Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna: The Plot Thickens

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 02:04 PM

The reviews have been consistent, at least.

Music: good/passable/tuneful/neo-romantic. Cast: Variable but overall "pat on the back." Plot: Missing. Clues to this are evident at many moments, but most tellingly with the audible laughter at the end of Act II when the journalist suddenly remembers he has a fiance, and that he was supposed to be on a date with her, instead of leading our Prima Donna down a path of loveless love. Oops.

Harsh, perhaps, but it does seem as though it is the plot, or lack thereof, that seems to be driving the opera luvvies crazy. If only there was one it seems, Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna, his debut opera, might be on track to becoming a real addition to the 21st-century canon.

Loosely inspired by the life of Maria Callas, Prima Donna is about an aging opera star named Régine Saint Laurent, who’s hiding out in Paris in the 1970s, anxiously preparing for her comeback after losing her voice six years previously.

So, as I occasionally drifted from total concentration, and also worked hard to avoid the insanely large head attached a really tall man one row in front, I gave myself a challenge. Who should be added to the plot to make it make sense? Who, plucked from the nether corners of my limited imagination, could be magically inserted into PD 2.0, and it might be a little more sturdy. The super-glue element.

I challenged my opera attending buddy to the same game. His offering in a moment.

For me...I feel the WD40 needs to be brought out to ease the clunkfest that is the Prima Donna's issue with men. The opera swirls with insinuation, suggestion and overt statements, but they don't form a clear sentence. Lots of clauses without a good meaty conjunction.

Insert: Her FATHER. He would appear in Act I, and spend a reasonable amount of time with Marie, the maid. He would be old for sure, cunning and a fraction heartless, but overtly he would profess deep concern for his daughter. (Trust him at your peril, me thinks.) We would discover some little titbits about Prima Donna's childhood...perhaps the wolf story might make some sense after Daddy Prima Donna relates family stories of hiking in the Alps at night.

Dad re-emerges in Act II to confront his drifting daughter by providing an operatic application of "whoop-ass." This would be right before the recreation of the opera within the opera. Dad has to stand by as his daughter dallies with journalist-cum-Pavarotti. He, of course, flees in despair.

To me, Daddy ties the neuroses back to some childhood trauma, and helps contextualize the flip-flopping Prima Donna does when it comes to the men in her life. Will my plot device work? Who knows. But it was fun dreaming for a bit and any chance to work with Rufus would be a dream come true! New production anyone?

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