Posts Tagged: Rufus Wainwright


Recent additions to the musico-dramatic stage include the eagerly anticipated Moravec-Teachout collaboration The Letter as well as Rufus Wainwright’s Primma Donna [discussed in some detail on this blog already].

Life is so hard for an avid young devourer of high art — I feel a vital need to experience these pieces for myself, yet they are so far away.  I read reviews, but even the reviewers that I trust the most, I trust only so much.  It’s not just opera either — I’m practically tearing my hair out waiting for Los Abrazos Rotos to come out this side of the Atlantic.

Luckily though, there is the internet.  Because of the internet, I can indeed listen to and view scenes from The Letter and so can you.  The authors bill this as an “Opera Noir”.  Hmm… from the scenes on the web site, I’d have to say not quite.  Wouldn’t that be grand though?  My Kingdom for an Opera Noir!!  I had always secretly hoped that Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights would be just that, but after a few days with the score, I think it’s not.

Then there’s Primma Donna, about which I can make no judgement, because there is a distinct lack of media available on the internet.  Ruf — can a brotha get an audio clip up in here??  The only thing I have to go by is this:

My apologies for the embarrasingly long (and grammatically poor) French introduction.  Anyway, based on this, I would say that the opera may be pretty, but there ain’t much there.  Not to mention that it doesn’t sound like Mr. Wainwright is really making use of the full range of the operatic voice in this particular aria.

Now for some Drama much closer to my neck of the woods: Mario Venzago is outta there!  The Indianapolis Symphony dun fired him.  He was supposed to come conduct at my school a bunch this year… I wonder if that’s still on.  I’ve only seen the man conduct once, but admittedly, I was paying more attention to the piece (Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto) than to his conducting thereof.  I stupidly left at the intermission, right before Schumann 4, which I hear is one of his staples.  Whoops.

Ooh, maybe Pedro Almodóvar and Alberto Iglesias will write an Opera Noir.  No… that’s probably asking too much.  Looks like I’ll have to do this one myself.  Perhaps it will be my Reservoir Dogs.

L’Art sur l’art

hour-of-the-wolfRegular readers of this blog (and Italians the world over) will recollect a long-ago post in which I avowed my dislike of Fellini’s “8 1/2”.  I remain unrepentent on that point, but the great thing is that this weekend I saw a film that has much the same style and message, but in my mind is so very much better: Bergman’s “Hour of the Wolf” (“Vargtimmen”).

Here is a movie about the artist’s process, frustrations and, most importantly, insecurities.  I immediately identified with the message of this film, the idea of isolation and the fears that an artist faces on a daily basis.  “8 1/2” simply left me cold, alienated and bored.

Of course, “8 1/2” is actually about a film-maker, whereas in HotW, a painter stands in for Bergman.  No concerns there.  However, this does get me thinking about the immense amount of art that concerns the artistic process, and the particulars a given artistic medium.

My favorite, and possibly the earliest example of a film about film-making has got to be “The Cameraman’s Revenge”, a parable about infidelity among the insects, created by the Polish entomologist Ladislas Starevich:

TV about TV goes back to at least the Jack Benny Program, and up through Seinfeld, and to a new favorite of mine, Extras. Painting about painting, well isn’t that kind of what the 20th century was about?  Examples of writing about writing are too numerous to mention.  Ballet about ballet?  Well, I have no idea, but I have a sneaking suspicion that much of Tchaikovsky’s music is Music about Ballet.

And then of course, there’s music about music.  Here, I immediately think of Stravinsky, who said, and I quote:

In general, I consider that music is only able to solve musical problems; and nothing else, neither the literary nor the picturesque, can be in music of any real interest. The play of the musical elements is the thing.

Well put, Igor.  Or, even better put:

This is actually the main reason why I find myself so interested in Rufus Wainwright’s new opera, Prima Donna, despite all of the nasty gossip about it — it’s subject is opera about opera.  How many of those do we have, really?  Tosca, I suppose, and… I can’t really think of any others (though there must be some).  There’s opera about singers (Meistersinger, et al…) but I can’t really think of any opera about opera, though I have a sneaking suspicion it’s the only trail left for new opera.

[And Mary Zimmerman’s bogus staging of “La Sonnambula” at the Met does not count, but it does perhaps indicate that the opera world is crying out for some new repertoire that would cover these issues, but they just don’t know how to get it.]

Of course, the list of backstage musicals goes on and on and on, from Kiss Me, Kate to A Chorus Line.  Oh, speaking of which, I saw this great movie yesterday, all about the casting of the 2005 revival of A Chorus Line: Every Little Step.  There’s a film about auditioning for a musical that is about auditioning for a musical.  It’s so meta that my head is schpinning.

New Website

Don’t you just LOVE my glamorous new web site?  It combines the things that I love most: me, my music, and gold (see the background).  My really good friend and righteous composer Stephanie Smith designed the hell out of this thing.  Kudos and thanks!

Getting the content ready for this site, I’ve been out of the blogging game for like a week.  Just a few things:

1) Closure to the Paavo Järvi debâcle.

2) More gossip about the Rufus Wainwright opera.  Burrrn.  My hopes are still high though!

3) Liberace: The Musical.

And finally, there are shows on YouTube now.  Great idea, but boy, so many issues.  For one, could somebody please TURN THE VOLUME UP??  I’ve got my speakers as high as they will go, and I can still hardly hear the Jack Benny Program.  Do they know who their audience is for that show?  It’s people who need it a little louder.

Also, isn’t it so disappointing when you see shows from your childhood that you adored and it turns out they really, really suck?  Case in point: ALF.  I guess I shouldn’t really admit that I ever liked it, but I definitely remember thinking it was just swell.  I really hope that they don’t put up “Small Wonder” and “Mr. Belvedere”, because I have a feeling I might be crushed.

Ok, this is the LAST thing, but I also watched an episode of He-Man.  When I was 4, He-Man was basically the beginning and end of my world.  Despite that, I had really forgotten even the most basic elements of the show and I must say that on review I am confused.  And I mean confused.  It’s amazing what slips by you when you’re a kid.


How often do we get two (2) legitimate items of gossip from the world of classical music?

1) Paavo Järvi, of the Estonian dynasty, charged with DUI.

2) Rufus Wainwright’s opera REJECTED! (Actually, from the description, I’m really looking forward to it.)