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AAA Music | 27 September 2020

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Wainwright Hints at Return to Opera as Genre Continues to Fascinate

| On 27, Jul 2020

Rufus Wainwright fans will have been delighted in recent weeks to see him return to the pop world with the album Unfollow the Rules.

The record features his first original material in eight years and comes after he has been exploring other avenues, with the songwriter notably spending some time immersed in the world of opera.

Prima Donna

In a move which is perhaps not that surprising considering he has enjoyed residencies at renowned venues such as the Royal Opera House, Wainwright released an opera a few years ago entitled Prima Donna.

As Opera News explains, the show is the tale of a soprano seeking to make a return to the stage after spending years in seclusion. While her best years are thought to be behind her, she continues on the quest and then meets a young journalist who is seemingly obsessed with everything she achieved in her glory days.

In a new interview to promote Unfollow the Rules, Wainwright has shed some light on his experiences creating the opera and working on other projects within that area. Speaking to Music OMH, he discussed how working with people in opera could be incredibly fulfilling but also “taxing artistically”, with his writing on other songs proving to be a kind of “antidote” to his time in that world. However, he added that he did not feel his time in opera was done quite yet, stating he has “every intention of returning there again when the meter needs to be filled”.

A major cultural influence

It is undoubtedly fascinating to see an artist like Wainwright take a leap into opera. While the art form may not perhaps be regarded as the most accessible part of the world of culture at the moment, it has managed to pull in all kinds of artists from different areas over the years.

Queen of course famously managed to bring more operatic elements into their work, with a song like Bohemian Rhapsody famously fusing the style with a rock sensibility. Freddie Mercury also went on to work with the likes of Monserrat Caballe on Barcelona. It could also be argued that the likes of Muse have introduced many classical, operatic themes into their work, with the album The Resistance concluding with the three-part symphony Exogenesis. Furthermore, other artists have taken the same route as Wainwright and chosen to write their own operas, with Damon Albarn creating Dr Dee based on an Elizabethan scientist. Last year, Kanye West even showcased his take on opera, with Nebuchadnezzar debuting at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Opera remarkably continues to be an inspiration on other areas of popular culture as well, with video gaming developing a rather surprising relationship with it. In an article published in the Cambridge Opera Journal back in 2017, Tim Summers discussed how several video games have made use of opera in recent years. Cambridge Core outlines how his article touched upon Hitman: Blood Money and Assassin’s Creed III as notable examples, with both of them requiring players to undertake assassinations during an opera performance. Opera has even turned up in the ever-growing world of online casinos, with Novomatic creating a slot based on The Magic Flute. The game includes the same starry backdrop used in the opera written by Mozart, while the reels feature all of the key characters.

An area many have explored

When all of that is considered, it is genuinely interesting to see how opera has both inspired the world of pop culture and been an area which artists from a range of backgrounds have wanted to explore.It will be intriguing to see what else Rufus Wainwright might come up with in that world, while it will also be fascinating to note how else opera might impact on mainstream culture in the years ahead.