Stage Door News
Toronto: The Ashkenaz Festival celebrating Jewish culture runs August 30-September 5
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
The Ashkenaz Festival, North America’s largest celebration of global Jewish music and culture, returns with a full slate of in-person programming in the first live edition of the normally biennial event since 2018. The Ashkenaz Festival is presented Aug. 30 - Sept. 5, 2022 at Harbourfront Centre and venues across Toronto.
This year’s Festival is headlined by the North American premiere of Henekh Kon’s “Bas-Sheve,” the first Yiddish opera ever presented in Canada. “Lost” for nearly a century, and incomplete when initially re-discovered five years ago, the now fully-restored work is based on the controversial biblical story of David and Bathsheba. The concert-style performance features UCLA Philharmonia and soloists from the RCM Glenn Gould School, including Jaclyn Grossman in the titular role, presented at the Glenn Gould Studio, Aug 31 - Sept. 2, 2022.
Another timely and ambitious undertaking for this year’s festival is a supergroup commissioned specially for this occasion to present a program of old and new Jewish folk music from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Klezmer All-Stars will perform songs by the legendary Yiddishist Arkady Gendler (1921-2017) as well as by the contemporary Jewish “songbird” of Ukraine, Zhenya Lopatnik, plus music from the repertoire of the Bessarabian family brass band Konsonans Retro. Featuring a “who’s who” cast of 14 renowned singers and instrumentalists, the group performs Saturday September 3 on Harbourfront’s main Concert Stage.
Also featured during the weekend Harbourfront portion of the Festival is the North American premiere of “Di Letste Nakht Baym Yitesh (The Last Night at Cabaret Yitesh).” This outrageous cabaret/drag/concert/theatrical show was written by New York Times bestselling author and Yiddish expert Michael Wex. It is a tribute to the Yiddish cabaret scene of the 1920s, with an all-star cast of klezmer musicians and actors that includes Sasha Lurje, Daniel Kahn, Shane Baker and Sveta Kundish.
Other highlights of the 2022 Ashkenaz Festival include three full days of free programming at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre from September 3-5, celebrating the diversity of Jewish music around the globe. Some highlights include: Ethiopian-Israeli saxophonist Abate Berihun; Persian-American singer and violinist Chloe Pourmorady; American-Jewish bluegrass sensation Nefesh Mountain (who recently debuted at the Grand Ole Opry); Israeli-Ladino dynamo Noam Vezana, and ROMada, a Canadian-Romani supergroup commissioned by Ashkenaz in the summer of 2021.
Fresh off a recent performance with Vulfpeck’s Jack Stratton, Festival favourite Josh “Socalled” Dolgin also returns to Ashkenaz, performing a late-night set with his newest boundary-busting project, Gephilte! The group performs funk- and jamband- styled renditions of Yiddish music, animated by ringleader Dolgin’s endlessly entertaining and often provocative antics.
Other can’t-miss events include the festival-opening concert of Women’s Cantorial Music at Temple Sinai in North York on August 30, featuring Cantors Sveta Kundish, Rachel Weston, and Judith Berkson (from Ukraine, UK, and US, respectively). Also not-to-be-missed is the signature “Ashkenaz Parade,” featuring Lemon Bucket Orkestra, and the always explosive “Best of the Fest” finale, taking place on labour day Monday Sept 5, which culminates with over 40 musicians jamming together on Harbourfront’s main concert stage.
In addition to its typically robust offerings in music and theatre, Ashkenaz will also include a full kids/family programming, as well as lectures, panel discussions and literary presentations. Presenters include Canadian author Gary Barwin, as well as NY-based scholar Eddy Portnoy, who will offer a series of three lectures, including “Am Yisrael High: The Story of Jews and Cannabis,” based on a recent exhibition he curated for the YIVO Institute.
In total, the Ashkenaz Festival will include approximately 50 events at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and other venues in the city.
For more information and ticketing details, visit: ashkenaz.ca.