Blame Canada!

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Next Wednesday, on June 6, Spoleto Festival audiences will see the American premiere of composer and minimalist pioneer Philip Glass’ new music theatre work Book of Longing, which is one of the 2007 festival’s gold-plated gotta-sees. Spoleto loves to premiere new works, which is part of what makes the festival an international presence. But note that we’re getting the American premiere, not the world premiere. The first public performance of Book of Longing actually happens this evening, in Toronto, Canada, at that city’s brand new Luminato Festival, a $12 million effort to burnish Toronto’s arts image.

Tonight’s preview of the work (like Spoleto’s closed preview of The Constant Wife on Thurs. May 24) officially inaugurates the new 10-day performing and visual arts festival, which organizers have openly stated they’re modeling on Spoleto Festival USA. Media are usually locked out of preview performances, since previews are technically regarded as final dress rehearsals, but there should a be a review of Book of Longing available by Saturday, after the official opening.

Interestingly, Shen Wei – whose dance company performs his acclaimed “Connect Transfer” here tonight at the Gaillard – will travel to Toronto after this weekend to present his “Rite of Spring” for Luminato, which the company first performed here four years ago at Spoleto

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2003. One of Luminato’s gold-star events is what it calls “a rare public interview” with Shen Wei following the performance. Listen to my own podcast conversation from yesterday with Shen Wei here.

Luminato seems to making a serious grab for the brass ring with their first event. In addition to a massive lineup of free and ticketed music, dance, opera, theatre, film, and literature that comprises some 100 events across the city, from the Distillery District to the lakefront, the festival boasts a variety of site-specific art installations, lots of lectures and dialogues with artists, an array of 16 state-of-the-art digital personal viewing stations giving attendees access to more than 3,600 films on demand, and no end of what they call “accidental encounters with art.” Tomorrow, they’re even premiering a new work from Spamalot co-creators Eric Idle and John Du Prez called Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy), a comic oratorio inspired by the classic Monty Python film Life of Brian. The work, performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, features Python Idle himself as both soloist and narrator.

Can I skip the second half of Spoleto?

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