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Against the Grain Theatre Presents Messiah/Complex

November 9, 2020

Messiah/Complex, a new partnership with Against the Grain Theatre

A Daring Reimagining of Handel’s Enduring Classic Featuring Voices from Every Province and Territory in Canada Accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

TORONTO—premiering this December, the multi-award-winning innovative team at Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is proud to present a bold interpretation of Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by and in partnership with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), and co-directed by Joel Ivany, the Founding Artistic Director of AtG, Reneltta Arluk, Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Messiah/Complex will premiere online on December 13, 2020 on AtG TV.

The innovative, seventy-minute filmed performance of Messiah/Complex will showcase multilingual translations, and feature a diverse cast of soloists and choirs representing every province and territory across Canada, accompanied by the exceptional musicians of the TSO and conducted by Johannes Debus (Canadian Opera Company).

“In response to COVID-19 restrictions, AtG has pivoted, recognizing a valuable opportunity to work alongside incredible artists and organizations across our country,” says AtG’s Joel Ivany, on the genesis of Messiah/Complex. “To support, employ, and collaborate with artists from coast to coast on this unifying project has given us hope—something we all seem to need in this fragile moment.”

“We are very pleased to partner with Against the Grain to produce what I believe will be a meaningful and inspired Messiah. We share a belief that a new lens is required for so much of what we do as arts organizations, and this project is an example of our commitment to including diverse voices in our art form,” says Matthew Loden, CEO of the TSO.

(Left: Co-Director Reneltta Arluk, singers Leela Gilday and Julie Lumsden)

Ivany is proud to co-direct Messiah/Complex with visionary theatre-maker and Director of Banff Centre’s Indigenous Arts, Reneltta Arluk—who has provided guidance on creating a safe space for Indigenous artists, including the freedom for the artists to interpret this music in ways that are relevant to their lived experiences and stories.

“How can we sing, act, write, speak, create art with one another in ways that allow for full, uncompromising voices to be heard? By having the courage and vulnerability to trust that what we feel and hear will help us grow to be a better community and ultimately a better country,” Arluk says. “Creating a safe space for leading Indigenous voices to be heard is the reason I do this work.” says Arluk.

AtG has commissioned new translations into multiple languages of Messiah’s standard English text, allowing artists to perform and sing in Dene, Inuktitut, Southern Tutchone, Arabic and French.

“Our work reimagines this standard oratorio by illuminating the diversity of artists across what we now call Canada,” says Deantha Edmunds, a Messiah/Complex featured soloist from Newfoundland and Labrador. ”It is a joy to sing one of my favourite Handel arias in Inuktitut, as translated by a respected Elder and teacher in Nunatsiavut.”

Messiah/Complex features an array of superb Canadian voices, including: Jonathon Adams (AB), Looee Arreak (NU), Spencer Britten (BC), Rihab Chaieb (QC), Deantha Edmunds (NL), Leela Gilday (NT), Miriam Khalil (ON), Andrea Lett (SK), Diyet van Lieshout (YT), Julie Lumsden (MB) and Elliot Madore (ON); featured choirs include Le Choeur Louisbourg (NB), the Halifax Camerata Singers (NS), the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (ON), and the University of Prince Edward Island Chamber Chorus (PEI).

(Left: Deantha Edmunds, Diyet van Lieshout, and Looee Arreak)

“Handel’s music speaks so deeply, so clearly, and so profoundly, to so many,” says conductor Johannes Debus, on the relevance of AtG’s Messiah/Complex during this holiday season. “There is something in Handel’s music that, especially in these times that are so very trying, has this comforting, optimistic, and supportive quality.”

Fusing diverse traditions and voices from every province and territory in Canada with one of the most enduring classical works of all time, Messiah/Complex is one way for AtG to share the stories of these incredible Canadian artists—and to celebrate the varied and beautiful places that they call home—with audiences across our nation, and beyond, this holiday season.

Please join us online December 13th, for this powerful new interpretation of a beloved holiday classic.

When, Where and How to Watch:

AtG’s Messiah/Complex premieres on December 13, 8pm EST, with a live watch party and will be available On Demand until December 26, 2020.

Register to view the performance.

About AtG

Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is an award-winning Canadian opera company committed to revitalizing the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways. With a mandate to create and introduce audiences to outside-the-box opera experiences, AtG performs fresh, daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire to create thrilling, intimate, unforgettable experiences shared between artists and audiences.

For more information, please visit AtG online at, on Twitter and Instagram @AtGTheatre, and on Facebook at

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