This April 23 marks 400 years since the death of that great bard William Shakespeare, an anniversary expected to ride in on a global frenzy of tributes and a surplus of Shakespeare-themed volumes that range from academic to alcoholic. But the latest entry is an unlikely album from Rufus Wainwright, titled Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets. The LP, set for release on April 22 by classical record label Deutsche Grammophon, will feature guest performances from Florence Welch, Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher, and William Shatner, among other vocalists and actors. Helena Bonham Carter’s Shakespearean chops are well-established and Florence Welch aptly embodies the Pre-Raphaelite inner light necessary for a contempo Shakespeare revival. Princess Leia and Captain Kirk are reading sonnets, presumably from space.
While artists, creative institutions, and the entire town of Stratford-on-Avon vie to control (and capitalize on) our collective lionization of the dead playwright, Wainwright’s album, named in honor of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 40, is a passion project years in the making. Wainwright’s idea for Take All My Loves came to him after Robert Wilson asked the singer-songwriter to compose music for several of Shakespeare’s sonnets as part of Wilson’s production at the Berliner Ensemble. Wainwright adapted three of the sonnet songs for his 2010 album All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, and slightly altered versions of those are set to appear on the new album, alongside seven new songs.