The French Connection: Jane Rutter
Jane Rutter is not just one of Australia’s most famous flute players, she is a darling of the gay community. Ahead of her concert-theatre performance An Australian in Paris at the City Recital Hall, she speaks to Garrett Bithell.
“The structure of the show is dreamlike – almost like a stream of consciousness. The music, poetry, anecdotes and movement have a fluidity that is present in many French artforms. It reaches out to all those who love music, dance, art and ideas.”
So says Australia’s flute queen Jane Rutter, who will transform the City Recital Hall this Friday night with her very personal concert-theatre performance, An Australian in Paris, in which she reminisces about her student days in the French capital. Perhaps the classical musician’s Midnight in Paris, she performs seductive flute-driven music from La Belle Epoque – ‘The Beautiful Era’ – to the present day. Along the way, using French poetry and her own anecdotes, Rutter tells the tales of a number of seminal writers and musicians who used Paris to form their artistic personalities.
“I lived in Paris immediately after my high school days,” Rutter tells SX. “I graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and my flute teacher encouraged me to go directly to Paris, telling me that I was talented enough to study with the world’s greatest flute player Jean-Pierre Rampal ... who, along with his colleague Alain Marion, became my guru – not just in the flute, but in life.”
Within An Australian in Paris, Rutter delights in the ‘tres amusant’ company of Picasso, Verlaine, Collette, Josephine Baker, Janet Flanner and Gertrude Steine, and delivers compelling renditions of music by a number of famous composers including Claude Debussy, Henry Mancini, Cole Porter and Edith Piaf.
“When I think back to my time in Paris, I remember how beautiful it was,” Rutter muses. “I also think of the passion with which my flute teachers taught music; the joy in communicating and a sensual approach to living; and also the ghosts of the Women of the Left Bank with their bespoke tailoring and monocles – swishing about Paris in 1910 in gentlemen’s attire.”
Indeed, as Rutter reveals, it was her time in Paris that taught her “gender is irrelevant to matters of the heart”.
“It’s something my flute teacher once said to me,” she says. “Also, looking at the great French artists, writers, poets and musicians – many of them were gay. Even if they struggled with their homosexuality, there was a tolerance provided to them in that city – Napoleon actually decriminalised homosexuality in the early 1800s.
“I have spent much of my life contemplating that statement, and I truly believe it. One hears many stories of people who have been ‘straight’ all their lives, and suddenly fall madly in love with someone of the same sex. To me this is completely normal – falling in love with someone should not necessarily be gender-based.”
Rutter is a darling of Sydney’s gay community, and has appeared on stage with Carlotta, Trevor Ashley and Simone Troy. Throughout her career, she has been lovingly impersonated by many drag queens.
“I have often felt like a drag queen trapped in a woman’s body,” Rutter laughs. “So it’s an honour to be impersonated. There comes a point when the art of illusion is so superbly done it becomes real. Human beings constantly seek various forms of metamorphosis and drag is just one. I have learnt so many showbiz techniques and tricks from my drag queen friends.”
After studying in Paris, Rutter returned to Australia and became a household name, appearing on every major television variety and current affairs show and performing with a number of symphony orchestras, as well as high-profile artists such as Pascal Roge, Christopher Hogwood and Michael Crawford. She has seven number-one classical albums under her belt, and to many she has helped shatter the stuffy image of classical music.
“I love to connect with my audience metaphorically,” she tells. “I put my arms around them and invite them into my life when I perform. I view my flute as my voice.”
[Pictured] From Paris with love ... renowned flute player Jane Rutter.
An Australian in Paris starring Jane Rutter, City Recital Hall (Angel Place, Sydney) on Friday, June 22 at 7.30pm. Bookings at www.cityrecitalhall.com