Prima Donna A Symphonic Visual Concert, and Rufus Does Judy Highlights from the Carnegie Hall Concerts. Adelaide Festival. Rufus Wainwright. Festival Theatre. 18 Mar 2017
This one night-only show - an Australian premiere and exclusive to Adelaide - is a double bill comprising edited versions of two of Wainwright's creations. His opera, Prima Donna, opened during the Manchester International Festival in 2009, and in 2015, he converted the opera into an oratorio of its highlights, keeping the narrative and augmenting the music and libretto with a silent film directed by Francesco Vezzoli. This is called Prima Donna A Symphonic Visual Concert. Also, Wainwright recreates Judy Garland's comeback concert of June 1961 at Carnegie Hall, in 2006, and in the second half of the Adelaide show, he sings about sixteen American pop and jazz standards from his Garland show. So if you came to hear Rufus sing, he sings only in the second half and nearly all of it is channeling Garland.
There are plenty of critical words on the internet about the opera but I enjoyed it very much. His score - accused of being a pastiche of the greats - is indeed changeable but has a driving foreboding or ominous tone that invites anxiety and concern for the diva. Co-authored with Bernadette Colomine, diva Régine Saint Laurent attempts to resuscitate her career while in the grips of an interest in journalist Andre Létourneur, who will leave her coldly. Jacqueline Dark sings beautifully and has great emotional import. Andrew Goodwin shows Andre to be a perfect cad, while Eva Kong provides stunning soprano support as the diva's maid. The movie harkened to a parallel story as it features photos of Maria Callas and a very Maria Callas-looking Cindy Sherman. Of course, Callas was dumped by Aristotle Onassis when he began dating Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Judy show has punch. Honouring Garland by wearing a ruby red sequined tuxedo jacket with tails, Wainwright demonstrates a phenomenal vocal power similar to what most of us have only heard in Garland recordings. He goes through the songs pretty fast, wearing himself out, with little to enlighten us about Judy or the famous Carnegie concert, and never imitating her. He remains Rufus Wainwright, a rather amiably nice guy at the height of his career.
As Wainwright is not a frequent visitor to Adelaide, this double bill is an excellent way to sample a broad swathe of his talent and is a great night of mixed musical styles.
When: 18 Mar
Where: Festival Theatre