• At Home With... Rufus Wainwright

    By Rufus Wainwright

    Over the next little while, we’ll be checking in with members of our Canadian Opera Company family to find out how they’re keeping busy at home during this time of physical distancing. From their latest Netflix binge to testing new recipes to establishing a work-from-home routine, they’ll share what keeps them grounded and entertained.

    Rufus Wainwright – Opera Composer, Singer-Songwriter


    From the start of all this, I decided to record a song of mine a day until the isolation ends and post them on my Instagram channel. I call them #quarantunes or #musicaleverydays. It’s a daily version of my #roberecitals and I always appear in my bathrobe in them. The response has been really incredible – people share stories about their isolation, how they have experienced my music and these songs, and what lifts them up during these difficult times. It fills me with hope and gratitude that we can share music and art and still be creative from our living rooms and connect with people, and that my music, and music in general, means so much to people. I am so impressed by everyone who is on the frontlines battling this virus: the healthcare workers, the people who make sure that we still have food, and that the essentials of our lives are fulfilled. I hope that our music lifts these people up a little bit.


    I always play the piano in my bathrobe in the morning for a couple of hours; rehearsing, making up new material, running through songs etc. In the beginning of this time of isolation, I spent entire days in my bathrobe and I absolutely adore it. I have a few – each one holds a different memory and was acquired in a different country. So in a way, I travel in my mind to the places where I got them.

    In the first few days of this new era, I kept the robe on for almost the entire day but then my husband complained and said that I need to get out of them and actually develop a bit of a schedule. I think he is right. I think it is really important for all of us to maintain a schedule during these days. As an artist I am blessed because I am used to solitude, to being at home, and being creative. I miss touring and people, but social media is amazing these days and lets you connect to so many people.

    Stefan Zweig Biographies

    I recently finished Stefan Zweig's Marie Antoinette biography and it is an incredible book. Marie Antoinette is, perhaps rightfully, vilified for being this ultimate luxury girl and totally oblivious to the needs of the people, but Zweig paints a much more complex picture. At the end of her life, when the French Revolution swept away the court of Versailles and incarcerated her and her family, in her isolation she completely rose to the historical occasion, too late to save her own life but fully aware of her situation. I am now reading Zweig's biography of Mary, Queen of Scots which is also about a woman who dies in complete isolation. Both of these women are inspirations for what isolation can do to your character, how you drill down to the essentials and clarify things. Of course, I hope that none of us face the ultimate end that both these women did.

    Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts

    I love that the Met is streaming its productions for free every night. I find it amazing what artists and cultural institutions are coming up with to give nourishment to people. I was watching Zeffirelli's Turandot the other day and was just blown away by it. Opera really is the most complex and emotionally deepest art form that humans have created. It’s also a reminder that nothing can replace the live experience of musicians and artists performing these works, or the endless amount of hours that highly gifted craftsmen put into making sets and costumes, the lighting designers, stage technicians, and everyone working together to create this maelstrom of emotions. What I love about opera is that it is so much in the moment and takes you out of time and out of your reality. As we navigate through this together, I am reminded of the title character in my opera, Hadrian, who realizes at the end of his life that his ultimate achievement is having loved. I think this is something that we understand even more during these times.

    The Canadian Opera Company and other arts organizations in Toronto are facing unprecedented financial challenges due to the effects of COVID-19. If it is possible for you at this time, we respectfully ask you to consider making a donation.

    Photo credits (top to bottom): Rufus Wainwright, photo: Matthew Welch; Rufus Wainwright at home, courtesy of the artist; Painting of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, 1778; (l-r) Thomas Hampson as Hadrian and Isaiah Bell as Antinous in Hadrian (COC, 2018), photo: Michael Cooper

    Posted in At Home With...


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