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Rufus Wainwright - Take All My Loves / PopMatters review

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Rufus Wainwright's latest recording is a smart and engaging encapsulation of his 2009 collaboration with Robert Wilson, Shakespeare's Sonnets. The original production premiered on Easter Sunday, 2009, at the Berliner Ensemble, the theatre established by Bertold Brecht. It ran nearly 3 hours long, included 24 of Shakespeare's sonnets, and featured its many actors in cross-dress, men portraying women and vice-versa. The production was brought to New York in 2014, where New York Times critic Charles Isherwood noted Wainwright's "eclectic array of styles" and called its sparse, twisted visuals a "bizarre, dreamlike pageant" before dismissively concluding, "Looks cool. Sounds cool. Means absolutely nothing."

Taking such a spectacle from the stage to the ear-buds can be disappointing, but Wainwright makes excellent editorial choices for this soundtrack in miniature. On Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets, he pares the proceedings down to a single disc of less than 60 minutes running time, with each of the nine sonnets receiving both recitation and musical interpretation.