’Prima! Judy! Rufus!’ Wainwright ’Hearts’ Divas

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Apr 19, 2013

Rufus Wainwright returns to Philly with Prima! Judy! Rufus! at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. The singer recreates the Judy Garland's legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall shows, which fits into the festival 'time-traveling' meme.

Speaking of time, Wainwright is always game to give us 15 minutes of his time whatever he is doing, so we caught up with him at his hotel in Minneapolis where he was on tour performing songs from his new CD "Out of the Game." On the second ring he answered, "I'm up, I'm winding down the current tour," he said, sounding a little bed-headed. "I went out with a full band with this tour it was rather a big production so, I have to go out and make some money. So I'm getting ready to tour solo, except for the Philly show, which is with the Chamber Orchestra (of Philadelphia) which is very exciting."

Wainwright was looking forward to recreating Garland's triumphant Carnegie Hall on the night of April 23, 1961, which was recorded by Capital Records and became an enormous hit, initiating another Garland's comeback.

"For me I'm always traveling through time with my music. I've never, ever drawn a distinction about what's viable today and what was relevant before, as long as it's good, I wanna do it. If anything it's about breaking trends for me," Wainwright said. The singer's foray into the Garland song catalogue was a risk worth taking, his show was a hit in London and New York four years ago.


Wainwright explains that the first half of "P!J!R!" will be scenes from his opera "Prima Donna," which is about an aging opera singer preparing to return to the stage." He will be joined by sopranos Melody Moore and Kathryn Guthrie. "They are performing sections that we did at Covent Garden, we are going to do it this summer in Spain at the Royal Opera House there."

Even though response to the opera has been officially mixed, Wainwright isn’t daunted at all. "I’m very happy about it. It did well in London, New York, Canada, and there is talk of other productions in other cities and recording on the horizon. I also know that it’s only after your third or fourth opera that you really know what you are doing. So it a long process, but in terms of cracking into that field," he said, adding that he has loved the form most of his life.

"It started when I hit puberty. A bizarre time, late ’80s, realizing I was gay and in the news AIDS was raging, so it was such a dark period for me. Somehow opera spoke to me on many levels. And really expressed the tragedies that were all around. I just stuck with it."


Nor could this interest be traced to his famous parents, Loudon Wainwright and the late Kate McGarrigle, who were in the 70s folk-singer-songwriter mold. "My parents weren’t huge opera fans. My mother liked tenors~ Luciano Pavarotti and people like that . My father hates opera, so it was more my thing."

Wainwright, very present during the Prop 8 activism in 2008, addressed marriage equality. "I think the cat’s out of the bag and yes there’s going to be steps backward here and there. But, there is no way to really kill love, love that’s real. I’m very optimistic."

Speaking of love, he married German arts administrator Jörn Weisbrodt, last year, in New York. The guest list included Alan Cumming, Julianne Moore, Yoko Ono and Lou Reed.

Both travel extensively and are often apart for long stretches, " In August we are spending time together. But he travels a lot for his job too and we cross paths and make it work that way so yes even when we don’t have a ton of time those moments are usually in places like Paris or Rome."

Prima! Judy! Rufus! Concert April 21 will be performed in Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA .the Kimmel Center website. For more on Rufus Wainwright’s appearances visit his website.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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