World premieres in spotlight at Toronto's Luminato festival

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Event tickets go on sale April 16 for the much-anticipated inaugural of Luminato, a festival of the arts in Toronto June 1 through 10 that will showcase world premieres in theater, classical and contemporary music, the visual arts, art, architecture, design, film and literature.

More than 90 events are scheduled for Luminato, including free public activities as well as ticketed shows that will feature the works of local, regional and international artists, playwrights, performers and filmmakers.

The festival is the newest and largest multigenre arts festival in North America, according to Charis Heelan, a spokeswoman for Luminato.

The official launch of Luminato coincides with the opening of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the new Daniel Libeskind-designed, $182 million wing of the Royal Ontario Museum. The launch will be marked by free museum access during and after an evening ceremony celebrating the occasion that will be highlighted by an outdoor concert.

"The Ontario government, Tourism Toronto and individual organizations have invested heavily in Luminato," Heelan said, "seeing it as a legacy event that will continue to attract and grow visitor numbers to Toronto for many years to come. In fact, Luminato has already confirmed many of its key acts for 2008 and 2009."

She added that Luminato was expected to generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for arts institutions, the historical Distillery District (which will be linked by shuttle boats to the bustling Lake Ontario Harbourfront Centre), hotels and restaurants.

"The tourism impact should be significant, both during the festival and at other times of the year," Heelan said.

Luminato and the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal are two of the more obvious manifestations of an ongoing cultural renaissance in Toronto, where more than $1 billion has been invested in recent years in the city's arts infrastructure and the renovations of cultural facilities such as the National Ballet Center, the Ontario Science Centre, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Canadian Opera Company and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Among the most eagerly awaited events scheduled to have their debuts during the inaugural Luminato is "Not the Messiah," an oratorio from the creators of the Broadway hit "Spamalot," Eric Idle and John Du Prez.

"Not the Messiah," which will be performed at the recently renovated Roy Thomson Hall June 1 to 4 by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and guest soloists, has been archly described by Idle, a veteran of the Monty Python comedy troupe, as "funnier than Handel, though not as good."

In addition to "Not the Messiah," other world premieres scheduled during Luminato include "Book of Longing," an original concert work by Philip Glass, who was nominated last year for an Academy Award for his score for the film "Notes on a Scandal." Glass, who will perform on keyboards with a seven-piece instrumental ensemble, based "Book of Longing" on Leonard Cohen's first collection of poems in more than 20 years. Performances are scheduled June 1 to 3 at the Elgin Theater.

Also slated for its world debut here is "An Evening With Glenn Gould," a play with music about the last night of the celebrated Canadian pianist's life written by Toronto filmmaker John McGreevy.

To be presented in tandem with a screening of McGreevy's documentary, "Glenn Gould's Toronto," the play is booked into the Young Centre for the Performing Arts June 3 to 10.

Danza Cuba, one of Havana's most popular dance companies, will premiere "Vida!" at the Royal Alexandra Theater throughout the run of Luminato. In "Vida!" a woman revisits her life in Cuba from childhood to the present.

Other events include the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival, a free outdoor extravaganza in Queen's Park June 2 and 3 that will feature drummers and drum groups from around the world; the Summer of Love, which on June 2 will re-create in the upscale Yorkville district the Toronto folk scene of 1967, when artists such as Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian & Sylvia got their starts; and Carnivalissima, a celebration capturing the carnival traditions of the world and the city's many ethnic neighborhoods.

For more information on Luminato, go to www.luminato.ca.

To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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