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Rufus Wainwright gives L.A. audiences a taste of 'Prima Donna' [updated]

September 13, 2010 | 10:25 am


The Metropolitan Opera reportedly didn't want it. Critics in Britain were mixed about it. Still, Rufus Wainwright seems determined to bring his opera, "Prima Donna," to the masses, if only in bite-sized portions.

At the Hollywood Bowl this weekend, the pop star gave audiences a taste of "Prima Donna" by singing an aria from the opera, which had its world premiere in Manchester last year. The number, titled "Les feux d'artifice t'appellent" ("The fireworks are calling you"), is supposed to be sung by a woman, but Wainwright gave it his best shot, performing alongside the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Wainwright has recently been singing selections from "Prima Donna" in concerts around the world, including one in Long Beach earlier this year. At the Bowl, actual fireworks accompanied his performance, adding a touch of verite to his ultra-stylized stage rendition.

In June, "Prima Donna" had its North American premiere at Toronto's Luminato Festival. The opera tells the story of of Regine Saint Laurent, a fallen opera diva who is contemplating her big career comeback after six years away from the stage. Set during Bastille Day 1970, the opera follows her interactions with a journalist and her servant as she seesaws between emotional extremes.

The opera was supposed to have its big debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but reports at the time stated that the company wanted an English-language opera while Wainwright preferred French.

Wainwright's appearance at the Bowl this weekend was part of a series of concerts given by Pink Martini.

-- David Ng

[Updated 12:12 p.m.: An earlier version of this story said the concert closed out the Bowl's season. In fact concerts there continue through Sept. 30.]

Photo: Rufus Wainwright. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (3)

This "aria" was absolutely the worst thing I've ever heard. It did not fit at all with a Pink Martini concert.

Mr. Wainwright's aria was lovely; it was a shimmering, delicate air with an innovative musical signature as well as clear roots in 19th century opera. The performance was enhanced by the fireworks display. I look forward to hearing more of Prima Donna.

It is a piece of pseudo-operatic crap and, quite fittingly, it was poorly sung too. Just because a man is slightly more musically talented than average pop singers does not mean he should be writing operas.


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