My Films /

browse a selection of my work


Prima Donna – The story of an opera

Client: Isis Productions for Sundance Channel, NRK, Bravo, Sat3, ABC & Decca

Prima Donna explores the rapid rise of the most mercurial talent of the modern music scene, an extraordinary singer and composer of some of the most sophisticated pop music and affecting lyrics of the last thirty years – a man who Elton John called the “best songwriter in the world”. The film both tells Rufus’s colourful story and follows his journey as he creates his very first opera, ‘Prima Donna’; he is plunged into the very midst of the classical world.

Opera has always been a great love of Rufus’s, but this documentary will reveal how Rufus arrived at this point. He talks candidly about his background; the family of musical luminaries (father: Loudon Wainwright; mother Kate McGarrigle; sister Martha Wainwright), his troubled personal history with drugs and also the tensions that have informed his music.

It is the creation of the opera that provides the spine of the film. From the first workshop through to the run up to opening night we have captured the highs and lows as Rufus embarks on the mammoth task of creating his first opera. We find out what it felt like being the outsider when all the more established opera colleagues ganged up against him and his co-librettist.

Filmed in London, in his childhood home in Montréal, performing at a solo show in Paris, in New York where he now lives, Berlin where we see him creating his first classical work with avant garde director Robert Wilson, and of course in Leeds and Manchester where the opera, Prima Donna took its bow.

This is a unique insight into an artist at the height of his powers, and a snapshot of a star taking a leap into the unknown.

As well as interviews and special performances or songs old and new with Rufus himself, the film includes interviews with Kate McGarrigle, Loudon Wainwright III, Anna McGarrigle, Martha Wainwright and celebrated soprano Renée Fleming.



Press Reviews

Washington Post