Rufus Wainwright’s House Rules

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Published July 26, 2011

 

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT. PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTHIAS CLAMER

“Thank God we didn’t do the masks,” Rufus Wainwright said backstage in London on Saturday night. “That would have been so wrong.”

Hardly. For an artist who flits so effortlessly from pop to jazz to folk to opera that multitalented scarcely seems a strong enough word—ambidextrous, maybe?—anything seems to go, and everything seems to work. During his five shows as resident artist in the city’s legendary Royal Opera House, Wainwright was on a mission to conquer it all. The first solo artist to be given free range for a five-night residency at the red-velvet-trimmed venue, the singer created four distinct sets. They included two reprisals of his 2006 tribute to Judy Garland’s famed 1962 concert at Carnegie Hall; nights with sister, Martha Wainwright, and father, Loudon Wainwright III; and, finally, a concert version of his opera Prima Donna and a variety show of Wainwright’s songs.  “[This] will certainly go down as some kind of Olympian triumph, at least to my fans,” he said. “I feel a bit like an exhausted octopus. It was an incredible experience.”

The lineup for Saturday’s finale show? Refreshed numbers from way back in the artist’s collection, like the private-school ode “Milbrook,” alongside selected Berlioz compositions (yes, that Berlioz) and an Irish folk song performed alongside Prima Donna star Janis Kelly. The night closed out with a particularly poignant debut of “Candles,” a song Wainwright had written about his recently passed mother Kate McGarrigle, but dedicated this weekend to Amy Winehouse, who shook the city as well as the artist with her passing just a few hours before Wainwright’s show. “It’s a terrible sad thing of Amy dying today,” Wainwright said. “I think it added a certain tinge to the last evening, which was appropriate.”

“I’ve always gravitated towards opera, and the Royal Opera House is quite possibly the greatest opera house on earth. And now we know it is! I’ve christened it so with my residency,” Wainwright joked. “So come on Met, come on La Scala!” We dare say they’re next.