rufus wainwrightRufus Wainwright is a singer/songwriter whose style of music is hard to describe. It’s been called anything from “baroque opera” or “popera,” and “alternative rock,” depending on  how you choose to interpret the various musical elements. Opera has still remained a constant, however, and he recently wrote his first opera, “Prima Donna.”
Currently Wainwright is performing on a small U.S. tour, and The Mirror had a chance to speak with him by phone about his current and future music endeavors, as well as his transition back and forth from music recording to opera.

The Mirror: You recently released “Milwaukee at Last” What was it about that night in Milwaukee that prompted your recording of it to disc?
Rufus Wainwright: Three different elements converged, First, my band had never been better. I had proper backing finally of horns and a great drummer and a great guitar player. Plus my voice was good, I finally knew what I was doing. Secondly, Albert Maysles was going to film it, a great filmmaker. And if you’re gonna work with a great filmmaker you have to do it, if you can. Thirdly, I just love that theater, the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, one of America’s great treasures. All good things come in threes, so that’s what happened.

TM: You also just debuted your first opera, “Prima Donna,” in Manchester, England. What was that like?
RW: It was pretty intense. The thing that’s great and horrifying about classical music is that it’s all about the music. And that can be fantastic in throwing yourself wholeheartedly into the spirituality about what music is and not worrying about videos and publicity and record sales. It’s really just all about the work. But then on the other hand you have an army of critics and fans who are ready to just annihalte anything they don’t feel is up to par. It’s a very intense world and a very intense shift but in the end I think it makes a better musician, so I’m happy I did it.

TM: What was your inspiration for writing an opera?
RW: This opera, Prima Donna, was basically a vision. One day I was watching this documentary about Maria Callas and all of a sudden it occurred to me there’s no real opera about a day in the life of an opera singer. That doesn’t really exist. So I just went with that and this whole story just kind of arrived in my lap the second I thought about it, beginning, middle and end. Which I think is important for any theatrical endeavor. I think it has to come fast and furious and have a life of its own immediately, and that’s sort of what this project had.

TM: Your music has always had this opera influence, which has been described as anything from “baroque pop” to “rock.” How would you yourself describe your musical style?
RW: One of the issues with my career is that nobody has ever been totally able to properly identify what I do, and that certainly has some difficulty in terms of marketing and placing me in the industry. But on the other hand the industry itself has been so doomed and treacherous and falling apart for such a long time that it in a strange way, not being able to know what I do has kind of saved my career. If anything, I would love to be a great American songwriter at one point, and also a great composer. I’m kind of going for what Gershwin did, whatever that was.

TM: What are your plans for the future? Are you planning on continuing with opera or going back to recording music?

RW: I’d like to try another opera, and I’d love to write another musical that I can sing in, ’cause I can’t sing opera really. I’d also love to work on my waistline, like all other 36-year-old men.

TM: You grew up as the son of talented folk musicians, how has that contributed to you now, as a musician?

RW: I’m part of one of the great families of musicians around today, whether it’s Martha, my sister, or Lucy, my other sister, or my mother Kate or my father Loudin. It’s just a whole army of us who are equally brilliant as the next. I’m very honored and privileged to be part of this phenomenon so I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family.

Rufus Wainwright will be performing at The Fairfield Theater Company at the Klein in Bridgeport on Saturday Oct. 8. Tickets start at $32 and are available online through

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