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Baker's Dozen

Want 13: Rufus Wainwright's Favourite Music
Barnaby Smith , March 11th, 2020 13:32

Ahead of the release of his new album Rufus Wainwright guides Barnaby Smith through his favourite music, from Leonard Cohen to Eurythmics and his abiding love of opera


Maria Callas - La Divina
I discovered opera when I was about 13 with Verdi's Requiem . I started off a normal child and within two hours I became this opera queen. It was a religious conversion. Then after that, Maria Callas released La Divina 1 and La Divina 2, her greatest studio recordings from a particular period when I would say her voice wasn't quite at its zenith, but it was in this very interesting stage where it was matched with beauty and experience. So even though not all the notes were perfect you could definitely hear the angst and the pain and the passion that she had experienced in her career and life. I became enraptured by those records. They also had very iconic covers, that amazing photograph of her washed out against a black or white backdrop. It was also the kind of record that I could use to show others my point, and my passion, about opera. I could play it for a bunch of skinheads, heroin addicts, mods or punk rockers or whatever and they would physically freeze at the most dramatic points, because there's no way to deny her power at certain moments – whereas with a lot of opera it can be a hard sell. So they were my little secret weapons I could bring to my crazy underground parties and have a moment of respite from the horror of existence.