Stage Door News

Toronto: Against the Grain Theatre announces its new opera/film hybrid “BOUND”

Tuesday, February 22, 2022


Four life stories that challenge Canada’s myth of belonging are tied together by themes in Handel’s enduring music, a stellar cast of voices and in association with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Crow’s Theatre.

“How welcoming are we as a country, as a city, as a community?” These questions are posed in the contemporary hybrid opera-film BOUND presented by Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), and from the creators of last year’s internationally acclaimed Messiah/Complex, in association with Crow’s Theatre and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

AtG’s Founding Artistic Director and librettist, Joel Ivany, uses a series of ripped-from-the-headlines interviews with four Canadian citizens from diverse backgrounds who have each had challenging—and remarkably different—journeys finding their place and voice in Canada as the starting point for this new piece. Ivany is joined by Reneltta Arluk (Director of Indigenous Arts, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity) as Co-Director.

BOUND is about the transformational experiences of our four storytellers: Toronto-born Dr. Nadiya Vasdani attended medical school in the Caribbean and did her residency in Flint, Michigan, during the water crisis. Newfoundland and Labrador-born Cindy Rivers found work across the country in the oil patch, but struggled with issues related to her gender identity. Dr. Zulfikar Hirji immigrated to Canada from Uganda in the 1970s as a political refugee only to face the barriers of racism in his new homeland. Rania Younes, meanwhile, had a thriving career in advertising in Kuwait before relocating to Canada, where she tried to break into the industry, with little success. 

These non-fiction narratives undergo their own transformation in the film—shape-shifting from interview segments exploring their lived experiences into melody and song.

These storytellers are represented in the film by musical avatars, including AtG alumni and celebrated Canadian singers, Miriam Khalil (soprano), Andrew Haji (tenor), and Justin Welsh (baritone), and making her AtG and Canadian debut, American trans woman Breanna Sinclairé (Lyric Soprano).

The power and emotion of these vocals propel BOUND, guided by composer Ken Lau’s surprising and creative score. Lau takes inspiration from a medley of George Frideric Handel’s enduring works, utilizing them to fashion an innovative sonic journey, anchored with assurance by the mighty sounds of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nathan Brock.

The musical canvas that Lau has stretched here for the singers and orchestra will have opera fans recognizing a number of segments from Handel’s iconic operas, oratorios, and melodies—but if we were comparing this work, to say, a Baroque painting, what Lau does here is enjoy the freedom to move around his source material, zooming in and out—as if the composer is plucking out pixels from Handel’s music to sample from and riff off—creating something new in the musical journey, and enhanced by the electronic design of Toronto DJ ACOTE (Jeff-Antoine Côté).

Ultimately, the stories represented in BOUND are posing to their audience some very direct and challenging questions that pull at the threads of the cozy, Canadian narrative that we are an accepting nation which celebrates diversity, and welcomes newcomers to our vast and resource-rich lands. While these stories are connected through themes of alienation, adaptation, and transformation, they also offer us unique portraits of resilience, strength, and hope.

BOUND will be streaming from March 27th – April 24th

AtG is proud to Offer BOUND free of charge

As a small arts organization, creating a project such as BOUND requires resources, along with a dedicated team of artists and arts administrators. If you are able, please consider a donation to AtG, so that we can bring more outside-the-box operatic experiences to you, and continue to provide employment opportunities to artists and artisans nationwide.

Thank you so much to our AtG family and audience for your support. We hope you enjoy this production, please register here for your free BOUND ticket.

Register to watch.