Luminato Festival Toronto, the city’s international festival of arts and ideas, returns this summer from June 7th to June 18th with an exceptional program set to invigorate Toronto with creativity. Luminato Festival Toronto previously announced three extraordinary shows for the festival including Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ, and Nuit along with two long-anticipated world-premieres, Dragon’s Tale and Loss. Today, Luminato releases complete programming details including the Canadian premiere of global phenomenon Walk with Amal.
“Luminato is back this June to enliven the city through the imaginations of close to a thousand talented artists,” says Celia Smith, CEO of Luminato Festival Toronto. “In 2023, we are hosting an incredible program featuring stories from Toronto and around the globe which show glimpses of daily life alongside remarkable life-altering moments. This festival continues to be a place for thought-provoking art and conversations that reflect our world.”
The festival will feature two free weekends of celebration beginning with the Canadian premiere of Walk with Amal on Wednesday, June 7th. Little Amal, a 12-foot-tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, has travelled to 90 cities around the world in search of her mother. At Luminato, she will walk across the GTA for 5 days, looking for her new home. Little Amal will be welcomed to Toronto by musicians, dancers, children, elders, and everyone in between. Luminato has partnered with many civic leaders, community organizers, and newcomer and refugee groups to create a magical journey of art and hope, which everyone is invited to join.
Luminato will present the world premiere of Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett’s new travelling public art installation Echoes Calling Back. This large-scale inflatable will be found at College Park, in the centre of the city.
Building on the success of the concert series at Woodbine Park in 2022, Luminato will bring a mix of local and international artists from Zeca Pagodinho and Moneka Arabic Jazz to Princess Nokia and Snotty Nose Rez Kids. The 2023 Music Weekend will once again take up residency at David Pecaut Square, where Luminato has had many beautiful events in the past.
This year, we explore art and ideas centred on the importance of home, and invite audiences to feel at home with us,” says Naomi Campbell about her final program as Artistic Director of Luminato Festival Toronto. “We are presenting a gamut of dynamic, heartfelt stories infused with fabulous music, which we hope will bring joy, inspire conversation, and strengthen everyone’s commitment to make the world a better place.
2023 Luminato Festival Toronto Highlights
Luminato events (see below) begin June 7th with a weekend of electrifying programs. Little Amal is welcomed to Canada for the first time at Walk with Amal Toronto along with popular remounts of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ and Nuit. Theatre productions Dragon’s Tale and Loss will be making their world premieres at the festival. A wide range of additional programming will be offered, including our Illuminating Ideas education and conversation series; and accessibility initiatives, such as Radio LUMI which accompany and augment each event. More details, collaborators, and activities will be shared in May 2023.
Walk with Amal Toronto – Canadian Premiere
Presentation Dates: Wednesday June 7th – Sunday June 11th, 2023
Location: Across the GTA, Check luminatofestival.com for details.
Genre: Street Theatre
A refugee child will arrive in Toronto. She will be tired, hungry, frightened, and in need of care. How will you welcome her?
Little Amal, whose name means “hope” in Arabic, is a 10-year-old Syrian refugee who has been travelling the world since 2021. This enchanting 12-foot-tall puppet represents all children fleeing war, violence and persecution with the urgent message – “don’t forget about us.”
Little Amal will visit Canada for the first time during the opening of the 2023 festival. For five days, she will travel throughout the GTA, greeted by artists, community activists, workers, civic leaders,children, and members of local communities from all walks of life. She will participate in thirteen different community-created events which will be authentic and meaningful to Little Amal and to the people she will meet.
Walk with Amal Toronto is produced by The Walk Productions and Luminato Festival Toronto in association with Handspring Puppet Company.
Lead Supporters: Rogers Communications and the Province of Ontario
Community Partner: Ian and Kiki Delaney C.M.
Community Supporters: Joan and Jerry Lozinski, Mohammad Al Zaibak, The Rossy Foundation, Sandra and Jim Pitblado, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund
Community Friends: Hal Jackman Foundation, Lucille and Urban Joseph, Rob and Cheryl McEwen, C.M., Nancy Pencer
Echoes Calling Back by Jordan Bennett – World Premiere
Presentation Dates: Thursday June 8th – Sunday June 18th
Location: College Park (444 Yonge Street at College) (Outdoors)
Genre: Public Art
At once buoyant and imposing, Echoes Calling Back will transform pedestrians’ experience of College Park into a larger-than-life art exhibition. The piece may serve as a meeting place, a shelter, a source of joy, or a symbol of our region’s living history.
