“The new album, the opera, the mourning process, the whole thing, it’s… fantastic,” muses Rufus Wainwright in this short film documenting the night of his private performance at the Rose Bar in New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel. On March 15, during a top-secret show, Wainwright debuted songs from his new album, penned in the wake of his mother’s passing, to a crowd that included Scarlett Johansson, Susan Sarandon and Lou Reed.
“The concert at the Rose Bar was clearly a big deal for Rufus and his management team,” says filmmaker Andrew Gauthier of VanLou Media, who captured the performance for his series Site and Sound, devoted to live performances in New York City. “He was performing his deeply personal new album in front of a star-studded audience, so there was a frenetic buzz that always seemed to surround him.”
“I remember at one point we asked him if it’s been difficult to move along with the album and the tour, as well as his new opera, in the wake of his mother’s death. He was candid in his response, saying, ‘Everything is imbued with a sense of grief at the moment… Really, it’s no harder than buying milk at the grocery store.’”
From the nervous flurry of activity that precedes the actual performance, to a peek at Wainwright’s gilded oxfords, winking in the stage light as they keep rhythm, Gauthier captures song as a memento of a brief moment in time. The details, at once potent and highly personal, preserved with the lens. “We try and make sure that the music always remains the foundation of the video,” he says, referring to himself and production partner Isaac Gillespie. “By shooting musicians fluidly and mostly in close-up, we attempt to evoke the experience of being at a live show—where the music fills the room and your view of the musicians comes as you naturally move your gaze across the stage.”