Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 10:40 UK

Wainwright opera to debut in UK

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright will not be performing in the opera itself

Singer Rufus Wainwright is to premiere his first ever opera at the Manchester International Festival, after plans to stage it in New York fell through.

The festival, which showcases new and original work, will put on Wainwright's Prima Donna during its 2009 event.

It follows the festival's much-lauded premiere in 2007 of Monkey: Journey to the West, which saw another popular music act turn to opera - Gorillaz.

With a Paris setting Prima Donna will be about a fading opera star.

Wainwright has said his inspirations included the 1981 movie Diva and interviews recorded by Maria Callas in her unhappy retirement.

It was originally due to premiere at the New York Metropolitan Opera, but the production ran into trouble when Wainwright refused to translate his French libretto into English.

Explaining his decision to scrap the opera, Met manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times: "Presenting a new opera that is not in English at the Met when it could be in English is an immediate impediment to its potential success with audiences."

'Exceptional gift'

In Manchester, Prima Donna will feature soprano Janis Kelly in the lead role Madame, soprano Rebecca Bottone, tenor William Joyner and baritone Jonathan Summers.

Wainwright, who already has several albums of melodic pop songs under his belt, will not be performing.

"Rufus Wainwright has an exceptional gift for melody and clearly has a deep affinity with opera," festival director Alex Poots said.

"We're delighted to be working with him as he moves into this new form."

Prima Donna is being produced in partnership with Opera North whose orchestra will be performing.

Five performances will be held at the Manchester Palace Theatre from 10 July.

Other festival commissions will include Everybody Loves a Winner at Manchester's Royal Exchange.

The theatre will become a bingo hall, with added music, dancing - and possibly a chance to win some cash.

And Zaha Hadid Architects will create a unique environment within Manchester Art Gallery for Bach's solo works.

The Manchester International Festival 2009 will run from 2 to 19 July.

Monkey opera for festival launch
28 Jun 07 |  Manchester

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