Wainwright opera explores domain of the diva

Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:16am EDT
 
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By Andrew Dobbie

LONDON (Reuters) - Opera is the new rock 'n' roll, intoned a program note for the London premiere of Rufus Wainwright's ground-breaking musical drama, "Prima Donna."

Enjoying a short run at Sadler's Wells theater this week, his marathon composition combined the buzz of a rock concert and the glamour of a classical event.

However, this was no rock opera in the manner of Pete Townshend's "Tommy" or Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust."

The multi-talented Mr. W. has applied himself diligently to creating a work using many of the elements of classical opera.

It seems natural that an avowed opera fan, whose own persona as a pop performer verges on the operatic, should have a crack at one of the most difficult genres in the classical repertoire.

The ambitious work tells the story of Regine Saint Laurent, an opera diva contemplating a career comeback after six years away from the stage, which she fled after her voice failed during the most important performance of her life.

Set in her grand but decaying Paris apartment during Bastille Day 1970, the opera follows her struggle with the demons that led to her very public breakdown.

Outside, France is still in the grip of social upheaval unleashed by the 1968 students riots. Inside, a Pandora's box of emotions is ripped open.   Continued...