Exploring the ancient relics of North American mega-fauna and using Bennett’s signature graphic style evocative of porcupine quill work found in Mi’kmaq visual culture, this whimsical work imagines a playful remnant from a distant past, and will remind us that what we call home was once wilderness.
Commissioned by Luminato, curated and produced by MASSIVart
Supported by Downtown Yonge BIA and Brookfield Properties
Luminato Music Weekend
Presentation Dates: Saturday June 17th and Sunday June 18th
Location: David Pecaut Square (215 King Street West)
Genre: Live Music
An incredible community of musicians from across the world and around the block will make Toronto sing and dance during Luminato Music Weekend!
On Saturday afternoon, groove to the sounds of Moneka Arabic Jazz, then stick around for the resplendent Yaya Bey’s soul, jazz and RnB with a cheeky edge; Polaris Music Prize winner Congolese-born Pierre Kwenders launches the evening with Afrobeats, followed by a double bill of Indigenous hip-hop from Snotty Nose Rez Kids, and Latiné New Yorker Princess Nokia.
On Sunday, travel the Black Atlantic with Lusophone ensemble Ayom, rejoice to the funk, soul, hip-hop and everything-in-between NOLA vibes of Tank and the Bangas, and dance the night away with the crown prince of Samba, Zeca Pagodinho.
Luminato will host many other kinds of activities over the weekend: a bar, a coffee spot, delicious food, and curated vendors.
Presented by TD Ready Commitment
Supported by OLG with assistance from The McLean Foundation and Bullfrog Power
Belonging Is – World Premiere
Presentation Dates: Wednesday June 8th – Sunday June 18th
Location: Union Station
Genre: Public Art
Through a series of guided engagements communities will be invited to explore their sense of belonging in the creation of a new temporary mural at one of the city’s busiest hubs. What does belonging feel like? Smell like? What is a memory you have of feeling like you belonged?
Each day a new prompt will lead to the creation of a community mural animating space to remind us all that we are part of something, and we are in this together.
Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha
Presentation Dates: Tuesday June 6th – Thursday June 8th (3 previews)
Saturday June 10th, Sunday June 11th, Wednesday June 14th – Saturday June 17th (6 performances)
Location: St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front Street West)
Originally written by Scott Joplin (c. 1911), Treemonisha is one of the few pieces set soon after the abolition of slavery, written by a survivor of that era.
Fusing European classical music with the sounds of ragtime, folk, and gospel to create a thrilling and distinct sound, and introducing a young woman protagonist chosen by her community to lead, Joplin’s nearly-lost opera was far ahead of its time.
Working from the surviving vocal score and featuring the first all-Black orchestral ensemble in Canadian opera history, the new arrangements and orchestrations by Jessie Montgomery (Sphinx Medal of Excellence and ASCAP Leonard Bernstein award winner) and Jannina Norpoth (Grammy nominee) merge musical vocabularies, reflecting the major themes of the reimagined version: split identity – African and American – and the role of one’s ancestors in coming to terms with the realities of a new land.
Led by a predominantly Black female creative team from across North America, Joplin’s ground-breaking opera has been reimagined with a new story and libretto by playwright and broadcaster Leah-Simone Bowen (The Secret Life of Canada), working with Emmy-nominated co-librettist Cheryl L. Davis. Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha is conducted by the first Black woman conductor in Canadian opera history, Panamanian-American Kalena Bovell, and directed by award-winning, internationally acclaimed Canadian stage director Weyni Mengesha.
This reimagined version tells a revolutionary story of a young Black woman who, in discovering the truth of her past, and overcoming enormous personal loss, discovers her power to unify a divided people, and lead her community towards a new future.
Presented by Luminato Festival Toronto and TO Live
A Volcano production in association with The Canadian Opera Company, Soulpepper, & Moveable Beast
Book & Libretto Adapted by Leah-Simone Bowen / Co-Librettist: Cheryl Davis
Arranged and Orchestrated by Jessie Montgomery & Jannina Norpoth
Lead Support from BMO with assistance from S.M. Blair Family Foundation
Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ
Presentation Date(s): Thursday June 8th, – Saturday June 10th (4 performances)
Location: Ada Slaight Hall (585 Dundas Street East)
In Inuktitut, Aalaapi means “Choosing silence to hear something beautiful”. Immerse yourself in a theatrical performance that combines the sounds of the North – creaking snow, whistling winds, and voices in Inuktitut, French, and English – with radio documentary, to reveal the daily lives of women in Northern Quebec. Drawing on radio’s central role in the North, Aalaapi steps into the world of two friends, Nancy and Ulivia, sharing a cabin in a small village in Nunavik. As images scroll across the cabin, an intimate portrait of young women in Northern communities, depicted with speech, sound, and silences, reveals the richness of their history and the power of their future. Aalaapi is an invitation to listen deeply.
