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"
"Bold, brave, refreshing and rewarding."
The composer Richard Wagner is in Venice. He and his wife Cosima have had an argument about the impending visit of the singer Carrie Pringle. As Wagner considers his 28-year old project to write an opera on a Buddhist subject he suffers a fatal heart attack.
Buddhism teaches that the state of mind at the moment of death is crucial to one’s future incarnation. It also teaches that one experiences a sequence of encounters in which choices are offered. Vairochana, a Buddha, is Wagner’s guide. He clarifies the choices and Wagner decides that his failure to compose his opera Die Sieger (The Victors) must be remedied. He therefore creates the opera in his dying moments and it unfolds before him. To the distress and confusion of Cosima, Betty the housemaid, Doctor Keppler and Carrie, Wagner from time to time reacts to the performance, which only he can see.
Pakati is a serving girl in an inn. A young monk Ananda, disciple and cousin of the Buddha, asks for a cup of water. Pakati tells him that this is no place for him. Ananda replies that he does not care what sort of place it is; he merely needs some water. Pakati gives it to him and falls in love.
Pakati’s mother invites Ananda to a meal. As he and Pakati fall increasingly in love with one another, the Buddha gives Ananda a vision of Pakati, in which she appears as the awesomely beautiful and terrifying goddess Vajrayogini. Ananda is overwhelmed by this awe-inspiring projection of his mind and leaves. Pakati resumes her ordinary appearance.
The Buddha gathers his disciples around him. Pakati tries to convince him that she will die if she cannot be with Ananda. The Buddha begins to explain the conditions of the Path she must follow. Taunted by an old Brahmin, Pakati tries to take Ananda away with her.
The Buddha tells his disciples that in a former life Pakati had been a court priest’s daughter who had met a poor young man. He fell in love with her but she ignored him. He brought his father with him to beg for her hand in marriage but she scorned him and he lived the rest of his life without a wife, unable to forget his first love. The young man was Ananda in a former life.
Pakati threatens to kill herself. Ananda urges the Buddha to admit a woman to his order for the first time. The Brahmin is disgusted but the Buddha agrees, if Pakati truly wishes it. Pakati decides to join the order and is welcomed by Ananda and the Buddha.
Wagner grows weaker and begins to doubt that this work was really his choice. Finally he is reconciled with Cosima and asks her forgiveness. Under Vairochana’s guidance, Wagner peacefully dies.
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.
We have launched a new style of programme to reflect the company's themed seasons. You can purchase the combined programme for Lohengrin, Wagner Dream and Madam Butterfly for £5 on the night, or to pre-order your programme please call 029 2063 5032 at a cost of £6 including p&p.
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.