Luminato 2013 guide: 17 must-see events at this year’s arts festival

Luminato 2013 guide: 17 must-see events at this year’s arts festival

Joni Mitchell is performing and speaking at this year’s Luminato Festival (Image: Jack Robinson)

This year’s Luminato Festival, the first under the complete oversight of artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt, seems to have benefited from Weisbrodt’s Rolodex of celeb contacts: cultural icons Joni Mitchell, Atom Egoyan, Marina Abramovic and Weisbrodt’s hubby Rufus Wainwright all taking part. The 10 days of music, theatre, dance, and art start tomorrow. Below, our picks for the most buzzy free concerts, engaging art installations and memorable theatre.

Jump to:  Ongoing EventsJune 14 | June 15 | June 16 | June 17 | June 18 | June 19 | June 20 | June 21 | June 22 | June 23

June 14

Serena Ryder and K-Os (FREE!)
The festival kicks off with two back-to-back free concerts from famous Torontonians. Canadian rapper K-Os (of “Joyful Rebellion” and “Crabbuckit” fame) takes the stage at 8pm, immediately followed by indie darling of the moment Serena Ryder. If you can’t make it in person, the concert will be streamed live on Youtube. Free. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

The Life and Death of Marina Abramović
Following a sold-out European tour, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović makes its North American debut on Luminato’s opening night. Abramovic co-created and stars in the autobiographical production, while Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe plays the narrator and Abramović’s male counterpoint. $55–$125. June 14–17. Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E. More information »

Kid Koala’s Space Cadet
Montreal DJ Kid Koala returns to Luminato with a late-night, multi-sensory experience based on his 2011 graphic novel Space Cadet about a young astronaut. The audience lies on blow-up space pods while Kid Koala brings the story to life via keyboards and turntables, projected animations and even custom scents. Suitable for all ages. $20. June 14 and 15. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St.
More information »

June 15

Sarah Harmer (FREE!)
The singer-songwriter brings her signature introspection to David Pecaut Square for an hour-long concert. The six-time Juno nominee and Burlington darling rarely tours, so don’t miss this chance to hear hits like “Basement Apartment” and “Don’t Get Your Back Up” live. Free. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

June 16

TimesTalks Luminato: Atom Egoyan
As part of the New York Times’ popular live interview series, deputy arts editor Daniel Wakin chats with the Oscar-nominated opera and film director behind Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Chloe. Wakin plans to focus on Egoyan’s production of Salome for the Canadian Opera Company this season‚ and how it compared to staging Feng Yi Ting, which opens Thursday. Watch a live stream here. Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W. More information »

TimesTalks Luminato: Joni Mitchell and Brian Blade
Ahead of a blockbuster concert in honour of Mitchell’s 70th birthday (see below), the Times’ pop music critic Jon Pareles speaks with the legendary songstress and her frequent collaborator Brian Blade. Watch a live stream here. $35. Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W. More information »

June 17

Chamber Magic
“The Millionaire’s Magician” Steve Cohen has wowed A-listers from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to Martha Stewart with his brand of sophisticated, for-the-grown-ups magic (think more mind games, fewer rabbits coming out of hats.) The intimate setting promises an unforgettable show. $60–$75. June 17–19. George Brown House, 186 Beverley St. More information »

The Carolina Chocolate Drops (FREE!)
The Drops plays the foot-tapping, head-bobbing, fiddle-driven style of folk music native to the Carolinas’ Piedmont region (though they’ve also been known to play the occasional banjo cover of an R&B classic). The band recently topped the grassroots charts with Leaving  Eden, while 201o’s Genuine Negro Jig took home a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. Free. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

June 18

Joni: A Portrait in Song – A Birthday Happening Live at Massey Hall
An all-star concert and poetry reading marks the iconic poet and songstress’s 70th birthday. Mitchell will recite a new poem with musical accompanmient from Brian Blade and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, while the likes of Kathleen Edwards, Herbie Hancock, Glen Hansard, Esperanza Spalding, Rufus Wainwright and Lizz Wright will interpret other Mitchell songs. $35–$175. June 18 and 19. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St. More information » 

June 19

Danse Lhasa Danse (FREE!)
Choreographer Pierre-Paul Savoie brings his spectacle of music, dance and film to a stage outside Quebec for the first time. The multimedia production is a tribute to the life and art of Lhasa de Sela, a New York born, Montreal-based singer who lost her voice after being diagnosed with cancer. Lhasa-fans and first timers alike will be swept away by the bittersweet emotional tribute. Free. David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

June 20

Feng Yi Ting
Director Atom Egoyan brings a classic tale of beauty, seduction, empires and rivalry to the stage at the MacMillan Theatre. The opera tells the story of Diao Chan, a beautiful courtesan turned seductress who is embroiled in a plot to overturn a ruthless warlord. Composer Guo Wenjing’s masterly score blends Eastern and Western traditions. $25–$65. June 20–22. MacMillan Theatre, 80 Queen’s Park. More information »

June 21

Mark Morris Dance Group
Mark Morris’s interpretation of “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato” (a pastoral ode by George Frideric Handel) is widely regarded as his crowning achievement as a choreographer and director. The sweeping performance, which makes its Canadian debut at the festival, incorporates dance, lighting, poetry, a 26-member chorus, four vocal soloists and an orchestra. $45–$95. June 21—23. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E. More information »

A Symphonic Birthday Party (FREE!)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s annual open-air concert is always a festival favourite. This year, the set list honours the birthdays of composers Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi and Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer (Wagner and Verdi would be a sprightly 200 years old, Schafer is ringing in his 80th). If you’ve ever wondered what “Happy Birthday” sounds like when performed by a full orchestra, come early to claim your seats. Free. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

June 22

Music Mob (FREE!)
The TSO will also be performing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” and Verdi’s “Triumphal March” from Aida with a twist: the public is welcome to join in. Sheet music (both the original and a simplified version) and tutorial videos made by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir are available to download. Be warned: the tutorials from the adorable members of the TSYO may generate feelings of great musical inadequacy. Free. June 22. The Hub at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St. More information »

June 23 and Ongoing Events

We suggest using the final day to catch some of the festival-long exhibitions you may have missed:

Stockpile (FREE!)
Billed as an “interactive performance spectacle,” Stockpile is a life-sized version of an arcade claw machine filled with over 1,500 donated objects ranging from old hammers to designer dresses. Nine participating artists act as the claw, and members of the public must try and manipulate them into delivering a desired prize from among the treasures. $2 to play, free to observe. June 14–22. Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St. More information »

MAI – Prototype
Celebrity performance artist Marina Abramović stages her largest ever installation in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Participants don white lab coats and headsets, which guide them through seven interlocking tents and instruct them to do exercises based on Abramovic’s past work. The entire experience lasts two hours. $25. June 14–23; experiences begin every 30 minutes. Trinity Bellwoods Park. More information »

Viktor & Rolf Dolls at the ROM (FREE!)
For years, avant-garde fashion designers Viktor & Rolf have been making exact replicas of their runway looks for porcelain dolls. More than 25 of the creepy-beautiful dolls are on display on their own doll-sized runway in a free exhibition at the ROM. Free. To June 30. Royal Ontario Museum, Thorsell Spirit House, 100 Queen’s Park. More information »