So little sex in Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian, so much Mahler

Critics are complaining that Canada’s biggest opera premiere in years has fallen way short of the hype.

Joseph So, in Ludwig Van Toronto, would have liked more sex:

Given its gay theme, the COC printed dire warnings in its pre-show publicity material about “…nudity and sexual content…recommended for 18 or over.” Well, they needn’t have worried. There was no frontal nudity, and the sex scenes were tame. As tenor Isaiah Bell said when I interviewed him: “Nothing feels gratuitous…Any content that’s in there, it’s there to tell a story.”  That said, I did notice a few more empty seats after intermission, perhaps indicative of a certain discomfort given the gay theme?

Wainwright being a dyed-in-the-wool melodist, the score of Hadrian isn’t “new music” at all. There are dissonances, but over all it’s tonal, lyrical, and above all accessible. Structurally grounded in traditional opera, one hears arias, duets, even a trio, with moments of melodic inspiration. Naysayers would call his music derivative, but it’s suitably evocative. At one point I heard the opening notes of “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen from Rückert-Lieder. Another place reminded me of “Abschied” from Das Lied von der Erde — perhaps Wainwright is a Mahler fan? …

Read on here.


Yes, that’s Thomas Hampson.

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  • How the heck did a Rufus the Doofus Painblight Opera somehow get hyped up to the point that people thought it could be Canada’s “biggest opera premiere in years”? That’s just absurd. Get some perspective on Canada please.

  • I couldn’t get paid or threatened enough to attend anything containing Wainwright let alone this dreck. Folks stupidly complain about white Aidas in blackface. But has anyone complained yet about the heterosexual Hampson portraying a homosexual character? Of course not. Surely they could have found a homosexual baritone, and one in better/fresher voice too. But I suspect it serves an agenda not to raise any hackles about any of this.

    • ==Folks stupidly complain about white Aidas in blackface. But has anyone complained yet about the heterosexual Hampson portraying a homosexual character?

      Good point ! All that West Side Story for Latinos only was BS of course.

    • “Folks stupidly complain about white Aidas in blackface. But has anyone complained yet about the heterosexual Hampson portraying a homosexual character?”

      If they did, it would be just as stupid.

    • Hadrian was bi, in today’s understanding.

      In Roman times, having a teen male lover was the thing to do, if you were of the right class and could afford it.

      It’s not like Hadrian had other male lovers or had sex with men his own age.

      It’s not like if Antinous had not died young that he and Hadrian would’ve grown old together as a couple. That would’ve been ridiculous and inconceivable.

      So who knows if Hampson ever had a teen male lover.

    • Wonders never cease. I find myself agreeing with Caravaggio. Worthless piece. Hampson can find better things to sing even if he is a little past his prime

  • It seems to me that the COC has tried very hard to be hip and trendy in commissioning Wainwright, rather than putting music values first. His previous forays into classical music have not been very successful. I can readily think of a dozen Canadian composers who should get a crack at a COC commission and almost certainly would be able to produce something of value.

  • They originally were supposed to have fully nude dancers, and phallic imagery.

    That apparently was changed during rehearsals

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