Hear Rufus Wainwright Sing Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A New Album Featuring Florence Welch, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner & More

How to clas­si­fy the singing-song­writ­ing of Rufus Wain­wright? Pop? Folk? Sure­ly we’ll have to throw a “neo-” or two in there. And we can’t ignore the impor­tance of all things oper­at­ic to the work of this musi­cian who grows more sui gener­is with every album he puts out — and indeed, with every stage pro­duc­tion he puts on. His inter­est in opera dates back to his youth, and as ear­ly as his self-titled 2001 debut we can hear its direct influ­ence in a song like “Barcelona,” whose lyrics bor­row from Verdi’s Mac­beth. Ver­di, of course, was also work­ing with some pret­ty rich inspi­ra­tional mate­r­i­al him­self, and Wain­wright has found an occa­sion to pay more direct trib­ute to William Shake­speare this April 22nd, on almost the 400th anniver­sary of that most influ­en­tial Eng­lish play­wright’s death.

On that date, he’ll release Take All My Loves: 9 Shake­speare Son­nets, an album that finds him, in the words of NPR’s Stephen Thomp­son, “tack­ling the Bard’s work in a grand­ly sweep­ing col­lec­tion of record­ings” fea­tur­ing the tal­ents of “an assort­ment of singers and actors to per­form these 16 tracks, many of which pair rich orches­tral pieces with dra­mat­ic read­ings by the likes of Hele­na Bon­ham Carter, Car­rie Fish­er, and even William Shat­ner.” Yes, Wain­wright has some­how man­aged to bring Star Wars and Star Trek togeth­er — and in the least like­ly of all pos­si­ble con­texts, one in which we also hear Aus­tri­an sopra­no Anna Pro­has­ka, Flo­rence of Flo­rence + the Machine, Wain­wright’s sis­ter Martha, and a fair bit of Ger­man.

Fans of both the ambi­tious and near­ly uncat­e­go­riz­able singer, fans of the (if you believe Harold Bloom) human­i­ty-invent­ing drama­tist, and many in-between will find in Take All My Loves many more feats of musi­cal crafts­man­ship, lit­er­ary cre­ativ­i­ty, and sheer clev­er­ness. And they don’t have to wait until the actu­al anniver­sary (or in any case the day before) to do it. You can hear “A Wom­an’s Face Reprise” (based on Son­net 20, for those play­ing the Shake­speare-schol­ar­ship home game) at the top of the post; “When in Dis­grace with For­tune and Men’s Eyes” (Son­net 29) below that; and for a lim­it­ed time, the entire album avail­able to stream free from NPR, which gives every­one a chance to hear what one of our age’s most inter­est­ing bards has done in part­ner­ship with the Bard him­self.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Shakespeare’s Satir­i­cal Son­net 130, As Read By Stephen Fry

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Son­net 18

The Late, Great Alan Rick­man Reads Shake­speare, Proust & Thomas Hardy

A Sur­vey of Shakespeare’s Plays (Free Course)

What Shake­speare Sound­ed Like to Shake­speare: Recon­struct­ing the Bard’s Orig­i­nal Pro­nun­ci­a­tion

Such Sweet Thun­der: Duke Elling­ton & Bil­ly Strayhorn’s Musi­cal Trib­ute to Shake­speare (1957)

Lou Reeds Sings “Blue Christ­mas” with Lau­rie Ander­son, Rufus Wain­wright & Friends

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Cynthia Sinclair says:

    Won­der­ful, sim­ply won­der­ful!!

  • Neel Dich Abrahamsen says:

    Dear open cul­ture
    Tryi g to access archives of films and audio­books. Are being stopped by an ad eith no func­tion. Pos­ing me to open and email. I can­not access arvhives of either sort. As i know open cul­ture is free i don’t u der­stand the change from ear­li­er. What can i do. Hi neel

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