Rufus Wainwright’s New Opera: Everyone’s A Critic

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A scene from "Prima Donna." credit: New York Times
A scene from Wainright's "Prima Donna." credit: New York Times

In early May, Rufus Wainwright announced that the Manchester International Festival had commissioned him to write his first opera, “Prima Donna.” Wainwright, who composed and arranged the music, also wrote the opera, a story of a Parisian opera singer who’s fame is waning. Wainwright has stated that his love for opera has saved his life on more than one occasion.

“Prima Donna” tells the story of Madame Saint Laurent, (performed by soprano Janis Kelly), a once-great opera singer who has not performed in six years; Rebecca Bottone and Jonathan Summers play Madame’s maid and butler, and William Joynor plays an inquisitive journalist. The opera is directed by Daniel Kramer, conducted by Pierre-André Valade and designed by Antony McDonald.

“Prima Donna” opened on Friday night at the Palace Theater in Manchester, England to reviews that can best be described as intrigued, but not entirely impressed. In the opera’s defense, The Guardian writes that, “the first thing to point out is that this is no mere rock star’s vanity project.” However, The New York Times’ reviewer seemed confused by the whole drama, saying “But in an opera of some two and a half hours the extended passages in sundry styles make you wonder what is going on. Is it ironic? Cavalier? Intentionally maudlin?”

If you happen to be in England and want to join the confused reviewers, “Prima Donna” has two scheduled performances left: Friday, and Sunday.


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