters on miniature sets.
“It’s something you can bring everybody to,” Kustanczy says.
4. Canadian artist Terence Koh, the bad boy of contemporary art, has had solo shows at Art Basel and the Whitney Museum of American Art to name a few. His works are in the permanent collection at the Tate Modern and the MOMA and now he’s getting his Canadian premiere at the McMichael Gallery.
The first installation, tomorrow’s snow, is based on the Margaret Atwood Cat’s Eye novel that involves a young girl and boy in white making snow angels at a snowy, tree-filled plaza on the grounds of the gallery. The second installation, a way to the light, takes place at the Artists’ Cemetery on the grounds of gallery and is a tribute to artist Emily Carr.
“It’s so special that the McMichael is doing this,” Kustanczy says.
5. Sleeping in the Devil’s Bed: The Music of Daniel Lanois
This tribute to music producer, guitarist and songwriter Daniel Lanois is at Massey Hall on June 10 and features musical talents, Emmylou Harris, Martha Wainwright and The Handsome Family, among other musicians. Kustanczy says, “I love that Luminato is recognizing him.”
6. If I Loved You
Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who married Luminato’s Weisbrodt in 2012, is back at the festival with If I Loved You, an evening concert on June 14 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts that reinterprets classic love duets from Broadway musicals. Featured artists include David Byrne, Boy George and ex-Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page who will be singing time honoured Broadway classics to one another.
Weisbrodt’s says it’s Luminato’s big salute to WorldPride, which will occur in Toronto a week later.
“It’s a really good way of re-approaching overfamiliar material,” Kustanczy says. “And the lineup is really good.”