For over a decade, Luminato has been one of Toronto's leading multi-platform, multi-disciplinary festivals, recruiting artists from all around the world — including Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Death Grips, Deltron 3030, Rufus Wainwright, Philip Glass, Talking Heads mastermind David Byrne and more — to lead one-of-a-kind performances and installations all over the city's downtown core.
This year will be no exception, with Montreal musicians Jean-Michel Blais and CFCF bringing their collaborative album Cascades to life, as well as performances by LAL, Veda Hille and more. The highlight, though, might be Life Reflected, NAC Music Director Alexander Shelley and Creative Producer and Director Donna Feore's latest collaboration.
Inspired by four very different Canadian women (Alice Munro, Amanda Todd, Roberta Bondar and Rita Joe) and represented exquisitely by an array of award-winning musical composers (Zosha Di Castri, John Estacio, Nicole Lizée and Jocelyn Morlock), the multi-media, thought-provoking and jaw-dropping spectacle (created in part with Montreal visual design team Normal) follows up last year's sold out debut in Ottawa with a one-night only show at Toronto's Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on June 18.
But before it does, Exclaim! decided to take a deeper look into each piece and the process of bringing their stories to the stage.
A year before she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "master of the contemporary short story" Alice Munro published Dear Life, a collection of short stories that doubled as her most autobiographical work to date.
Featuring recorded narration by legendary actor Martha Henry (but written by Merilyn Simonds) and black and white photography by Larry Towell (projected onto a set of screens surrounding the orchestra), Dear Life is an immersive and transformative 3D experience, and one close to the heart of composer Zosha Di Castri.
"I received the invitation to write Dear Life just days before giving birth to my first child," she told the NAC ahead of its inaugural performance. "Munro's words struck a chord: a portrait of a mother-daughter relationship over a lifetime, an artist coming into her own, realizing her 'Otherness' but also the universality of lived experience… Under the pastoral beauty of these reminiscences lurks the thrill of danger, violence, misfortune, and yet forgiveness and acceptance is what we walk away with."
My Name is Amanda Todd
On October 10, 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd took her life. Before she did, Todd posted a video to YouTube, using only a series of flash cards to speak out about cyber abuse, bullying and her personal struggles with both.
Now, JUNO Award-nominated composer Jocelyn Morlock is turning the teen's message of hope into a 10-minute orchestral work that brings a bit of light to the darkness faced by millions of teens in modern society.
"Amanda loved music, and found her voice through music, art and multi-media," Amanda's mother Carol Todd, who continues to share her daughter's story and raise awareness about bullying through the non-profit Amanda Todd Legacy Society, said about the project. "We believe this performance will inspire hope, and is a message about humanity and how we must treat each other to be better people."
Mixing in everything from her voice in space to her acceptance speech at Canada's Walk of Fame and beyond, the out-of-this-world story of neurologist, physician, scientific researcher, speaker, astronaut and Canadian legend Dr. Roberta Bondar is the inspiration behind Montreal composer Nicole Lizée's addition to Life Reflected.
Using spliced, pitch-shifted and layered audio and visual recordings, Bondarsphere — a musical suite broken down into eight movements, representing the eight-day space odyssey undertaken by Canada's first female astronaut in 1992 — is an otherworldly experience, and even got Bondar's seal of approval.
"I am honoured to be part of this fascinating project," she said to the people behind the NAC. "To be able to use the arts to communicate science and to use science in an artistic way to get people's attention is something that is important to me."
I Lost My Talk
Commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark, I Lost My Talk — based on a poem by Mi'kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe — is an in-depth look at the lasting effect of residential schools and a hope for peaceful reconciliation.
Accompanied by a film made by Barbara Willis Sweete (featuring choreography by Tekaronhiáhkhwa San tee Smith, performed on the shores of Georgian Bay), the four-part piece — composed by renowned Canadian composer John Estacio — is described by Shelley as a "powerful performance [that] explores the themes of exile, resistance and displacement and ultimately celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."
To learn more about the event, or to pick up tickets to Life Reflected and other Luminato events, click here.