Wagner is dying in Venice. He will leave behind some of Western art’s greatest works. But he hasn’t finished his life’s work; he is tormented by his need to write a music drama about the Buddha.
Welsh National Opera is proud to present the UK staged première of the late Jonathan Harvey’s extraordinary opera. Wagner Dream is part biography, part fantasy that will transport you into another realm.
Supported by members of the Getty Family as part of British Firsts and by a lead gift from The Kobler Trust.
Original production: commission and co-production: De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Holland Festival and IRCAM -Centre Pompidou, Paris
"Jonathan Harvey's visionary score brings Wagner's dream to life in music of epic beauty and power"
FREE Pre-performance talks
Book your tickets for our pre-performance talks at the same time as your opera tickets.
The Whole Story: Lohengrin & Wagner Dream
The perfect way to prepare for the Wagner Dream season. Before performances begin, our team of experts will guide you through the music, stories and background to each opera.
David Pountney in conversation
Join David Pountney as he talks with Philip Hensher, Independent columnist and novelist, about and his legacy in his biecentenary year.
A special masterclass involving young singers setting out on exploring the music of this great composer.
The morning of Wagner's death (in Venice), after an unusually angry altercation with his wife about the impending visit of the singer Carrie Pringle, he continues an essay he had started. Just at the point at which he begins to consider the implications of his 28-year-old project to write an opera on a Buddhist subject, he suffers a heart attack.
Buddhism teaches that the state of mind at the moment of death is crucial to one's future incarnation ‘the most important mind of one’s whole life’. It also teaches that one experiences a sequence of encounters in which choices are offered. Vairochana, a buddha, is Wagner's 'guide' who clarifies the choices and Wagner eventually decides that his failure to compose the noble Die Sieger must be remedied. He therefore 'creates' the opera - and it happens. From time to time Wagner intervenes and reacts to this show, which only he can see. Cosima, the housemaid, the doctor and Carrie Pringle the singer who, controversially, visits that morning, can none of them really understand what Wagner is talking about.
Prakriti is a serving girl in a poor inn. Ananda, a young monk, disciple and cousin of the Buddha, enters and asks for a cup of water. Prakriti tells him that this is no place for him. However, Ananda replies that he does not care what sort of place it is, he merely needs some water. Prakriti gives it to him and falls in love.
Prakriti's mother encourages her daughter's desires and invites Ananda – ‘Prince Siddharta's cousin’ – to a meal. During his visit Prakriti and Ananda fall increasingly under love’s spell and at the last moment the Buddha appears, unseen by Ananda, and gives Ananda a Tantric vision of Prakriti, in which she appears as the awesomely beautiful and terrifying goddess Vajrayogini. Ananda prostrates before this awe- inspiring projection of his mind and leaves. Prakriti returns to her ordinary appearance.
Under a tree outside a town Buddha is with his disciples and followers. Prakriti approaches and asks him directly if she can be with Ananda, or she will die. Buddha is sympathetic, but begins to explain the conditions of the Path. Taunted also by the rigid old brahmin she wildly tries to seize Ananda’s hand and take him away.
Buddha in reply tells the assembled company the causes for Prakriti's behaviour. In a former life she had been a haughty court priest's daughter who had met a humble young man by a well and he had fallen in love with her; she quickly forgot him. Until, that is, he turned up at the palace with his father and begged for her hand in marriage. She scorned his overture and the young man lived alone without a wife for the rest of his life, unable to forget her, unable to bury her memory. That young man was a former incarnation of Ananda. These extraordinary words spark a crisis in which Prakriti threatens to take her life and to burn the earth to ashes as well. Ananda urges Buddha to admit a woman for the first time to the Order: to the orthodox brahmin’s disgust, the Buddha agrees, if Prakriti truly wishes it. Prakriti decides to join the Order as a sister and is welcomed by Ananda and Buddha. The crowd celebrates the miraculous moment.
Wagner weakens and doubts that the work was really his choice. Finally he is reconciled with Cosima and asks her forgiveness. Under Vairochana’s guidance, Wagner peacefully passes away.
Conductor Nicholas Collon
Director Pierre Audi
Designer & Lighting Designer Jean Kalman
Costume Designer Robby Duiveman
Computer Music Designers Carl Faia & Gilbert Nouno
Sound Engineer Franck Rossi
Assistant/Revival Director Miranda Lakerveld
Assistant Designer Elsa Ejchenrand
Lighting Co-ordinator Peter van der Sluis
Lighting realised on tour by Paul Woodfield
Chorus Master Stephen Harris
Assistant Conductor Andrew Griffiths
Musical Preparation James Southall
Genesis Assistant Director Polly Graham
Language Coaches Jacqueline Pischorn (German) & Caroline Barker (Pali)
Stage Manager Katie Heath-Jones
Production Manager Richard Norton
Wagner Gerhard Brössner
Cosima Wagner’s wife Karin Giegerich
Betty the housemaid Jane Oakland
Dr Keppler a physician Chris Rogers
Carrie Pringle a singer Ulrike Sophie Rindermann
Vajrayogini a goddess Bryony Morgan
Vairochana Richard Wiegold
Pakati Claire Booth
Ananda Robin Tritschler
Mother Rebecca De Pont Davies
Buddha David Stout
Old Brahmin Richard Angas
First customer/Monk Tyler Clarke
Second customer/Monk Aidan Smith
Pit soprano Samantha Hay
Pit mezzo-soprano Kathryn Walker
Pit tenor William Helliwell
Pit bass Laurence Cole
All performances start at 7.15pm
Running time approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Sung in Pali, Sanskrit and German with spoken dialogue in German. Surtitles in English and Welsh.
Robby Duiveman's costume designs will transport you into another realm.
Extract from Barrie Gavin's interview with composer Jonathan Harvey talking about his music and his beliefs.
Find out how we are marking the bicentenary of Wagner in a very different way.
Be transported to another realm with this taste of Wagner Dream.
Discover the music and the man with our Wagner Dream playlist.
Listen to Jonathan Harvey's sublime sound world.
Images from Amsterdam of this extraordinary production.