- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rufus Wainwright was born into rock ‘n’ roll royalty.

As the son of Loudon Wainwright and folk singer Kate McGarrigle, Mr. Wainwright had the spirit of rock instilled in him from Day One. But a troubled youth — and his famous dad being mostly absent after his parents’ divorce — gave him the fuel for his own musical legacy.

“I never saw him a lot growing up, but I did see him on stage, and he’s such a magnetic performer,” Mr. Wainwright, 42, told The Washington Times about his father. “For him, it was really about how he mastered the stage and how he was able to grab an audience.”

While Mr. Wainwright was largely raised by his mother, he impressed his father enough that Loudon Wainwright encouraged his son to pursue his own musical career. Rufus Wainwright will appear Friday at Wolf Trap in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra.

“What’s fun about the D.C. area is that it has its own sense of glamour, as opposed to New York or LA, which is more about show business or commerce,” Mr. Wainwright said of the nation’s capital. “It’s all about politics and political power. It’s such a different realm than I’m used to. It’s quite exotic.”

Mr. Wainwright’s appearance in the center of democracy is especially well-timed given the Supreme Court’s recent decision making same-sex marriage the law of the land. Mr. Wainwright married longtime partner Jorn Weisbrodt in 2012. Before meeting Mr. Weisbrodt, he was silent publicly on the matter of same-sex marriage.

“I was hoping that it would pass in my favor since I’m a gay married man and I believe in the institution” of marriage, Mr. Wainwright said of the June 26 Supreme Court ruling. “I was very, very excited about it. I’ll be celebrating for the rest of my life.”

While he came to fame opening for artists such as Tori Amos, Mr. Wainwright was soon able to sell out solo bills. His popularity in Europe, Australia and South America has been consistent, but the U.S. has proved more difficult to crack.

“She’s a very fickle friend,” Mr. Wainwright, who is a citizen of both Canada and the U.S., says of the latter. “I keep coming back, and there seems to be new waves of interest, so I’m happy with it.”

Mr. Wainwright’s better-known songs include “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,” “One Man Guy” and his haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Some of his darker compositions reflect upon his period of drug addiction in the early aughts. Although he has been clean for over a decade, the memories of those difficult days, combined with childhood pain and losses, still haunt his music.

“When you’re younger, the dark places are more things like drugs and falling in love for the first time and losing friendships,” Mr. Wainwright said. “[There’s] kind of the darkness there.”

Although he has beat back his addictions, he has experienced tragedy in his adult life, including the passing of his mother in 2010 from cancer.

“She was really one of the greatest parents of her era,” Mr. Wainwright said. “She constantly was aware of both mine and my sister’s musical desires. She really paid attention to what we wanted, and because she knew how to do it herself and how hard it was, she never [ignored] it. It was always the real deal.”

After Kate McGarrigle’s passing, the Wainwright and McGarrigle families’ annual Christmas show, “A Not So Silent Night,” was shelved for a few years. However, the show has gone on and will be taped in Montreal in December.

“I think the [annual Christmas show] will outlive all of us,” Mr. Wainwright said.

Mr. Wainwright has a daughter, the mother of whom is Leonard Cohen’s own daughter, Lorca. The experiences of being a father and losing his mother have given Mr. Wainwright greater perspective in life and in his music.

“When you get older, having a child, getting married and also [having a] certain experience with death [keeps the music] pretty dark,” Mr. Wainwright said. “So I can incorporate it into my songs.

“I like having a dark past,” he said.

In addition to his pop songs, Mr. Wainwright also has become an opera writer. He recently recorded his composition “Prima Donna” with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which will be released in September. He is also working on an opera called “Antinous,” which details the historically based Greek’s love affair with Roman Emperor Hadrian.

“It’s appropriate that I’m going to Washington because [the opera is] a political thriller,” Mr. Wainwright said about his new magnum opus. “It’s like a gay ‘House of Cards.’ I’ve always been the one to explore uncharted territory.”

Mr. Wainwright will play at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, on Friday with the NSO conducted by Emil de Cou. Mr. Wainwright relishes the opportunity to share his work with an appreciative audience and to work with the trained musicians of the NSO.

“I’m very excited to work with the symphony,” he said.


WHAT: Rufus Wainwright with the National Symphony Orchestra

WHERE: Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia, 22182

WHEN: Friday, 8:15 p.m.

INFO: Tickets $25 to $58 by calling 877/WOLFTRAP or visiting WolfTrap.org

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