The eccentric and talented Rufus Wainwright has been touring the world during the year since his mother died. The first half of the concert is the song cycle from his CD “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu” dedicated to her.
Before the summer he performed at the Sala Verdi at the Conservatorio here in Milan, the conservatory that Verdi was famously not admitted to; Wainwright on the other hand was accepted into a music academy but was “thrown out”: he was justified in being nervous at playing in the hall which bears the name of his hero. Opera is his passion.
The other event that links him to Milan is that it was where he travelled to with his mother on their last holiday together. They stayed in the Royal Suite at the Grand Hotel et de Milan, the room in which Verdi died, went to La Scala and visited the Duomo. He was visibly very shaken at the end of the concert.
A couple of days ago however in Carnegie Hall, twice the size of Milan’s Auditorium Giuseppe Verdi, Rufus Wainwright gave the same programme. Here’s Part of the review from the Rolling Stone magazine:
“We’ve returned to the scene of the crime,” Rufus Wainwright joked during the second half of his show at Carnegie Hall Monday night, to audience members who included Michael Stipe, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. He was referring to 2006, when he staged his Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall concerts, whose live tribute album earned him a Grammy nomination.
He played some of those Garland songs, but it was a different kind of show for the singer. While Rufus Does Judy featured a 36-piece orchestra, this time Wainwright used only his voice and a piano, in the spirit of his new LP All Days Are Nights: The Songs for Lulu — which was written just days before his mother, Canadian singer Anna McGarrigle, died in January from cancer.
Before the show, an announcer requested no applause between songs. In nightclub-dim lighting, Wainwright didn’t speak once, leaving long silences between numbers while images of large, brooding eyes — which multiplied as the set progressed — were projected over him.
Wainwright emerged in a long, black Victorian-style dress, kicking into “Who Are You New York?”, and namedropping Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden. He sang about his strained relationship with his sister on “Martha,” and his mother’s hospital stay on “Zebulon.” The performance was spiritual and tense; at the end of the first set, he left the stage slowly walking into the light — perhaps how he imagined his mother leaving this world.
- Rufus Wainwright Talks Engagement, Opera At Carnegie Hall Show (mtv.com)
- Music Review: The Dark Lady and Judy Garland Play the Muses (nytimes.com)
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.