Monday, March 23, 2009 10:49pm by  
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Wainwright's first opera to get world premiere in UK

An opera by the singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright is to have its world debut in Manchester after being turned down by the New York Met reported The Independent Newspaper. The Canadian's first foray into the world of opera, Prima Donna, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but was not performed after Wainwright refused to change the libretto from French to English.

Instead it will be performed at the second Manchester International Festival as one of its highlights, alongside a collaboration between the Mercury Prize winners Elbow and the Hallé Orchestra, and the first-ever full-length concert featuring Lou Reed and his new wife, Laurie Anderson.

Wainwright has spent the past year writing and orchestrating the piece, which will be performed in two acts at Manchester's Palace Theatre, which is set to be the new northern home of the Royal Opera House.

It tells the story of a faded operatic soprano about to return to the stage after a six-year lay-off. Speaking at the launch yesterday, Wainwright said he hoped to reach new audiences with the work. "Opera seems to have been hijacked by intellectual elements," he said. "For a long time I wanted to make it a little less intellectual and have more emotional engagement. You have to remember it was a populous form, like the bandstand of its time."

He said of the Met's decision to pull out: "When I started writing the opera it was in French and it takes place in Paris. It made sense – I was brought up in Montreal and I can speak French. The music started to reflect the language. But the Met wanted to commission an American work." The festival runs from 2nd to the 19th July 2009. To find out more go to

Watch a snippet of the Prima Donna documentary below: