Rufus Wainwright opera headed to UK, Canada
As you have probably heard, Rufus Wainwright, the singer-songwriter with the distinctively moody voice, has written his first opera. It was originally commissioned by the Met, no less. But that intriguing association fell apart early on, ostensibly because the composer insisted on writing the work in French, and the Met wanted it to be in English. The two-acter, titled Prima Donna, will be premiered instead at the Manchester International Festival in England in July. A Toronto performance is set for next year.
The opera tells the tale of Regine Saint Laurent (you've got to love the name), a revered soprano who returns to the stage after a six-year absence.
Last week, members of the press were invited to what was called "a sneak peak" of Prima Donna in New York, consisting of material recorded at the first rehearsal. Astonishingly enough, I was not on the invitation list (even after I went to the grand effort of covering his Carnegie Hall tribute to Judy Garland a few years ago), so I can't provide any first-hand info about that little preview. But I've had a report from a friend of a friend who had friends who heard some of the opera way back before the Met decided to pass on it. That's good enough, isn't it, for today's cyber-standards?
For what it's worth, here's that anonymous report:
I know two people who were in the room for the Met's first read-through of Mr. Wainwright's opera. It was so embarrassingly bad that everyone just looked at their feet. Both parties (the Met & Wainwright) were lucky enough to be able to blame the Met's backout on an issue as neutral as language. Face-saving all around.
Ouch. Of course, initial impressions could be very deceiving. It's going to be very interesting to see how this thing turns out.
BALTIMORE SUN FILE PHOTO