Composer or Director: Jonathan Dean Harvey. Following its world premiere in Luxembourg in April , six performances of Wagner Dream were given in Amsterdam during June. This technically impeccable recording stems from those later stagings and the seasoned confidence of the artists involved — with principal singers Claire Booth, Gordon Gietz and Dale Duesing and conductor Martyn Brabbins — makes for a vivid and moving experience. But Harvey avoids excessive complexity. His musical materials often repeat or vary simple motivic elements placed in a richly coloured harmonic spectrum that is only harshly dissonant when the dramatic context requires it. Composing Wagner Dream in his mid-to-late sixties — the age at which Wagner completed Parsifal — Harvey dramatises a very different kind of conflict between the agony of physical collapse and the desire for spiritual peace. His music is of our time in its forceful, often angular energy. But it also has the warmth and intensity to do its challenging subject justice. Wagner Dream is a remarkable achievement. Wagner Dream is a work of bold contrasts: events on that last day in Venice are narrated in speech accompanied by music, and this documentary material interacts with an operatic realisation of the plot outline of The Victors which shuns naive varieties of musical exoticism and overt imitations of Wagner.
HARVEY Wagner Dream
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Die Sieger was drafted between and , at a period when Wagner had become greatly interested in Buddhism. Wagner planned a production of this work for in his programme for King Ludwig II of Bavaria but never progressed it — however elements of the story persist in his opera Parsifal. Harvey described some of the processes he used in creating Wagner Dream. These 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. The story tells of the love of the outcast chandala Prakriti for the monk Ananda. Although both are ostracized by the other monks, Buddha permits their chaste union and allows Prakriti to join the monastic community. As Wagner dies from a heart attack, he recalls the opera he never completed.
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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 year-old project to write an opera on a Buddhist subject, he suffers a heart attack. 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.
At the heart of this opera is the clash of two cultures. Late, highly charged romanticism with its paradigm of finding knowledge through emotional intensity fused with deep psychology and mythic regression, on the one hand. And on the other hand the new and old world of Buddhism and oriental thought with its detachment, its clear analysis of happiness and suffering in terms of mind. Perhaps this latter is the future, and the Wagner world is what we are coming from. John Cage comes after Wagner… It is an interesting fact that Wagner, most egotistical and most complex of men, was yet one of the few who knew anything about Buddhism in his time — he contained, as in so many respects, a fusion of opposites. Yet it is not a contradiction in Buddhist tantric terms; that is to say, there is a possibility to understand the sufferings caused by attachment through understanding with skill the very nature of consuming attachment. But it is a delicate and easily misunderstood bridge. Wagner meditated deeply on compassion, and in Parsifal created a bodhissatva figure, a Buddha in becoming.