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It seems to be all Rufus, all the time leading up to the première of Prima Donna on Friday Night (I’ve already taken note of things I anticipate will annoy me in press coverage of the event here.)
Last night BBC1 aired a documentary about Wainwright and his new composition, combining a quite thorough profile of his life and career thus far with some great footage of early Opera North rehearsals for the upcoming show.
A highlight was an interview with Renée Fleming, who was very complimentary towards Wainwright’s music and spoke out against the way opera is increasingly becoming a museum art form.
Wainwright spoke passionately about opera “his religion and saving grace”, and shared some hilarious videos of himself as a teenager acting out his favourite operas with his cousins. In Tosca he played Scarpia and swept about narrating in an impeccable pantomime villain voice.
If you want to see an example of Rufus’ love of opera, google his video “April fools” (It’s not on youtube at the moment for some copyright reason or another). It’s just one of his pop songs, but in the clip he gallivants around with several doomed opera herones, including Tosca, Cio-Cio San from Madama Butterfly and Mimi from La Boheme.
The program suffered from some of the usual hyperbole “…we follow Rufus as he takes on his biggest challenge yet. Creating from scratch a new opera” (as opposed to all those old operas he’s composed by running together advertising jingles), and excessive focus on his personal life and struggles with drug addiction.
As I’ll be reviewing Prima Donna on the weekend I might as explain how I came to be a fan of Rufus (the story of why I’m a fan of opera is a longer story that will have to wait for another day).
It starts with Bowie. All good stories begin with David Bowie. I was at a music shop and picked up a copy of Wainwright’s fourth album, Want Two, thinking it was David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World. They do look pretty similar:
I eventually realised that it wasn’t some new release of Bowie, but bought the CD anyway and was very impressed by Rufus’ melodic, instrumental style. I saw him play in Sydney early last year and was blown away by his performance on stage.
Now I’m not claiming that Rufus is going to win the prize for young-ish-musician-sort-of-like-Bowie (because I’ve already handed that prize out to someone who shares his interest in electronic music) but I think Rufus and Bowie have a similarly theatrical performance persona.
I’m not jumping to any conclusions about what sort of composer Wainwright will be. I realise Prima Donna might not be any good. At very least he seems to be passionate enough about the form to give it a really good shot – non-traditional composers have done opera really well before.
But I love new music, and can’t wait to get to Manchester and have a look.
…And not just about developments in naked opera.
I wrote this article while I was traveling around the US at the beginning of last year. It was published in Sydney University’s student paper in March, despite the slightly haughty over-explanation of basic issues in US politics.
Can’t wait till ’08:
[Between Castles] looks toward the next US Presidential election.
The landslide victory of the Democrats in the midterm elections late last year signalled not only a shift in public attitude towards George W Bush and the war in Iraq, but also a dramatic change in the distribution of political power in the US. While the next presidential election is almost two years away, strategists in Washington are already turning their attention to what effect this change in political climate might have on the next big race.
I arrived in the US in early February this year, on the eve of Barack Obama’s announcement of his contention for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The next day thousands of supporters gathered for his address at the old state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, where President Lincoln had delivered his famous “house divided” speech almost a hundred and fifty years before.