Rufus Wainwright makes his Hong Kong debut with a performance of his opera, Prima Donna, and some of his greatest hits
he greatest songwriter on the planet (according to Elton John), Rufus Wainwright creates raw and confessional tunes that expand the genre of pop with influences from folk and opera. His easy charisma and displays of melodrama charm and wow audiences. The Us-born, Canada-raised musician hails from folk royalty—his parents are singers Kate Mcgarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. Rufus began playing the piano at the age of six and first toured with his family when 13. This early start put him in good stead for a career that has seen seven studio albums, three live albums and a number of world tours. Wainwright commandeers the stage of the Cultural Centre on March 1 as part of the Arts Festival. The programme begins with his glamorously camp opera Inspired by legendary soprano Maria Callas, it tells the story of an opera singer who loses her voice. It will be staged as a concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and accompanied by a specially created film by Italian artist and filmmaker Francesco Vezzoli. In the programme’s second half, Wainwright will perform some of his greatest hits, likely to include such favourites as Going to a Town, Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk and The One You Love. hk.artsfestival.org What are you most looking forward to sharing with the Hong Kong audience? Your opera or your bestknown hits? The opera for me is very exciting because I can actually sit in the audience and appreciate it. If I could sit in the audience and watch myself that would be pretty wild, so I’ll have to go with the opera.
Which of your songs did you most enjoy writing? Beauty Mark, because it proved to my mother that I was able to, you know, rock out. I think my mother was worried I would be a bad songwriter, but Beauty Mark proved I could be kinda fun.
How do you feel when you perform? I feel very spaced out. It’s like going to another planet.
Name three artists we should be listening to There’s Lhasa de Sela, a great Montreal artist who sadly died from cancer. Her records are absolutely gorgeous. There’s my sister Martha Wainwright and my sister Lucy Wainwright Roche ... keeping it in the family!
What unites all your work no matter the genre? I’d have to say romanticism.
How has the music industry changed during your career? There’s not as much money and therefore it’s more intense: the battle to survive.
Who’s your favourite Asian musician? I love Chinese cellist YoYo Ma.
Can we expect another pop album? Yes. I’m dying to do another pop album. As much as I love opera, I’m aware of where my bread and butter is and I’m still in the running.
What’s the biggest myth about being a famous musician? That you enjoy attention.
Which song do you wish you’d written yourself? I’d have to say Ol’ Man River by Oscar Hammerstein.
popera Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna is accompanied by a film by Italian contemporary artist Francesco Vezzoli with Cindy Sherman in the starring role (inset)