Presented by Native Earth Performing Arts and Le Théâtre français de Toronto, in association with Luminato Festival Toronto
Presentation Dates: Thursday June 8th, – Saturday June 10th (3 performances)
Location: Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West)
Nuit is legendary Canadian choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault’s seminal work exploring the individual within the collective through fiery, demanding contemporary dance. During the harsh night, eight performers grapple with the hurly-burly of everyday life, pushing themselves to the limit where tensions emerge and a troubling, subterranean vulnerability is expressed.
In Nuit dance becomes a “sculptural material endowed with mobility”, which makes this a major work, not only in Perreault’s legacy but in the history of Canadian choreography.
Presented by Luminato Festival Toronto / Choreographed by Jean-Pierre Perreault / Remounted by Compagnie de la Citadelle with the permission of Espace Perreault Transmissions chorégraphiques
Generously Supported by Nancy Pencer
Loss – World Premiere
Presentation Dates: Wednesday June 14th – Sunday June 18th (6 performances)
Location: Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West)
Genre: Multimedia Performance
Loss is a deeply honest, live retelling of an intergenerational family story, written by Ian Kamau and his father Roger McTair.
This multi-media performance begins as a mirror into a winter of depression, then slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the death of Kamau’s paternal grandmother Nora Elutha Rogers.
An orchestration of memories using live music, video, and storytelling, Loss is an exploration of grief in Afro-Caribbean communities, and an immersive experience towards healing shared with the audience.
Loss was developed in Residency at The Theatre Centre.
Luminato Festival Toronto presents Ian Kamau’s Loss produced by The Theatre Centre
Supported by CIBC.
Dragon’s Tale – World Premiere
Presentation Date(s): Thursday June 15th – Sunday June 18th (4 performances)
Location: Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage (231 Queens Quay W) (OUTDOORS)
Entry: Free (registration required)
A beautiful new opera performed on Toronto’s waterfront celebrating the origin of Dragon Boat racing.
In ancient China, poet and politician Qu Yuan dedicated his whole life to the King and the Chu kingdom until exile changed his world forever. In present-day Toronto, Chinese-Canadian Xiao Lian yearns for liberty and independence while her father desperately tries to hold her close. Reaching across time, the Dragon Boat’s drum beats to the rhythm of their hearts as both Qu Yuan and Xiao Lian struggle with the power of love and the desire for freedom.
Experience this operatic celebration of Chinese tradition with a Canadian backdrop, soaring music, and magical storytelling. Created by the world-renowned team behind Soundstreams’ The Weaving Maiden and Tapestry Opera’s smash-hit Iron Road including accomplished Chinese-Canadian composer Chan Ka Nin and award-winning playwright and librettist Mark Brownell. Directed by Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori.
Co-produced by Tapestry Opera and Soundstreams, and realised in partnership with Luminato Festival Toronto and Harbourfront Centre
Become a Luminato Member
Luminato’s 2023 membership program connects you to all these unforgettable moments across the city. Members receive discounted tickets, access to members-only events, and many more perks. Join today for only $50 to support and enjoy the best of Luminato.
Luminato Festival Toronto 2023 Supporters
Founding Government Partner Province of Ontario
Major Partners Government of Canada, City of Toronto
Corporate Partners Rogers Communications, TD Bank Group, BMO, OLG, CIBC, Power Corporation of Canada, Downtown Yonge BIA, Brookfield Properties, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Individual Donors and Foundations Anonymous, Donald K. Johnson OC LLD, Ian and Kiki Delaney, C.M., The Slaight Family Foundation, Joan and Jerry Lozinski, Sandra and Jim Pitblado, C.M., Mohammad and Najla Al Zaibak, The Rossy Foundation, Gretchen and Donald Ross, O.C., Nancy Pencer, Cheryl and Rob McEwen, C.M., Hal Jackman Foundation, Lucille and Urban Joseph O.C., John and Leanna Bayliss, The George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, The Azrieli Foundation, Anthony and Helen Graham, Eva Czigler and Peter Herrndorf C.C. O.Ont, Tony and Lina Gagliano, Tiana Koffler-Boyman and Marc Boyman, Kevin and Roger Garland, C.M., The McLean Foundation and many more generous supporters.
Government Partners Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund
Media Partners Branded Cities, OUTFRONT Canada, Pattison Outdoor, St. Joseph Communications, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star