Joni Mitchell Tribute Tops 2013 Luminato Playbill

Photo by Jack Robinson (1968)

Joni Mitchell, Atom Egoyan, and performance artist Marina Abramovic top the bill for the 2013 Luminato Festival, the annual arts festival that brings (mostly) free public art installations and related events to Toronto.

“Great art need not be understood – it needs to be experienced,” Jorn Weisbrodt, the festival’s artistic director said before unveiling the 2013 festival program this morning. “(Luminato) is not a maze, with one way to enter and exit. To me, it’s like a playground.”

The festival’s biggest coup is the world premiere of Joni: A Portrait in Song, as the legendary Canadian songwriter (who, in retirement, Weisbrodt noted was notoriously difficult to track down) is actually working with Luminato on the two-day celebration of her music and life featuring Chaka Khan, Rufus Wainwright, and others. Weisbrodt said Mitchell, who turns 70 this year, is “incredibly touched that anyone would still be interested in her music” before suggesting that she may both make an appearance at the festival, and debut a new song.

Meanwhile, Canuck director Atom Egoyan, who’s preparing to launch his upcoming Canadian Opera Company production of Salome, presents the Canadian premiere of the Chinese opera Feng Yi Ting. “It was just intoxicating – an amazing journey,” Egoyan said of developing the show which, at only 45 minutes long, he joked was the antidote to last year’s marathon production of Einstein on the Beach.

Performance artist Marina Abramovic, 66, teams with legendary director Robert Wilson (who, with composer Philip Glass, brought Einstein on the Beach to Luminato last year) and actor Willem Defoe on The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. The avant-garde opera, in which Abramovic plays herself and her mother, explores her childhood as the daughter of communists in the former Yugoslavia through to her later artistic work.

Other festival highlights include:

  • L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: The Canadian premiere of the Mark Morris Dance Group’s celebrated production based on George Frideric Handel’s pastoral ode and featuring the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir.
  • TSO Goes Late Night: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: A late night, all-Russian selection by pianist Yuja Wang and Toronto Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Jonathan Crow.
  • The Daisy Theatre: Marionette master Ronnie Burkett and his puppet creations perform ten short Canadian plays in a series of unique shows in a forum, “inspired by the illegal underground ‘daisy’ puppet shows of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, and the beginnings of cabaret at the famed Le Chat Noir in Paris.”
  • Stockpile: Conceived by a collective of visual artists, this exhibit creates “a life-sized arcade-style claw machine filled with useful objects donated by the community along with special surprises.” The catch: the artist act as the claw, and the spectators controls their movements.
  • A Literary Picnic: Spend an afternoon in the park with more than 60 authors as they ruminate on the theme of “Beginnings,” including Camilla Gibb, Andrew Faulkner, David Seymour and Susan Swan. A fleet of food trucks and a used book trade in table are also featured.
  • Music Mob: From seasoned musicians to those who don’t know which end of a tuba to blow into, this interactive exhibit offers everyone a chance to perform or song alongside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as they pay tribute to Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner (who both turn 200 this year) with Aida’s “Triumphal March” and the epic “Ride of the Valkyries.”

The festival also features its trademark Lunchtime Illumination talks as well as the Evening Illuminations series, a Times Talks series of discussions between New York Times reporters and festival participants, and numerous events at the festival Hub, which, as always, is headquartered in David Pecaut Square.