Rufus Wainwright, "Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets" (Deutsche Grammophon)
Rufus Wainwright appears in many guises on "Take All My Loves," composing, producing, arranging and, least of all, singing.
Instead, he presents nine of the Bard of Avon's sonnets as individual or combined performances by singers like sister Martha Wainwright and Florence Welch (without The Machine) and thespians like Helena-Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher and William Shatner.
Nearly all the poems are recited and sung, sometimes within the same track. Five arias by coloratura soprano Anna Prohaska, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, alternate with five different shades of pop songs. The contrasts can be jarring, but the recitations act as buffers.
In a take both sensuous and tender, Wainwright has only one genuine solo spot, reprising "A Woman's Face (Sonnet 20)" from an earlier album.
Welch sings splendidly on "When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29)," which has a waltz-like feel, if not the ¾ time, while Wainwright and Marius De Vries turn "Take All My Loves (Sonnet 40)" into a percussive music box.
Two sonnets are in German. On "All Dessen Mud (Sonnet 66)," Wainwright, actor Jurgen Holtz and countertenor Christopher Nell stage a performance worthy of a Weimar cabaret.
Wainwright outdoes himself on "Take All My Loves," partnering with an incomparable lyricist and producing a movable feast of an album, both exceeding and confounding expectations.