Luminato festival's big night at the opera: Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright gets Canadian premiere at Elgin Theatre
Following its world début in Manchester, Luminato co-commissioned opera Prima Donna, by Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright opens at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto tonight.
Today's performance is sold-out, but there are still tickets available for the subsequent three shows.
I'll be reviewing tonight, and, I have to say, it's one of the most high-pressure reviews I've had to face in my five-year stint as music critic at the Star.
My biggest problem is prejudice. Given all the hype over this opera, it's very difficult to me to walk into the Elgin Theatre without a whole lot of preconceptions rattling around in my brain. The biggest is an antipathy toward its creator.
Bravo! TV is airing a 55-minute version of the making-of documentary tonight at 9 p.m. (EDST). The title says it all: Rufus Wainwright: Prima Donna. It's well worth watching, but it didn't help me get over the impression that Wainwright is a supremely self-obsessed person with a hugely inflated sense of who he is, and what the role of the composer is in the collaborative world of classical music and opera.
Over the past five years, my greatest pleasure has come from meeting and talking to singers, conductors, instrumentalists and composers -- the bulk of whom are not only deeply engaged in their personal journeys, but also deeply attuned to the people and dynamics around them.
Absolutely nothing in the world of opera (or music, or theatre, or publishing) happens in isolation. The finished product that we consume has been carefully crafted, often over many years, by many pairs of hands.
Prima Donna, the opera, is no different. Except that Wainwright appears to think that it is all about him. Oh, his poor, tortured soul. Oh, the inability of other people to relate to his vision. Oh, the beauty of putting all of one's personal suffering into song.
Ultimately, I have to put Wainwright aside before tonight's curtain goes up. I have to appreciate the opera as an opera -- a combination of singers (including some mighty fine Canadians), orchestra, conductor and staging, wrapped around a story and a musical arc. The personal stuff will need to get left on the sidewalk.
Here is a pirate video of Wainwright singing the aria "Les feux d'artifice t'appellent" from Prima Donna at a Niagara winery concert last summer: