Presented by Rufus Wainwright
Reviewed 19th March 2017
Rufus Wainwright is something of a musical phenomenon, embracing a broad range of talents and outputs. This one-night concert for the Adelaide Festival showcased some of his esoteric skills.
Part one consisted of his chamber-opera Prima Donna. Originally commissioned for the New York Met, a series of disagreements saw it finally debuted at the Manchester International Festival in 2009. It was presented last night as a “symphonic visual concert”. With Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on stage, a photographic-style film by Francesco Vezzoli was projected onto the back wall, whilst the libretto was sung by Jacqueline Dark, Eva Kong and Andrew Goodwin. The ASO, under the baton of Guy Simpson, were outstanding. All three singers gave powerful performances, although Kong was struggling in the upper register. Wainwright has written the libretto in French – not the easiest of languages for song-writing – and very much in grand opera style. The lack of modernity in lyrics was somewhat disappointing. However the beauty of the music, combined with the exquisite visuals of the film, made this a confection worth consuming.
Part two saw Wainwright himself take the stage, to give us highlights of his Rufus Does Judy concert. He presented a truly dazzling display of Garland’s best numbers, based on their original arrangements by such luminaries as Nelson Riddle and Buddy Bregman (who only passed away this January). Wainwright was able to deliver in Judy’s style without turning it into a drag show or a pastiche. He belted out the big numbers such as Come Rain or Come Shine, Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart and Chicago, and pulled it back to her visceral yearning for How Long Has This Been Going On ,Over the Rainbow and The Man That Got Away. He is a singer of outstanding talent and depth, with enormous respect for the music. The ASO went into show-band mode for this part of the night, and again proved that there is little they can’t do, and do at an outstanding level.
There is no doubting Wainwright’s breadth of skill and incredible work-ethic. As a performer and writer, he delivers a quality product. However, no matter his own admirable qualities, like all “success stories” he had enormous good-fortune: his birthplace and time; his schooling; his highly respected, musical birth-family. So a little humility would not have gone astray. The ego displays were uncomfortable and unnecessary.
Despite that, the audience lapped it up, and he owned the stage.
This is the kind of work that Adelaide Festival should be delivering, so kudos to them. However, having a major spelling error on the front-page of the program is not a good look. Oops…
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
One Night Only – Season Ended