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Posts tagged 'Manchester International Festival'

Rufus Wainwright's "Prima Donna" on Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon has released the debut recording of Grammy-award winning songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright's premiere opera, Prima Donna. The album features soprano Janis Kelly, who originated the title role at the opera's premiere at the Manchester International Festival. Praised as a “singing actress of near genius” (Sunday Times), Kelly’s experience with operatic repertoire of the past and present is fitting for Wainwright’s operatic ambition and ideals.

Prima Donna tells the story of an opera singer at the end of her celebrated career as she reminisces and muses about what may come afterward. Wainwright explains that for years he had been searching for a suitable story:

[One] that wasn't a saga involving a chorus and insane costumes... [Suddenly] a story fell into my lap, after watching an interview with Maria Callas. The opera is not about her, but it is about the persona of an opera star; it is a day in the life of an opera singer...the subtle shifts of a woman's heart; the grave consequences of little actions...


Though Wainwright's inspiration and musical language draws heavily from grand romantic opera, particularly recalling the grandiose elements of stage works by Richard Strauss, his lyrical flair and dramatic pacing is distinctly his own. The recording prominently features lush and energetic playing by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The winds are heard in playful passages as well as soaring lyrical moments, and the flute has a noticeable presence recalling familiar usage in Mozart and Verdi’s operatic works. The writing for the strings is highly effective, with exquisite emotional phrasing and color that enhance the opera's throttling moments and embellish the drama in ways recalling Wagner. The final interlude in Prima Donna is a beautiful melodramatic feast of strings with a striking violin solo that crystalizes the opera's potent emotional elements.

Alongside soprano Janis Kelly, the two-disc release features soprano Kathryn Guthrie, tenor Antonio Figueroa and baritone Richard Morrison with Jayce Ogren leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Copies of the full score as well as the vocal score (for both the full and concert versions of the work) are available from PSNY.

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