Rufus Wainwright’s “Prima Donna” Opens

It was quite a scene Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where New York City Opera presented the U.S. premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s opera “Prima Donna.” I won’t bore you with the back story of this tale of a fictional soprano, Regine Saint Laurent, who faces getting older when a journalist-fan visits her in Paris on Bastille Day, 1970. (Well, maybe a little: Originally part of a joint program of the Met and Lincoln Center Theater to develop new works, “Prima Donna” was dropped by those companies because Wainwright and Bernadette Colomine composed the libretto in French, not English.) Tout le fucking monde was at BAM’s matinee premiere: from Angelica Huston, so valuable a presence on TV’s “Glee,” to Yoko Ono, to the downtown New York couple without whose presence no musical event can be considered remotely cool: Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. And what about the opera, Mrs. Lincoln? There are shimmering bits, and melodies that are direct throwbacks to the Strauss and Puccini that Wainwright so loves. But the pacing of the first act is pretty glacial — things pick up after intermission. Whatever its flaws, “Prima Donna is definitely worth a visit: there are three more performances this week.

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