Audiences in England have already had the fortune to experience Rufus Waignwright’s debut opera, Prima Donna in its full glory. Last night, at the World Financial Center, fans in New York got to catch a glimpse of what it will be like to see the show when it opens here next year. Wainwright, together the New York City Opera performed a concert of songs, which included both opera pieces and favourites from the beloved idiosyncratic singer.
It was my first time seeing him in a show, and I was delighted when Rufus walked onto stage in a unique tux – one with shorts where the trousers would usually be. Hundreds of people packed the Winter Garden of the WFO for this event, which is part of the River to River Festival, and there was literally no space left.
“I get so nervous in front of opera singers,” he said, laughing a little. But of course Rufus had no reason to be, as his magnificent voice filled the atrium, and even birds that had flown inside starting singing along. Together with a handful of performers from the New York City Opera, he presented a selection of his favourite pieces – both his own compositions and those opera works he love most.
With memories of his mother ever near, Rufus described how his love of opera started and how it’s blossomed into his own full production. He performed two excerpts from Prima Donna, ‘Dans mon pays de Picardie’, sung exquisitely by Anne-Carolyn Bird, and ‘Les feux d’artifice’, which he himself sang. Aside from opening with ‘Damned Ladies’, he also performed his own compositions ‘Who Are You New York?’ (which I have had on constant rotation lately) and ‘Vibrate’, telling us along along the way that he loves his pop with a bit of opera and a Tiffany vibe mixed in!