He was introduced to the genre at 13 and said it completely took over his personal playlist.
"It still seems to be the case," he said during a recent phone interview from California.
Bands including Miniature Tigers and Danny Fingers and the Thumbs are on Wainwright's radar, but that when he's alone, he said he usually ends up singing opera at the top of his lungs.
"It's kind of like working out," he added.
His own opera, "Prima Donna," premiered in 2009. The story, set in 1970s Paris, follows an aging opera singer who is trying to recapture her former glory.
The '70s also inspired Wainwright's latest album "Out of the Game," an operatic pop collaboration with producer Mark Ronson that was released in May. Wainwright said he'll play plenty of new material on his North American tour, which kicked off at the beginning of the month.
Tuesday, the show stops at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.
The audience can expect the full sound, Wainwright said, thanks to an eight-piece band. He added that the set also will showcase his musical range and many moods.
"I'm a strong believer in musical biodiversity," he said. "We try to bring it all in."
Wainwright himself is a product of musical cross-
pollination. His mother Kate McGarrigle and father Loudon Wainwright
represented folk royalty in Canada and America respectively. As a teen, Wainwright was part of a folk group with McGarrigle, his sister Martha and his Aunt Anna.
And now the younger
generation is continuing the music. Wainwright said he was looking forward to Martha's CD release earlier this week. His half sister Lucy Wainwright Roche - who is touring with him this fall - is also slated to release an album soon.
It was music that brought McGarrigle's family and friends together after she passed away from cancer in 2010. A tribute concert initiated the documentary, "Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You," which screened at festivals this year. Wainwright said he's proud of the project.
Life has moved on, bringing more musical unions. In 2011, Wainwright and Lorca Cohen, Leonard Cohen's daughter, announced the birth of a daughter, Viva, whom they plan to raise together. Around the same time, Wainwright and his partner Jörn Weisbrodt announced their engagement. They wed in August in Montauk, N.Y.
The place is also the title of a song from "Out of the Game" dedicated to Viva. Wainwright said that it attempts to explain McGarrigle's death and an unconventional family.
"I guess (it's) the first ever pop song to bring up two fathers," Wainwright said. "It's complicated. It's about life."
Wainwright said he hopes by the time Viva is older, gay marriage will be legal everywhere.
"It's just going to be an uphill battle," he admitted. His travels have made him realize that America is more tolerant than other countries. Still, he keeps an eye on politics, especially in light of the upcoming presidential election.
One day, he'll play "Montauk" for Viva. And maybe even some opera, too.
"It's pretty early," Wainwright said. "She's not even two at this point."
He said he's not sure if she'll get the music bug; he's too busy preparing to try parenting.
"At this point, I'm living in the background," he said. "I'm preparing to make my entrance. I constantly have ... a sense of gratitude of how my life is right now."
And being in Northern California caused his thoughts to drift back to his mother.
"I thinking a lot about ("Talk to Me of) Mendocino," he said of McGarrigle's song, which mentions the ocean-
front town upstate.
If you go
See Rufus Wainwright with special guest Lucy Wainwright Roche 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township.
Tickets cost $48.
For details and tickets, stop by the Pullo box office, by phone at 717-505-8900 or online at thepullocenter.com.
Rufus Wainwright: www.rufuswainwright.com
Read more celebrity interviews: www.yorkblog.com/flipside/celebrity-interviews.