Nearly five years after a dropped deal with the Metropolitan Opera and three years after it premiered at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, England, Rufus Wainwright's first opera, "Prima Donna," landed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York for its U.S. premiere Sunday afternoon. Angelica Houston, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson could be spotted in the audience, alongside Wainwright himself, who looked sharp in a bedazzled toreador outfit.
The opera, written in French with English subtitles (and co-written by Bernadette Colomine), follows an acclaimed, but forgotten soprano, Regine Saint Laurent, who is preparing a return to the stage in the role she was known for, "Alienor d'Aquitaine." Regine is panic-stricken about reprising Alienor, convinced her voice is forever gone. In her somewhat deranged state, she latches on to a young journalist who is all too ready to lavish attention on her.
The opera received mixed reviews when it ran in England, with a completely different cast from the one on stage stateside. While "Prima Donna" lacked an emotional high point that could have made it a great opera, this viewer found it worth the two-hour runtime -- highlights included the stylish, shifting backdrops, the maid's (Kathryn Guthrie Demos) solo performance -- which outshone any other single moment on stage -- and a subtle, effective ending. The plot itself takes a while to build, but picks up in the second half, when it delivers a few amusing twists. At times, it's reminiscent of "The Artist," another film that shows the depression, anxiety and irrational behavior that ensue when a star falls.
Check out photos of Wainwright making the rounds Sunday afternoon, and visit BAM's website for ticket information.
Watch the trailer for the Sundance Channel documentary, "Rufus Wainwright: Prima Donna":