In2009 singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright perhaps best known for "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," his ode to life's vices, as well as for his rendition of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" — jumped genres. The indie darling debuted his opera,"Prima Donna," the story of a prematurely retired opera singer, at the PalaceTheater in Manchester, England, to mixed reviews. In so doing, he became part of a long tradition of genre-crossing artists. Tomorrow evening, the New York City Operapresents "Rufus Wainwright Goes to the Opera!", featuring excerpts of"Prima Donna" along with performances by Wainwright himself, all part of the city's River to River festival. In honor of this diva-celebrating extravaganza, ARTINFO has compiled a list of other artists who dare to step outside their genres.
1. PAUL MCCARTNEY
In February 2011it was announced that the ex-Beatle composed a major orchestral work for theNew York City Ballet. The love story, titled "Ocean's Kingdom," will premiereat the ballet company's fall gala on September 22.
2. MOS DEF
Most consider Mos Def a hip-hop artist turned actor. In reality, he studiedmusical theater in high school, making his television debut at 14 in a 1988 TVmovie, "God Bless the Child," long before his first album, "Manifest Destiny"was released in 1994 as part of rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics.
3. DAMON ALBARN
The former frontman of the Britpop band Blur has genre-jumped over and over again, fromalternative rocker to cross-genre virtual band Gorillaz, to composingthe opera "Dr. Dee," which will debut July 1 at the Manchester InternationalFestival.
Rapper Ludacrisstepped into country at the 2011 CMT Music Awards with Jason Aldea, performing"Dirt Road Anthem" with the country crooner to close the show.
5. STEVE MARTIN
Comedian SteveMartin went bluegrass for his 2009 album "The Crow: New Songs for theFive-String Banjo," with guest stars like Vince Gill and Dolly Parton.
6. GWYNETH PALTROW
Although Paltrowsang in the 2000 movie "Duets," she's really flexed her singing muscles thepast few months. Most notably, she's made cameo performances on Glee, where she performed a versionof Cee Lo's "Forget You" with the cast (which she also performed with Cee Lo atthis year's Grammy Awards), and in "Country Strong" as a country singer, whichearned her a gig at the Country Music Awards.