‘Messiah’ lights Luminato launch

Idle's tuner at center of fest lineup

TORONTO — A new arts festival in Toronto has unveiled its lineup, and Pythonite Eric Idle is front and center.

Luminato, which runs June 1-10, offers eclectic entries in an inaugural outing that will include “Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy),” an oratorio adaptation from the man behind “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”

The C$15 million ($13 million) festival is the creation of two magnates from the local media scene: David Pecault of the Boston Consulting Group and Tony Gagliano from St. Joseph Communications. They first conceived of Luminato in 2003, when the city was at a low point due to the SARS epidemic.

The recent explosion of local cultural architectural activity involving the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts and the revitalized Royal Ontario Museum (with a gala reopening that is scheduled to coincide with Luminato) provided a focal point for the event.

“The city is the canvas,” said Pecault. “And (Luminato) is the paint.”

Fest organizers tapped Janice Price to be CEO, a veteran of the culture wars at the Stratford Festival, Lincoln Center and, most recently, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, from which she ankled to take the Toronto gig.

“I’m positive we’re going to be able to program something that will be of interest to everyone,” Price says.

Given the success of “Spamalot” on Broadway, the most high-profile of the 90 events scheduled for Luminato is arguably the world preem of Idle’s “Messiah,” a new comic oratorio loosely based on the 1979 Python film “Life of Brian.”

Another item with marquee recognition is the pairing of composer Phillip Glass with Canadian icon Leonard Cohen to create a piece called “Book of Longing.”

The famed Danza Cuba company of Havana has been adopted by Toronto’s Mirvish Prods. The company is working closely with the troupe to create “Vida!,” which will premiere during Luminato.

Filmmaker Atom Egoyan will join with Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman for an exhibition called “Auroras/Testimony.”

Large-scale celebrations include a Mardi Gras-type affair called “Carnivalissima!”; an all-star opera gala titled “Luna”; the Muhtadi Intl. Drumming Festival; and the Spiegeltent, a 1920s cabaret to house everything from showgirls to acrobats.

Another large outdoor installation is “Summer of Love,” an attempt to re-create the atmosphere of Toronto’s Yorkville during 1967, when Joni Mitchell and other music stars made it the hip heart of the East Coast scene.

Most of Luminato’s events will be free, with Price and her cohorts angling for corporate and government donations to pick up the slack. So far, private donors have contributed $3 million and the province of Ontario is in for $2 million.

Price addressed one other concern when she firmly stated: “This is absolutely not a one-time-only event. We intend to be around for many years.”

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