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AtG is a Canadian opera company. an opera and vocal works innovator. genre-defying. boundary-breaking.

Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is a multi-award-winning Canadian experimental opera company dedicated to creating boundary-breaking, genre-defying vocal works and films staged in surprising locations emphasizing innovative storytelling and memorable artistic experiences. AtG is the creator of the internationally acclaimed film Messiah/Complex and the ongoing Opera Pub series. 

Established in 2010 and still evolving, AtG is committed to revitalizing the operatic art form by introducing diverse audiences to outside-the-box opera experiences, creating daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire, and offering thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experiences shared between artists and audiences.

AtG Legacy Highlights:
An Evolving Operatic Experiment

Opera in Unexpected Places

A feisty little opera crew based in Toronto launches An Unexpected Evening of Shakespeare at Toronto’s Heliconian Hall, and a new Canadian opera company is born. Over the next five years, Against the Grain Theatre stages contemporary reinterpretations of classical operas in art galleries, warehouses, yoga studios, clubs, parks and forests — no space is off-limits for opera to be seen and heard.  

Opera Pub 

Fun and casual, pitchers of beer and arias collide at the Banff Legion bar, where new and seasoned singers sporting jeans and t-shirts lean on an old piano and belt out the classics for opera lovers, curious souls and barflies. Opera Pub is born and evolves into a once-a-month chance to hear your favourite opera tunes — with zero pretension or high ticket prices — at your local bar in Banff, Toronto, then Edmonton and Vancouver. Who knows where we’ll be next!

Collaborations & Partnerships

AtG Theatre is always making new friends, and continues to partner with opera-forward creators, venues, organizations and institutions to amplify new voices and ground-breaking productions, building a proud legacy of collaboration, which includes working alongside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, CBC Arts, Crow’s Theatre, Opera InReach, Opera Columbus, Art of Time Ensemble, and Edmonton Operaall to help inspire and connect with diverse audiences across Canada and beyond.

Creative + Technological Innovation

AtG is always pushing the boundaries of how opera is perceived and staged: adding a global, virtual chorus and the crunch of electric guitar in the Dora-winning Orphée⁺; pairing a classical orchestra paired with a contemporary Indigenous interpretation of a Handel composition in the JUNO-nominated Messiah/Complex; reimagining La Bohème for a national tour of bars and clubs across the country; or beaming out the first professional livestream of an opera in Canada.

Pivot to Film = Global Audiences

During the early-COVID era, AtG adapted and transformed Handel’s Messiah into a feature film showcasing dozens of singers across Canada performing in outdoor spaces. Messiah/Complex was offered free online to audiences enduring lockdowns around the world, and the performance-film became a global phenomenon with over 140,000 viewers from over 40 countries, earning international media attention from: the BBC, Radio France, NY Public Radio’s New Sounds, and the NYTimes, which hailed the film as “A Messiah for the Multitudes, Freed from History’s Bonds.” AtG continues to create contemporary, experimental cinematic operatic works, including Sāvitri, Requiem, BOUND, and Identity: A Song Cycle.

AtG in the News

From local to global reviews and coverage, AtG is thankful to the dozens of media organizations, journalists, critics and writers who have shined a light on our experimental productions, from OperaGOTO, Schmopera, Ludwig van Toronto, and Opera Canada, to the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Now Magazine, Toronto Life, CBC, Maclean’s, The Walrus, Chatelaine, Opera Wire, Broadway World, The NY Times and the BBC. This generous attention from the media has meant that AtG and its artists have been able to connect with a growing number of audiences and communities across Canada and in dozens of countries across the world: every article, interview, review and shout-out helps: Thank you. 

Recognition & Awards

Since its first year of eligibility for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, AtG has been humbled to receive 32 nominations and earned awards in multiple categories for productions, including Messiah, Kopernikus, Bluebeard’s Castle, and Orphée. AtG Records has also produced two JUNO-nominated albums: Ayre Live and Messiah/Complex— also shortlisted for the prestigious international Golden Prague Festival Awards. And for his work as Artistic Director of Against the Grain Theatre, Joel Ivany was included in The Globe and Mail’s prestigious Canadian Arts Heroes of 2020.  

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