Hadrian (opera)

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Opera by Rufus Wainwright
Librettist Daniel MacIvor

Hadrian is an opera by American-Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, scheduled to premiere in 2018 by Toronto's Canadian Opera Company. It is based on the life of Hadrian (76–138 AD), who was Roman emperor from 117–138. The libretto is written by Canadian actor, director and playwright Daniel MacIvor. Hadrian is Wainwright's second opera, following Prima Donna (2009).[1]

Background and development[edit]

Marble bust of Hadrian at the Palazzo dei Conservatori

Hadrian is Wainwright's second opera, following Prima Donna, which premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2009. Wainwright was inspired by Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) and began composing Hadrian before Prima Donna. However, lacking the confidence to "navigate all the emotional possibilities" that Hadrian would require, he concentrated his efforts on Prima Donna as his first opera production.[1]


The opera will focus on Hadrian's relationship with Antinous, who drowned. According to Wainwright and MacIvor, "You've got everything. A big chorus, lots of characters, the Nile... a love story... a political story... all the elements of traditional grand opera."[1] MacIvor has also said of the opera: "The mystery of why Hadrian's remarkable love for Antinous – underlined by his bottomless grief – has not been celebrated widely as a model of eros points to a fear of same-sex love that has changed little from his age to ours. The deeper I delve into Hadrian's world and his time, the more parallels I see to how we live today."[1] According to the Canadian Opera Company, the opera will be performed in English, "perhaps with a little Latin".[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Michaels, Sean (December 3, 2013). "Rufus Wainwright to compose opera about Roman emperor Hadrian". The Guardian. Retrieved March 13, 2014.