The 2015 edition of the Luminato Festival includes two mini festivals, a backyard garden party in the middle of the city, and a lineup of musicians inspired by the Pan Am Games.
Beginning its ninth year on June 19 and running to the 28th, the expansive Luminato Festival has something of a split personality; One is fun, friendly, and flowery, while the other is dark, dingy, and dangerous.
Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt announced the 2015 festival lineup inside the Allan Gardens Conservatory on Wednesday night, flanked by leafy tropical trees, ferns, and flowers. The choice of location mirrors what will eventually rise from the Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square, where landscape architect Janet Rosenberg will create the Garden of Light and turn the public space into a giant, well-manicured backyard garden.
Over one thousand plants, birch tree groves, and even bee hive piñatas will cover the grassy area of David Pecaut Square, while grass turf will cover the concrete area on the western side, where a stage, smaller than usual, will host the festival’s free concert series. This year includes a roster of musicians from countries visiting Toronto for the Pan Am Games: Ani Cordero, Quique Escamilla, Los de Abajo, El Juri (described to media as the female Carlos Santana), Las Cafeteras and more.
The garden at David Pecaut Square will also enlist the help of citywide volunteers to help with the upkeep, and some of the plants might even be looking for homes at the end of the festival.
More free events at the square include a Brazilian block party, karaoke with a full live orchestra, and a free concert by the TSO called A Symphonic Zoo featuring music inspired by animals, from Flight of the Bumblebee to Peter and the Wolf.
“I want to see and hear as many animals as possible on the closing Sunday in our Garden of Light,” said Weisbrodt, referring the now traditional TSO Hub concert to close the festival.
Paired with the already-announced Contemporary Colour, the brainchild of David Byrne that pairs high school colour guard teams with indie musicians like tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, and more, the 2015 Luminato Festival boasts a family-friendly program like none before.
On the other side of the spectrum, Luminato isn’t afraid to go dark. For the first time in the Luminato Hub there will be an indoor performance space for ticketed events, and it’s likely to become a very unassuming sleeper hit venue. The customary Literary Talks programming will move to the Shed, including one chat on the Mexican Drug War in fiction and non-fiction, as well as the return of Jason Collett’s Basement Revue, which has previously resided in the outskirts of the Luminato bubble. The TimesTalks program will also find a new home in the shed, which will pair writers like Jon Pareles with artists St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, and Charlotte Rampling. The Shed will also host a new nighttime cabaret series featuring DJ Kid Koala (now a Luminato staple), comedian Bridgett Everett, and well-known performance artists Joey Arias and Taylor Mac.
Also new this year are two mini-festivals within the larger Luminato Festival, both running during the first weekend. Unsound Toronto is the Canadian premiere of “an amorphous music festival from Krakow,” Weisbrodt said, which incorporates electronic music, experimental music, lights, lasers, video and scent. It’s taking place inside the Hearn Generating Station, used for last year’s Luminato Big Bang Bash Gala, which marks the venue’s first public use. Australian-Icelandic musician Ben Frost and Montreal artist Tim Hecker will be performing, among many other acts that range from atmospheric to raucous.
Also new this year is 7 Monologues, a curation of seven short 60 to 90-minute plays all taking place in the Harbourfront Centre, designed to give audience members the chance to see one, a couple, or even all seven back to back in one day. Featured plays are The Night Dances stars actress Charlotte Rampling and cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton performing the words of Sylvia Plath and the music of Benjamin Britten, Who Killed Spalding Grey? by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, Spell to Bring Lost Creatures Home by Shary Boyle and Christine Fellows, and more featuring international artists from countries associated with the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.
Luminato keeps the porch light burning with Late Night with the TSO: Holst The Planets, which will have Peter Oundjian conduct the orchestra as they perform Gustav Holst’s compositions inspired by the different planets. Finally, if adult Torontonians still aren’t impressed, they can see R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis, the first time the piece has been performed in its entirety since 1980. Stars like Brent Carver, playing AntiChrist, Nina Arsenault, playing the Whore of Babylon, and Tanya Tagaq, playing The Old Woman, will take the extended Sony Centre stage with one thousand other performers. Space is usually plenty in that venue, but seating has been cut in half, so the performers can sit in the balcony when they’re not performing.
Because it’s Luminato, there are also some events too hard to describe in words: a play will unfold upon a set that ticks like a clock in “a multi-layered mega fiction” El Pasado es un Animal Grotesco by Argentinian director Mariano Pensotti, My One Demand is a live movie following seven Torontonian actors that can also be interacted with via smartphone, and a free art installation at the AGO displays spontaneously generated images called Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.
Luminato takes place from June 19 to 28 this year, and yes, it still overlaps with NXNE.