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Strings Attached

Operatic popster Rufus Wainwright exits "gay hell" and enters his most fertile period

And along the way, Wainwright has gained some interesting insights on what he's been through. In reflecting on how he's learned to duck his muse, he relates a tale about famed soprano Beverly Sills, who after years of study was told by her teacher just before her public debut to forget everything that she had learned. "It's weird, because with drugs and alcohol you can do that for a while, but it's dangerous." To underscore the point, he reflects on "all the carnage in my age bracket of male singers and songwriters -- Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith, people I really admired."

Wainwright also says he's "very happy that I had these traumatic moments of toil on my first two albums, because I think you learn a lot from hard work." But the lesson he seems happiest to have learned is the one about letting go and letting his art come out.

Wainwright not only reasserted his talent with Want One but scored a singing role in The Aviator, the upcoming Martin Scorsese film about Howard Hughes (in which his sister Martha and father also appear). "Life is good these days," he says, and then lets out a gentle laugh, as if he doesn't yet totally trust the good feeling. He follows with a sobriety mantra: "Every day is its own day."

Wainwright: "Life is good these days. Every day is its 
own day."
Wainwright: "Life is good these days. Every day is its own day."

Yet beneath the personal peace a competitive fire still burns. After all, operatic ambitions notwithstanding, Rufus Wainwright remains a pop star. "I still want a radio hit and want to make millions of dollars and totally obliterate the competition. I haven't really lost that side," he confesses. "But I think I can do that quite softly."

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