Review- Rufus Wainwright- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By: Davina Cooke


Having recently moved to Hong Kong I was very intrigued to go not only to hear the velvet tones of Rufus Wainwright but to experience the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall for the very first time.


This was Hong Kong’s premiere of Wainwright's 2009 first attempt at an opera. Inspired by watching "La Divina", the Maria Callas documentary set in her 1970's luxury Parisian apartment, Wainwright took to writing a story of a "Prima Donna". An opera singer who desires the stage, complicated with her love for Andre and acknowledgment that her career is at the end. UK opera star Sarah Fox does a fine job of delivering her vocal talents to this role with a very exciting neckline of beautiful dress. Supported by her maid “Marie”, Wang Xi is a beautiful light soprano singer and “Andre” (Antonio Figueroa) gets to indulge in Wainwrights swirling orchestral melodies and rich tones. There are moments where you can really hear the composers' influence.The overture intially sends you to a Christmassy Disney fun place but then turns to this opera singers internal struggle. An interesting mix!


The sub-title of 'Prima Donna' is that we are seeing "A Symphonic Visual Concert", a gentle introduction to opera for the unknowing. The one hour first act is set to a film by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli; a mixture of slow moving images and shots of legendary US artist Cindy Sherman. However I just couldn’t help to feel that this was a little unnecessary and a little too whimsical, especially as Cindy Sherman is prolific in being arty cool.


Rufus Wainwright when entering the stage makes you feel warm and cared for, a humble introduction, named thanks to all his staff, and button that bursts on stage due to too much dim sum! We are treated to a selection of his hits in the second act, favourite ‘April Fools’ and a wonderful version of Leonard Cohens' ‘Halleluyah’ with all three opera singers and Wainwright microphone free and by the piano. A moment that was well worth waiting for.


A special nod to conductor and wizardess; Joana Carneiro who guides the fantastic Hong Kong Philarmonic Orchestra, opera singers and Wainwright under purple and amber lighting through this cherished evening.


In the program Rufus Wainwright tells us we will be stage struck and although that didn’t necessarily happen for me, I enjoyed one of my first experiences of opera. The evening with Rufus and orchestra together in the classy setting of HK Cultural Centre was something to remember.


Rufus Wainwright has now closed. For more information, click here.


Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 2.3


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