Don’t expect to hear anything from “Prima Donna,” Rufus Wainwright’s first opera, when he performs this weekend at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
“No, no, no ... ‘Prima Donna’ is an opportunity for me to sit in the audience and enjoy my own brilliance — with a certain perspective,” says Wainwright, 35, the son of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. “It’s the one chance for me to not be on stage.”
“Prima Donna,” which is about the day in the live of an opera singer and is in French, is set to premiere July 10 in Manchester, England. Wainwright says he’s currently “in the process of orchestrating it” and notes the project has been “a tall order,” especially compared to the more pop-oriented songwriting of his six albums.
And, he acknowledges, he’s feeling the pressure.
“I’m definitely putting it all out on the line here, ’cause with opera, if it’s not good, then it’s really bad,” Wainwright says. “That’s sort of the sense I’m getting — it has to be pretty great, or it’s a real drag to listen to.
“I get a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, there’s no money in opera’ or ‘You’re not gonna be a superstar,’ and I understand that in a sense. And I’ll never give up my songwriting and pop music career for classical music.
“But if (‘Prima Donna’) turns into a ‘La Traviata’ or something like that, those works are performed somewhere in every part of the world every year. I could do very well.”
The pop songs, meanwhile, are still coming; “I’ve been writing them so long they’ve become kind of like a bodily function,” Wainwright notes. And he already has a plan for his next album — the follow-up to 2007’s “Release the Stars” — though he won’t be able to work on it until next summer.
“The album will just be solo piano and voice,” he says, “and give sort of the opportunity, after the opera and everything, to have this slight moment of intimacy with me — which I know everybody wants.”
Rufus Wainwright and Sam McTavey perform Saturday (Oct. 18) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 and $36. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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