by Joanna Orland
I have been a longtime fan of Rufus Wainwright and his vast body of work. I have never before, however, had the pleasure of experiencing his recreation of the infamous 1961 Judy Garland comeback show at Carnegie Hall as he did for his live album Rufus Does Judy a few years back. Mainly because I hate live albums, but, when I heard that Rufus was having a week-long run at London’s iconic Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, I didn’t need any further excuse to seek this out. As Rufus himself put it, it was a night where two gay worlds were to collide – Opera and Judy Garland.
House of Rufus at London’s Royal Opera House is 5 nights of glorious music. 2 Judy Shows, 1 Martha (not-so-glorious), 1 Loudon (we do love Loudon), and one concert version of Rufus’s opera “Prima Donna”. Backed by the symphonic stylings of Britten Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Oremus, Rufus was on better form than ever before. I am not sure if it was because of the thrill of fronting this amazing 36-piece orchestra, but Rufus has never been so professional and technically brilliant. In past performances, his voice has always been great, his banter always silly, but he was never before as slick as he was on this night. We were even tearing up during some numbers including Do It Again and Alone Together.
I have two theories regarding why Rufus was on such particularly good form for this performance. The first being the fact that he was singing with a backing orchestra. The pressure is ON when you have 36-players and a high profile conductor on the clock. And how inspiring that must be to sing over those lush instrumentals!
My second and preferred theory is that when Rufus chose to sing these songs from his childhood, he actually let his guard down for the first time and allowed himself to be vulnerable in front of an audience! I can imagine when singing his own beautiful songs there is too much of a personal revelation, forcing him to subconsciously hold back just that tiny bit. When Rufus lost himself in these classic jazz standards, it was magical. The trill of his voice was pitch perfect and had the audience captivatingly holding onto every note that was sung. This was the perfect performance!
Rufus is performing the second of the Judy shows again on the 22nd.of July. If you can get tickets, I highly recommend it!!!!