The Weeknd’s homecoming, Doors Open and seven other things to see, do, hear and read this week
The return of Starboy
1When Abel Tesfaye christened himself the Starboy last year, he did more than ditch those signature dreads. He also traded the dark aesthetic of his moody mixtapes and early albums for a polished, radio-ready sound. The Weeknd’s new tunes—like the undeniably catchy ’70s-style jam “I Feel It Coming”—are club-pop earworms, stuffed with Michael Jackson–worthy hooks and oodles of digital wizardry courtesy of Daft Punk. Take one look at the giant, glittering star that hangs above Tesfaye’s head on this tour, and it’s clear he’s one-upped his live show, too. His days of underground Mod Club gigs are long gone. Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27. $39.50–$300. Air Canada Centre.
A key to the city
2Ever wondered what it’s like inside the old Don Jail? How it feels to stand onstage at the Sony Centre? Or if Osgoode Hall is just as imposing inside? These spaces are yours to explore during Doors Open, when 150 of the city’s most historically significant buildings—you guessed it—open their doors. Canadian architecture is this year’s theme, so expect the locations to the story of Toronto’s building, from pre-Confederation to the Ford Nation era. Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28. Free. Various locations.
An operatic take on sex trafficking
3Operatic treatments of prostitution tend to give the trade a certain recherché glamour (think Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata). Oksana G, this world premiere by Tapestry Opera, is much grimmer. It’s the unvarnished tale of a young Ukrainian woman lured into the world of sex trafficking by an obsessive recruiter. Playwright Colleen Murphy’s libretto is impressively sophisticated, while Aaron Gervais’s score incorporates sonic influences from disparate cultures. Wednesday, May 24 to Tuesday, May 30. $50–$75. Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre.
A sublime Sigur Rós show
4Sigur Rós’s music is shorthand for the sublime: the post-rock trio’s orchestral arrangements evoke the stark beauty of their native Iceland, and their ethereal chants—sung largely in an imagined language called Hopelandic—feel cathartic. Sunday, May 28. $65–$85. Echo Beach.
An Angry Inuk screening with Tanya Tagaq
5 Filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary Angry Inuk is a provocatively contrarian film, arguing that seal-hunting protests championed by celebrities and animal-rights groups are devastating the culture and economies of Canada’s Arctic communities. At this screening, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq—who has courted her own controversy for defending sealing—chats with ImagineNative executive director Ariel Smith. Wednesday, May 24. $29. TIFF Bell Lightbox.
A nostalgic one-woman show
6In her 2015 Fringe show, In Case We Disappear, Vanessa Smythe weaved a Toronto 20-something’s musings and experiences into a winning combination of poetry, stand-up and song. Its follow-up, Lip Sync Sleepover, is another eclectic solo show, albeit with a more nostalgic bent. Through dance and music, Smythe revisits her childhood memories, like slumber parties and talent-show performances, to work some of their magic into her adult life. Thursday, May 25 and Friday, May 26. $20. Streetcar Crowsnest.
The xx’s unrestrained new album
7Less has always been more for the British trio, who made their name on minimalist indie anthems and hushed vocal melodies. But on their new album, I See You, The xx is louder and looser, unafraid to layer pulsing beats and polished synths into a hypnotic dance record. Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23. $52.50. Echo Beach.
A religious rumble
8Bad Jews is set in a tiny Manhattan apartment, where three cousins face off over who gets to keep the family’s most precious heirloom: a pendant their grandfather carried during the Holocaust. Daphna, a self-proclaimed “real Jew,” believes herself to be the rightful heir; the secular Liam, with his gentile girlfriend, wants it for himself; and meek middleman Jonah winds up in the crossfire. Joshua Harmon’s darkly funny breakthrough play about family, tradition and identity finally gets its Toronto premiere after successful off-Broadway and West End runs. Thursday, May 25 to Sunday, June 4. $25–$30. Artscape Youngplace.
21C, a risk-taking contemporary music festival
9This wide-ranging festival startles, discomfits and delights—but never bores. There are 25 premieres and, in deference to the country’s 150th birthday, a host of works by homegrown composers and musicians. Among the highlights: the all-female Cecilia Quartet’s celebration of Canadian women in music; beguiling works by Korean composer Unsuk Chin; the venerable American ensemble Bang on a Can (in a show they’re calling Bang on a Canada); and a splashy opening concert by the COC Orchestra conducted by Johannes Debus. Wednesday, May 24 to Sunday, May 28. From $21. Various venues.
Never Miss Another Great Event
An earlier version of this post listed incorrect dates for Doors Open.