Rufus Wainwright

b. 1977

Canadian

Summary

Praised by the New York Times for his “genuine originality,” Rufus Wainwright has established himself as one of the great male vocalists, songwriters, and composers of his generation. The New York-born, Montreal-raised singer-songwriter has released ten studio albums to date, three DVDs, and three live albums including the Grammy-nominated Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. 

He has collaborated with artists such as Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Miley Cyrus, David Byrne, Boy George, Joni Mitchell, Pet Shop Boys, Heart, Carly Rae Jebsen, Robbie Williams, Jessye Norman, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sting, and producer Mark Ronson, among many others. 

He has written two operas that have been performed at the Teatro Real Madrid, the Canadian Opera Company, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires among others. He contributed numerous songs for movies and TV including Brokeback Mountain, Moulin Rouge and Shrek, and is currently working on his first musical for the West End with Ivo van Hove and a Requiem. His latest GRAMMY® and JUNO nominated album of original songs, Unfollow the Rules, finds Wainwright at the peak of his powers, entering artistic maturity with passion, honesty, and a new-found fearlessness. To celebrate his 50th birthday he released the GRAMMY® nominated “Folkocracy, a studio album of folk songs and duets featuring among others Chaka Khan, Brandi Carlile, John Legend and Anohni in the summer of 2023.

 

Podcast: Composing Myself - Wise Music Group’s CEO Dave Holley and Creative Director Gill Graham chat to Rufus Wainwright.

Biography

Praised by the New York Times for his “genuine originality,” Rufus Wainwright has established himself as one of the great male vocalists and songwriters of his generation.  The New York-born, Montreal-raised singer songwriter has released seven studio albums, three DVDs, and three live albums, including the fantastic Grammy nominated Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, which captured his celebrated Judy Garland tribute performance at the London Palladium in 2007, and the album Release The Stars which went Gold in Canada and the U.K.

Wainwright has received Juno Awards for Best Alternative Album in 1999 and 2002 for Rufus Wainwright and Poses, respectively, and nominations for his albums Want Two (2005) and Release the Stars (2008). He was nominated for Songwriter of the Year in 2008 for his Release the Stars album. He also composed the original music for choreographer Stephen Petronio’s work BLOOM which has toured across the country.

Musically Rufus has collaborated with artists including Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Miley Cyrus, David Byrne, Boy George, Carly Rae Jebsen, Joni Mitchell, Pet Shop Boys and producer Mark Ronson among many others. He collaborated with Robbie Williams on the title track of his album, Swings Both Ways, which was co-written with renowned musician and producer Guy Chambers and sung as a duet between Rufus and Robbie.

In addition to being a celebrated contemporary pop singer, Rufus has made a name for himself in the classical world. His much acclaimed first opera, titled Prima Donna, premiered at the Manchester International Festival in July 2009. The opera was subsequently performed in London at Sadler’s Wells in April 2010, in Toronto at the Luminato Festival in June 2010 and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in February 2012. Now fully established as a composer of operas, Rufus has been commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company to write his second opera based on the story of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Antinous. The new opera premiered in Toronto in October 2018 with international opera star Thomas Hampson creating the title role and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila singing the role of Plotina. “Hadrian” has been nominated in the best World Premiere category of the International Opera Awards. It was recently revived in a new production featuring over 300 images by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe at the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Peralada Festival in Spain.

Rufus has also distinguished himself by playing original orchestrated pop songs and pieces from an extensive classical repertoire with well-respected opera singers such as Sondra Radvanovsky, Anna Prohaska, or Angelika Kirchschlager and orchestras around the world such as the Chicago Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Residentie Orchestra, Orchestre National de lIle de France, the orchestras of the Teatro Real and Teatro Colon among others. Wainwright was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony to compose “Five Shakespeare Sonnets,” a five-movement suite that sets the texts from selected Shakespearian “Sonnets” to orchestra and voice. “Five Shakespeare Sonnets” premiered in the US in 2010 and debuted in the UK in 2012 with the sixty-piece BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rory MacDonald. Rufus was asked by famed director Robert Wilson to compose music for Shakespeare Sonnette that was staged at the Berliner Ensemble in 2009.

Other achievements include the 2012 world premiere of Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle, the feature length music documentary starring Rufus, Martha Wainwright and their family and directed by Lian Lunson. The film captures the May 2011 tribute concert honoring Rufus’ late mother, the great singer songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Nonesuch Records released a record, Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle which included  songs from the movie as well as selections from the three tribute concerts  for Kate given in London, New York and Toronto and featuring performances by Rufus, Martha, Anna McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Emmylou Harris, Richard and Linda Thompson and many others. The movie and the record are both available on iTunes and Amazon. Rufus and his sister are spearheading the Kate McGarrigle Fund for Sarcoma Research at Stand Up 2 Cancer and have raised hundreds of thousands dollars for this cause through concerts and appearances worldwide.

In 2013 he performed at the Kennedy Center Awards honoring the work of Billy Joel. He performed at the 90th birthday concert for Tony Bennett at Radio City Music Hall and is featured on the Grammy winning album release of that show. In 2013 and 2018 he performed at the 70th and 75th birthday concerts respectively for Joni Mitchell. The 2018 concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion of LA’s Music Center are released as an album with Universal Music Group and the film “The Music Center Presents Joni 75 – a Birthday Celebration” has been presented as a limited theatrical release and later on PBS. In 2016 he reprised his famous live concerts of “Rufus does Judy” at the Hearn Generating Station for Toronto’s Luminato Festival and two nights at Carnegie Hall.

He plays regularly at the major music festivals around the world including the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, and has played most major concert halls around the world from the Philharmonie de Paris, to Royal Albert Hall in London, Radio City Music Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House and many more. He has toured extensively in North America, South and Central America, Asia, Australia, Russia, the Middle East and Europe.

In 2014, Universal Records released Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright, a new career-spanning collection that features eighteen standout songs defining one of music’s most innovative talents. Included in the collection are three brand new recordings, “Me and Liza”, “Chic and Pointless” and “WWIII." Also released on CD and Blu-ray is Rufus Wainwright: Live from the Artists Den which captures Rufus’ inspired performance at New York City’s Church of the Ascension in 2012.

Rufus completed his PledgeMusic campaign to record Prima Donna: The Album, a studio recording of his first opera with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He describes, “It is vitally important to me that Prima Donna be properly recorded and released so that I can tour a concert version of it in the coming year, and I have decided to do this with the help of both PledgeMusic and the incredible BBC Symphony Orchestra which in turn requires your generous support.” Wainwright chose the PledgeMusic direct-to-fan platform so his supporters can partake in the album-making process through behind the scenes updates and exclusive views into the creative journey. Deutsche Grammophon release of a double CD recording of Prima Donna with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The initial success of Wainwright’s opera, Prima Donna, which premiered in 2009 at the Manchester International Festival, led him to create an artistic concert adaptation to share with the rest of the world.

The opera’s central character, a retired Diva struggling to make her return to the stage and regain her former years of greatness, was inspired by BBC Lord Harewood interviews with Maria Callas in her later years.

For the concert adaptation, Wainwright reconfigured the music he composed for the Opera, and scheduled the tour to coincide with the release of the studio recording of the complete opera with Deutsche Grammophon. Wainwright conceived of a film directed by Italian visual artist Francesco Vezzoli featuring Cindy Sherman to accompany the live music.

Prima Donna: A Symphonic Visual Concert premiered at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the Athens Festival in Greece on September 15th, 2015. Prima Donna: A Symphonic Visual Concert was also performed at the Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal on November 27th & 28th, 2015, Buenos Aires at Teatro Colon on February 19th& 20th, 2016 and the Hong Kong Arts Festival on March 1st, 2016 and the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Rufus celebrated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with the release of his latest album Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets on Deutsche Grammophon worldwide April 22nd, 2016. Performers on the record include Rufus’ sister Martha Wainwright, vocalist Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, Austrian soprano Anna Prohaska; multiple Grammy-nominated composer and producer Marius de Vries; Sián Phillips, Peter Eyre who provides the introduction, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra; British actress Helena Bonham Carter, Americans Carrie Fisher and William Shatner, and the 92-year-old Inge Keller – one of the great names of German theatre.

In the fall of 2018 Wainwright embarked on a world wide tour titled “All these Poses” celebrating the 20th anniversary of his eponymous debut album and his second album “Poses”.

He has released his tenth studio album of original songs in the summer of 2020. The album’s songs and production harken back to his explosive debut album that celebrates the sound and musical heritage of Los Angeles. "Unfollow the Rules" was nominated for a Grammy and Juno Award. The same year he wrote "Secret Sister" for the documentary "Rebel Hearts" by Emmy winning director and editor Pedro Kos. Wainwright won the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Song in a Documentary.

His 11th studio album “Folkocracy” also nominated for a GRAMMY, has been released celebrating his 50th birthday in the summer of 2023 and is a collection of folk songs and duets featuring artists such as Chaka Khan, Anohni, Brandi Carlile, John Legend and more. He is working on a musical for the West End based on John Cassavetes’ film “Opening Night” starring Sheridan Smith set to premiere on March 26th and is writing a Requiem to be premiered with the Orchestre Philharmonique de la Radio France in June of 2024. Co-commissioners for the Requiem are the Master Chorale in Los Angeles, the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, the Helsinki Symphony Orchestra, the RTE Orchestra in Ireland, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Royal Ballet London. 2023 and 2024 also sees the 20th anniversary of his iconic albums Want One and Two. Rufus has performed symphonic shows with all new orcherstral arrangements of these songs with the Chicago Symhony at the Ravinia Festival, two shows with the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, the Nashville Symphony among others and will continue to perform this material.  

In March of 2024 Rufus will premiere his first musical on London’s West End. Together with Ivo van Hove, he has adapted John Cassavetes’ movie OPENING NIGHT for the stage. Starring Sheridan Smith with other cast members including Hadley Fraser, Shira Haas, Nicola Huges and Amy Lennox the new musical will premiere at the Gielgud Theater on March 26th.

January 2024

News

Performances

15th March 2024

SOLOISTS
Davóne Tines, Tenor
PERFORMERS
Brussels Philharmonic
CONDUCTOR
Clark Rundell
LOCATION
De Singel, Antwerp, Belgium

16th March 2024

SOLOISTS
Davóne Tines, Tenor
PERFORMERS
Brussels Philharmonic
CONDUCTOR
Clark Rundell
LOCATION
Bozar, Brussels, Belgium

17th March 2024

SOLOISTS
Davóne Tines, Tenor
PERFORMERS
Brussels Philharmonic
CONDUCTOR
Clark Rundell
LOCATION
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands

14th June 2024

SOLOISTS
Anna Prohaska
PERFORMERS
Chœur de Radio France; Maîtrise de Radio France; Orchestra Philharmonique De Radio France
CONDUCTOR
Guillemette Daboval; Marie-Noëlle Maerten; Mikko Franck
LOCATION
Maison de la Radio et de la Musique, Paris, France

Features

  • New Opera Highlights from Wise Music Classical
    • New Opera Highlights from Wise Music Classical
    • Wise Music Classical invites you to explore new highlights from our opera catalogue. In these recent and upcoming premieres, new productions, and premiere recordings, our composers and their creative collaborators explore subjects ranging from the historical (Hadrian, X: The Life and Times of Malcom X, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) to the futuristic (Oryx and Crake), the fantastic (El Ultimo Sueño de Frida y Diego, Florencia en el Amazonas, Die Kinder des Sultans) to the thoroughly contemporary (Grounded, Blue, Innocence, The Shell Trial). Threaded throughout these works are perennial themes of loss, longing, magic, art-making, and community.
  • Visual Operas
    • Visual Operas
    • Directors and visual artists increasingly devise innovative approaches for the presentation of opera. The past decade has been no exception, with several works from the Wise Music Catalogue finding their way into the theatre and concert hall, accompanied by compelling visuals.

Photos

Discography