Damon Albarn's Monkey provided the operatic entertainment in last year's Manchester Festival. Next year's festival continues to mine the pop vein with Rufus Wainwright's first opera, Prima Donna.
Promising something more traditional than Albarn's acrobat-strewn epic, Wainwright says:
"it's a day in the life of a famous opera singer. It's about that whole diva personality. It's not anyone specific; it's just this character that I've invented. And I'm writing it in French. I intend very strongly to ease my way into the opera world, and my goal is to eventually, after many years, resurrect the art form and really be probably the first bona fide great American opera composer. Who only writes opera. That seems like a tricky transition. Oh yeah, it's not an easy leap. My main issue with opera is that, yes, there are some great American operas and modern operas, but what did happen in the 20th century is the whole art form was really taken over by the classical world -- by the sorta heavy, intellectual, avant-garde academia. And that's great, there are incredible works that I could never never equal. But there is this other side of opera that is far more popular, and really lyrical and really about the characters -- and about pleasing the masses -- that has sorta been left in the dust. All of the great operas still sell out -- the old ones. And I think there's something to be said for investigating that disparity"
The Metropolitan Opera commissioned the work, but Manchester will beat them to the punch with the world premiere.
However, Mancunians may feel like shoving the composer into the Ship Canal when they find out why they've been picked for this honour. Rufus wanted to unveil his baby
"somewhere small so that if it's a complete failure, nobody knows about it"
Watch the guilty words drop from his lips in a Brazilian TV interview, below: