Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rufus Wainwright Sings Le Spectre de la Rose at the 2008 Verbier Festival

Words completely fail me regarding this attempt by Rufus Wainwright to sing Berlioz's Le Spectre de la Rose at the 2008 Verbier Festival. Kudos to Hélène Grimaud for keeping a straight face during the torture she was forced to endure her fine playing.

(Via Roger Bourland)


  1. There seems to be no shortage of attempts to "sex up" classical music-- it's hard to know how to place something like this in that category: My irony-meter seems to be broken at the moment. Perhaps an apt comparison might be to Alex James from Blur in the BBC series Maestro. Great music, a little bit too much rock star antics (which is understandable considering their backgrounds), and a lack of classical technique.

  2. Yikes! Had to comment on my own blog!


  3. Ouch. That was hard to watch... because I'm a big Rufus fan and I think he bit off MUCH more than he could chew this time. He looked incredibly nervous, so I think he knew.
    I guess I don't judge him as a Classical singer, because he isn't one. I think he's a wonderful songwriter and I often like what he does vocally... and sometimes his technical weaknesses drive me crazy...
    I have to say that the first time I saw him live I just knew him from a few of his hit songs. He came onto the stage alone and accompanied himself singing Berlioz's "Absence" and I thought, "This guy has guts." It wasn't perfect but it was very creditable and just so unexpected from a pop musician.

  4. Hyperufusensitive1:08 PM

    I guess if you've got nothing positive or even remotely constructive to write about this video, then you shouldn't have posted it here in the first place.

    Anyway, thanks for the link to my (dearly beloved) video!

  5. The reason I posted the video was that I've spent the last 15 years coaching singers to attain the highest standards possible. I just don't think that the performance on the video is up to the standard that one expects in this remarkable work, especially given the current high level of singing from classically-trained singers, most of whom will never get the chance to perform at major music venues.

    It was my call posting it and if you think my commentary was unfair, be sure to mention it in the comments!

  6. Hyperufusensitive7:39 AM

    Like Valerie said: he's not a classical(ly trained) singer but a wonderful singer/songwriter with the guts to tackle something new and unexpected. He's also got the honesty to admit that this was a bit beyond his reach (for now).

    It's just that I don't see anything constructive in your posting this. If words really failed you then you probably should have left it at that. I don't see a point in searching for videos on YouTube just to sneer at someone's performance.

    About Hélène and "The torture she was forced to endure", I can assure you that she wasn't very well prepared to play this song herself and that she still had a lot of fun doing it! I was there...

  7. Hyperufusensitive:

    If you indeed filmed this video, was it sanctioned by Mr. Wainwright? If this was an open rehearsal session, he may not have wished a camera to be rolling during a performance of a work in progress.

  8. Hyperufusensitive9:14 AM

    Thanks for the lesson. I indeed filmed it and had it sanctioned by Mr. Wainwright. Perhaps you should point your arrows at the director of the Verbier festival for letting Rufus perform there in the first place instead of "classically-trained singers, most of whom will never get the chance to perform at major music venues".

    I enjoyed his performance immensely and I think I shall refrain from commenting on high-brow weblogs like yours in the future.

  9. Anonymous1:45 PM

    As someone who also works with classical singers, it is disheartening to see great repertoire performed at standards that, for us, are low. On the other hand, it could encourage us that these works are being heard by audiences who might not otherwise hear them. And to Mr. Wainright's credit, there are many videos on youtube that are MUCH worse. (For example, Bryan Adams O Sole Mio). I admire his guts for singing this, and his emotional vulnerability in the performance. No matter what your personal tastes, musical performances will always be criticized in some way. My comments are not meant to offend, I only intend to add another perspective. Thanks!