This week in Toronto: The city shows Glenn Gould Prize winner Jessye Norman some love | The Star
- Jessye Norman
Opera great Jessye Norman is being honoured in Toronto ahead of receiving the Glenn Gould Prize on Feb. 20.
Watch this if: You want to immerse yourself in events surrounding the renowned American opera singer.
Norman won the 12th Glenn Gould Prize and the city is celebrating appropriately in the lead-up to the gala ceremony at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Feb. 20. The lineup of events begins Monday with a TIFF screening series, including a 4K restoration of 1951 opera movie The Tales of Hoffmann, the Albert Maysles documentary Jessye Norman Sings Carmen, the Julie Taymor-directed Oedipus Rex, featuring Norman, and a ticketed conversation between Norman and Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef. It continues with a free master class Friday led by Norman at U of T that’s open to the public, followed by a sold-out symposium on Black opera Saturday at the Toronto Reference Library. (TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 6:30 p.m., and other locations)
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- Sharon Van Etten
Watch this if: Sonic cousins Cat Power, Feist and now even Portishead get your antenna up.
Longtime fans might be a bit put off, but they can’t say they weren’t warned: since her acoustic folk beginnings a decade ago Van Etten has been amping it up by degrees. Her latest, Remind Me Tomorrow, adds darkening layers of synthesizer and drumbeats to her usual brand of bracing confessionals. It’s a shift most informed by motherhood, with her young son the subject of stirring album finale “Stay.” There are few keener observers of broken relationships and “time’s wing’d chariot” and in this, her biggest venue yet, those fans have kept the faith, selling the place out. (Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., doors 7 p.m.)
- Deep Listening
Watch this if: You complain about people’s lack of listening skills.
Musicians rehearse Deep Listening, a performance of Pauline Oliveros’ 1970 orchestration To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation. (PUBLIC RECORDINGS)
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We’re in a very divided time, politically and socially, and we’re ready to opine about the fact that no one listens across the divide anymore. But listening takes work, as Public Recordings and the Music Gallery are exploring with Deep Listening, a public performance of Pauline Oliveros’ 1970 orchestration To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation. That performance Sunday in Toronto City Hall’s council chambers is already sold out, but the public (musicians and nonmusicians) are invited to attend three rehearsals to learn it themselves, the first of which is Tuesday. (Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E., 3 p.m., also Wednesday, 6 p.m., at U of T’s Walter Hall and Thursday, noon, at OCAD University’s Great Hall)
- Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story at the Toronto Black Film Festival
Watch this if: Seeing movies is how you want to mark Black History Month.
A scene from Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story, screening as part of the Toronto Black Film Festival. (COURTESY TORONTO BLACK FILM FESTIVAL)
The Toronto Black Film Festival launches its seventh annual program with a drama about a true-life tragedy in South Africa. Making its Canadian premiere at the fest, Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story delves into the troubled relationship between the title character and the drug-addicted son she murdered in 2007. Thankfully, not everything in the lineup makes for such wrenching viewing. Other highlights of the slate of over 70 films from 26 countries are the inspirational sports drama Sprinter and the family fantasy flick Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. Performances, talks and other events keep fest-goers busy between screenings at a variety of venues. (Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., 8 p.m., festival on until Feb. 18)
- Ashley with a Y
Watch this if: You want a moving cabaret with a very unique edge.
Ashley Botting stars in the improv cabaret Ashley With a Y at Bad Dog Theatre. (DAVID LEYES)
The thrill of improv is that nothing is planned; the danger of improv is that nothing is planned. But in the best case scenario for audiences, the thrill is mixed with the confidence that you’re in the best of hands. Ashley Botting is one of the most reliably funny, structured and engaging unscripted performers in Toronto, so feel assured that if anyone can pull off an improvised personal cabaret it’s her. Her show, Ashley with a Y, sold out at last year’s Fringe Festival and was NOW Magazine’s favourite comedy show of 2018, and it returns to Bad Dog Theatre for a very limited engagement. (Bad Dog Theatre, 875 Bloor St. W., 8 p.m., on until Feb. 16)
Watch this if: You’re open to a Valentine’s week reminder that love sometimes hurts.
Lorena Gallo, formerly Lorena Bobbitt, elaborates on why she cut off her husband’s penis in the documentary series Lorena. (HEATHER STEN)
If you were sentient in 1993 you should remember Lorena Bobbitt, the woman who became famous for cutting off her husband’s penis. This documentary series, which has Get Out director Jordan Peele on board as a producer and debuted at the just completed Sundance Film Festival, doesn’t just rehash Lorena’s criminal trial and the media circus that surrounded it. As the name would suggest it gives exposure to her side of the story: that years of spousal abuse prompted her to wield the knife, although ex-husband John Wayne Bobbitt gets his say, too. (Amazon Prime Video at midnight)
— Debra Yeo
- The Umbrella Academy
Watch this if: You’re into buzzy new shows with Canadian connections.
Aidan Gallagher, Ellen Page, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper and David Castaneda in The Umbrella Academy. (Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix)
This shot-in-Toronto series isn’t your standard superhero show. In fact, not all of its main characters — seven children born in bizarre circumstances and adopted by a cold and exacting billionaire (veteran Canadian-American actor Colm Feore) who trains them to save the world — appear to even have superpowers. Adapted from the Dark Horse comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, the show is also a dysfunctional family drama with action and mystery elements thrown in for good measure. Canadian Oscar nominee Ellen Page stars as No. 7, a.k.a. Vanya, and Canadian Steve Blackman (Fargo, Legion) created it for television. (Netflix at midnight)
- Walk Off the Earth
Watch this for: Music that’s clever as ever, but with a downbeat note.
Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, left, will undoubtedly be on the minds of Walk Off the Earth when they play the Sony Centre on their first tour since Taylor’s death. (ANDREA HUNTER)
In the seven years since their all-for-one-guitar breakthrough covering Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” the Burlington group has gone from viral novelty to Juno-winning juggernaut. Covers are still a part of their fabric, but they’ve added originals to the set list and built from strength to strength, still inventive (and goofy) after all these years. This latest sold-out appearance figures to be leavened by a lump in the throat: commemoration will be on the minds of band and audience on the first tour since keyboardist Mike Taylor’s untimely death Dec. 29. (Sony Centre, 1 Front St. E., 8 p.m.)
- TIFF Next Wave Movie Marathon
Watch this if: You’re young enough to watch five great movies in a row without needing a nap.
TIFF Bell Lightbox turns into the city’s coolest teenage hangout for Next Wave, a program of films and events for viewers aged 14 to 18. Among the many movies on deck are the five-pack of faves that comprise the fest’s traditional movie marathon. This year’s remarkably varied lineup combines two ’90s teen-film essentials — 10 Things I Hate About You and But I’m a Cheerleader — with Taika Waititi’s deeply lovable Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic Princess Mononoke and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s dreamy Millennium Mambo. Even cooler news: tickets are free for patrons up to 25, which seems a little geriatric in relative terms. (TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 12:30 p.m., festival opens Friday and continues to Sunday)