Wainwright and MacIvor to create new opera

The Canadian Opera Company has commissioned a major new opera from star singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and Canadian director Daniel MacIvor.

Hadrian, inspired by the Roman Emperor, is scheduled to open the Toronto organisation’s 2018-19 season.

Composed by Wainwright, with a libretto by MacIvor, Hadrian tells the story of the emperor’s grief at the tragic death of his lover Antinous. Set at the end of the classical era, the opera explores self-sacrifice, jealousy, treachery and love.

‘I’m thrilled to be setting out on this epic journey with the COC and look forward to once again diving into the deep end, a requirement on all fronts in the world of opera,’ said Wainwright.

The Grammy-nominated singer is famed in the worlds of pop and film. His acclaimed first opera Prima Donna made its world premiere at the Manchester International Festival in 2009.

Hadrian is MacIvor’s debut as a librettist; his plays have won numerous awards over the years.

He said: ‘If someone had told me a year ago that I would be writing a libretto, I would not have believed them. But as I investigated the form I began to see how my writing could serve it. The very soul of the libretto is the idea that rigorous economy of language will expose the essential beauty of that language. Initially I was concerned that my lack of knowledge in the form would be a detriment to finding my way, but under the assured tutelage of Alexander [Neef, COC general director] and surrounded by the rapturous passion of Rufus for opera, my initiation has been muscular and swift.’

Hadrian will be the fifth opera commissioned by the COC that has had its world premiere on the company’s mainstage since 1950.

Photo: Wainwright © Barry J Holmes