Rufus Wainright – Something Different Yet The Same. Jazz Festival Review.

​The Jazz Festival of Montreal is now an opera house. Well, not really. Rufus Wainright’s house may be operatic and he has moved out to annoy / please the neighbors.Not once – twice. Both nights at Salle Wilfred Pelletier at Place des Arts.

 Wainwright – he of McGarrigle genetics,  delivered his rookie opera Prima Donna straight down the middle of home plate. Critics ( aka umpires) had no choice but call it a strike. No curveballs, no sliders and no Knuckeballs.Considering Wainright has not ‘ pitched’ before, any aberrant tosses, foreign at best.

The ‘show’ – a one-hour version of the French-opera. A take on Opera singer Regine Saint Laurent’s agonizing thoughts on staging a comeback. Wainright’s music deep with pain, anxiety, anger and sadness. All the elements of the human condition.Rufus Wainright and his clan – well aware of the human condition. 

Soprano Lyne Fortin, a Quebecer, played the ‘singer with a dilemma’ while American Kathryn Guthrie (alto) harbored the weight as Saint Laurent’s maid. Tenor Antonio Figueroa ( a Montrealer) was a journalist, an ear to Saint Laurent’s troubles. The vocal section was backed up by an orchestra with no name. Conducted by  Jayce Ogren, Wainright later joked the Orchestra should be called The Prima Donna Orchestra. A fact not argued with or by the audience during the second inning ( half) aka Wainright’s hits and personal favorites. 

Opera fans were introduced to Pop standards and popular music fans were introduced to Opera. What could go wrong?  Popular music fans are not about to join Operas worldwide. Given the one hour time frame, an authentic opera it was not. A tease. A tickle. A disaster?

See the entire opera before judging if Wainright is pulling an April Fool’s joke on you. 

Speaking of which, April Fools off his debut record, set the tone for the evening. Wainrights vocals crisp and a perfect reflection of the orchestra behind him. A perfect fit for Wainright’s sometime over-the-top deliveries.

Even at the keys, the piano – Wainright can be flamboyant. ‘Vibrate’, not one of those times. Nor was ‘A Woman’s Face’ from his newest offering ‘ Take All My Loves; 9 Shakespeare Sonets.’. The Bard would love the effort as well as Wainright’s sequined costume. 

“Little Sister’from the album ‘Want Two’, an invite for sis Martha to join him on stage. The McGarrigle magic present and accounted for as it was during Leonard Cohen’s ( KD Langs?) Hallelujah. Lily and Sylvan Lankin creating and completing the family circle.

‘Going to a Town’ and ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’ were the guilty pleasures. Seemingly for both the audience and Wainright. Standing ovations awakening the non opera fans. 

Wainright, quizzingly – created a talked about concert with an orchestra, an art film and singers singing words hardly anyone understood. 

All this at an Opera House?

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