Apr 21, 2010

How Not To Respond To Your Critics

Seems Rufus Wainwright wasn't happy with Lynn Walker's Independent review of his opera Prima Donna in Manchester last year. As he tells it to New York magazine:
"You could tell that she was jealous of my situation,” Wainwright says. “The way she said, ‘Oh, he comes in and everybody’s bowing and clapping and he’s dressed ridiculously.’ It was probably just mass jealousy or something that happened to her as a kid. Her mother didn’t let her play with anybody.” While he allows that “she had every right not to like the piece,” Wainwright says, “she said, ‘I’m going to be as negative and mouthy as possible so that people quote my review,’ which is what happened.”

The result: A song on his yet-to-be-released All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu album, titled “Give Me What I Want and Give It to Me Now” (crappy live YouTube of it here) in which he calls Walker a “greedy sow” and sings, “I will eat you, your folks and your kids / For breakfast,” adding the helpful qualifier, “I would never wish / Death upon you, your cats and your throw cushions / On Christmas.” The cats and throw cushions are a nice touch, and hey, whatever inspires him to do what he does is fine by me. But leaving aside the song's amusing excesses, this old trope about critics' jealousy of artists is beyond tired.

What's more, in the same New York article, Wainwright ventures that if he does become a great opera composer (nice to know he doesn't already consider himself to be there yet), he'd be "kind of the first" American to do it. His interlocutor challenges him:

What of the other American opera composers? “Samuel Barber, Bernstein,” he recites dismissively, “but no great one. They always fell short."
Hey, Rufus, ever heard of John Adams, George Gershwin, Marc Blitzstein, Virgil Thomson, Carlisle Floyd, and Douglas Moore?

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