Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Toronto Reviews Prima Donna at Luminato

Colin Eatock wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail about Rufus Wainwright's new opera Prima Donna:’s not hard to build a critical case against Wainwright: his opera falters when faced with big, weighty questions. Is it truly a work of our time? (No.) Does it point out a new way forward for the art form of opera? (Certainly not.) But if we ask a question that’s both smaller and more to the point – Is Prima Donna a musically and dramatically effective work? – the answer is a resounding yes. Wainwright has deftly made a virtue of his outsider status in the world of contemporary opera. Indeed, Prima Donna’s nostalgic atmosphere seems to be inextricably connected to Wainwright’s own fascination with opera’s Golden Age.
But all things considered, at the end of the night the score was Wainwright 1, Metropolitan opera 0. The Met missed the boat on this one.
John Coulbourn writes in the Toronto Sun

In short, it’s the kind of work that, should one stumble across it in an out-of-the-way theatre on a good night, might generate a certain enthusiasm as a promissory note on future brilliance.
But on the stage of the Elgin, in the full glare of the massive attention focused on its admittedly self-obsessed composer, it emerges as something a little too close to a vanity project.
And frankly, both Wainwright and Prima Donna are a little better than that.

And before the curtain even went up, John Terauds blogs on Sound Mind:
Over the past five years, my greatest pleasure has come from meeting and talking to singers, conductors, instrumentalists and composers -- the bulk of whom are not only deeply engaged in their personal journeys, but also deeply attuned to the people and dynamics around them.
Absolutely nothing in the world of opera (or music, or theatre, or publishing) happens in isolation. The finished product that we consume has been carefully crafted, often over many years, by many pairs of hands.
Prima Donna, the opera, is no different. Except that Wainwright appears to think that it is all about him. Oh, his poor, tortured soul. Oh, the inability of other people to relate to his vision. Oh, the beauty of putting all of one's personal suffering into song.
 And in review for the Toronto Star on Monday he writes:

But, for now, just like the TV series Lost, this opera leaves us wondering about the point of this extravagant exercise.

Sounds like this will continue to be a rocky path for Prima Donna and Rufus Wainwright....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was really looking forward to Prima Donna. It was a complete disappointment. The first act plodded along terribly and the orchestra drowned out the singers, particularly in their lower registers. I was on the floor, friends were in the balcony. In both areas of the theater, we could not hear the singers. The second act offered more promise. But by that time I was bored. Their was just no chemistry, no plot, no sparkle, nothing. The tacky wires that held up the full moon prop was enough to make me wonder why I had paid $150.00 dollars to see this really poorly produced show. And then I just worried that the diva's dress would catch on fire if she accidentally got too close to all the flaming candles. The whole thing got me stressed. I don't know why there was a standing ovation. Perhaps, we are just starved for celebrities in Toronto. To my mind the problem was the libretto: I would have had the butler and maid having an affair. The maid then becomes close friends with the diva - dividing her loyalties- the diva initially promises her love to the butler (he is using her) but then the diva falls in love with the journalist - but she has already made a commitment to butler - again her loyalty is divided - in the end - the diva discovers that the butler and maid and journalist have all betrayed her love/friendship - then she rebukes them all by singing La Marseillaise while the fireworks flash. Now that would have been an opera!

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