Wagner Dream is an opera by Jonathan Harvey, premiered in 2007, to a libretto by Jean-Claude Carrière, which intertwines events on the last day of the life of Richard Wagner with elements from a fragmentary opera sketch by Wagner himself, Die Sieger (The Victors).
Die Sieger was drafted between 1856 and 1858, at a period when Wagner had become greatly interested in Buddhism. It is based on legends which Wagner discovered in Eugène Burnouf's 1844 Introduction to the History of Buddhism. The story tells of the love of the outcast chandala Prakriti for the monk Ananda. Although both are ostracised by the other monks, Buddha permits their chaste union, and allows Prakriti to join the monastic community. Although Wagner planned a production of this work for 1870 in his programme for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, he never progressed it – (however elements of the story persist in his opera Parsifal).
Harvey's opera intersperses the Prakriti/Ananda story with the events surrounding Wagner's death in Venice. As Wagner dies from a heart attack, he recalls the opera he never completed. Whilst the "Indian" roles are all sung, the members of the Wagner household, including his wife Cosima and the actress Carrie Pringle (with whom it was alleged Wagner had his last love affair) are spoken roles.
The opera was premiered at the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg in April 2007, prior to a run at the Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, in a production by Pierre Audi for De Nederlandse Opera which commissioned the work. Its British premiere took place at the Barbican Centre as a concert performance in London on 29 January 2012. The first British staged performances will be given in 2013 by Welsh National Opera.
The score uses electronic music as well as an ensemble of 24 musicians. The composer has described some of the processes he used in creating the work, which include the use of a French horn and a sampled trombone playing deep notes at the opera's commencement, representing boat sirens on the Grand Canal. The composer also visited Chamonix to sample a thunderclap, used to preface an argument between Wagner and his wife.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 28 April 2007, Grand Théâtre, Luxembourg
(Conductor: Martyn Brabbins)
|British premiere, 29 January 2012
(Conductor: Martyn Brabbins)
|Prakriti||soprano||Claire Booth||Claire Booth|
|Old Brahmin||bass||Richard Angas|
|Prakriti's mother||mezzo-soprano||Hilary Summers|
|Richard Wagner||spoken||Johan Leysen||Nicholas Le Prevost|
|Cosima Wagner||spoken||Catherine ten Bruggencate||Ruth Lass|
|Carrie Pringle||spoken||Julia Innocenti|
|Doctor Keppler||spoken||Richard Jackson|
- "Acclaim for Harvey’s Wagner Dream", Faber Music News, Autumn 2007
- Harvey, Jonathan, (2008) "How do I compose? (Reflections on Wagner Dream)", in Circuit: musiques contemporaines, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 38–43.