Rufus Wainwright has gone to PledgeMusic to raise money to fund a studio recording of his opera Prima Donna.
PledgeMusic? For those who have just caught up with Kickstarter, which was launched in April 2009, it's time to turn your attention to PledgeMusic which débuted in August of the same year. It is “the most creative and interactive way for you to be part of your favorite artists' journey releasing new work”, says their site. Here there are fundraising campaigns by young or unknown talent, but not only: artists such as the Buzzcocks, George Benson and Rickie Lee Jones have turned to this site to realise propositions which don't have ‘commercial' written over them.
Recording an opera is expensive – Wainwright wants to hire the BBC Symphony Orchestra – which is why studio recordings of operas are a rarity. With the advance of body mics and the possibility to scatter microphones around the set and orchestra pit almost invisibly, live recordings are a (better?) alternative. So why does Wainwright want a studio recording?
It is vitally important to me that Prima Donna be properly recorded and released so that I can tour a concert version of it in the coming year, and I have decided to do this with the help of both PledgeMusic and the incredible BBC Symphony Orchestra which in turn requires your generous support. Quality studio opera recordings are extremely expensive and too time consuming to pull off these days, and it seems that a once vibrant recording industry is no longer what it was and new methods are needed to get the music out.
Prima Donna recounts, in French, a day in the life of an aging opera singer who is preparing for a comeback in 1970s Paris. The opera is very close to Wainwright's heart,
Prima Donna was written and performed during the most dramatic period of my life to date, and considering my life, that's pretty dramatic! New arrivals, death, terrible defeat and glorious triumph line the tale of this work both on stage and off, a tale that is still unfolding.
Part of this offstage drama was the death of his mother in 2010 of clear-cell sarcoma. In 2008 she set up the Kate McGarrigle Fund to raise awareness of this rare cancer, and a portion of the PledgeMusic donations will go into this fund.
The opera both borrows from operatic myth and legend as well as my own very contemporary personal experiences as a singer. The themes of loss, fear, hope and ultimately acceptance are deeply explored in this work by both the soloists and the orchestra, and I'm very proud that for a first venture into the operatic world I love so much, though not a masterpiece perhaps – that will come much later in my life! – Prima Donna is a solid and viable offering that both people love performing in and audiences enjoy watching and listening to.
Wainwright is looking forward to getting into the studio, with all the creative possibilities that it can offer, and something that will be shared with pledgers:
Everyone in the field agrees that this is a great time to bring the audience into the wonders of the creative process and the myriad of stages the recording of an opera requires. Exciting rehearsals, deep conversations, strange and colourful characters, not to mention many a silly moment, until that glorious moment when the conductor, myself the composer, the orchestra, the singers and the recording crew turn on the red light and put down for posterity my first magnum opus.
Pledging money will give exclusive access to articles, photos and films throughout the creative process, but there are also ‘exclusives' which are tempting and come at many different prices:
$113 will get your name in the “thank you” section of the album's liner notes and a signed copy of the double CD.
$99 will get you on stage during his Australian tour to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Something which happened in London on 6 April.
$250 will put you with the opera's star, Janis Kelly, for a one hour singing lesson.
And for those who want to splash out, $50,000 will buy a “70 minute private concert” with Rufus Wainwright “at a location of your choice on a date to be mutually agreed upon”.
More than 1,000 pledgers have so far raised over 60% of the target. 50 days remain. Interested? Find out more…
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.