Wainwright: Take All My Loves – 9 Shakespeare Sonnets

Reviewed on Tue 09 Aug, 2016

Building on an earlier project conceived by iconoclastic theatre director Robert Wilson for the Berliner Ensemble, Take All My Loves points again, for all its quixotic unevenness, to Wainwright’s obvious facility for writing on a larger scale than the art-pop songs that brought him fame.

Rufus Wainwright follows last year’s homage to Maria Callas (Prima Donna, reviewed 22 December 2015) with a tribute to Shakespeare marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright-poet’s death. Building on an earlier project conceived by iconoclastic theatre director Robert Wilson for the Berliner Ensemble, Take All My Loves points again, for all its quixotic unevenness, to Wainwright’s obvious facility for writing on a larger scale than the art-pop songs that brought him fame. Setting nine sonnets, the musical accents range from thrashing rock guitar to symphonic Mahler to Weimar-era cabaret, all adroitly glossed with an intense lyricism straight out of Puccini. Soprano Anna Prohaska provides several vocally dexterous contributions, notably the luminous A Woman’s Face and glowing rapture of Farewell (Sonnets 20 and 87 respectively), the former richly reprised by Wainwright himself. Idiosyncratic certainly – witness the sonnet recitations by actors Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher and William Shatner – but imaginative, too, and worth investigating.
–Michael Quinn