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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


Verdi - Don Carlos (with Plácido Domingo and Montserrat Caballé)
I came across this early on in my operatic journey, and to this day it remains one of my favourite recordings and one of my favourite operas. The wonderful thing about Verdi is that, as you get older, it starts to make more and more sense: these fraught relationships between fathers and sons and lovers and friends. He's so profound in his understanding of human relationships. This opera, Don Carlos, is in my opinion a great masterpiece on a Shakespearian level in its defining, most notably, of the father and son dynamic. There's actually a moment when the father contemplates killing his son – I don't know, but I think that has crossed the minds of certain dads. And as well as Domingo and Caballé, Shirley Verrett is on that recording, who is one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos of all time. So everybody is in there at their zenith vocally, and it's a wild ride.

How much did your obsession with opera influence your development as a vocalist specifically?

Very much. I studied opera singing briefly, and it was helpful for the two weeks that I attempted it. Listening to the recordings and trying to embody the ethos of that discipline propelled me further into music and kept me captivated by the experience. Opera singers always have to transform into a character or a vessel for very complicated and challenging music, so I admired that and tried to imitate it.