Posted January 18, 2012

Composers who admire Wagner have often quoted or emulated Wagner’s music.  But, are there any operas about Wagner?  The answer is YES.  Set within the stunning surrounds of a 16th Century Venetian Palace, Jonathan Harvey’s opera “Wagner Dream” explores Richard Wagner’s unfulfilled desire to write an opera based on his late interest in Buddhism and eastern philosophy. 

After an unusually angry altercation with his wife, Wagner suffers a heart attack and dies.  During his final moments on Earth, Wagner has a vision of the unfinished opera that had occupied him for the final years of his life.

Working from sketches which Wagner left behind, Harvey has creaated an opera that intertwines scenes from his domestic life with the mith of Prakriti, the untouchable, whose love fro the Buddhist monk Ananda is at first thwarted but finally reaches a chaste fulfilment.  “The work is a fantasy based on fact” writes Harvey.  The semi-staged UK premiere will be performed at London’s Barbican Hall by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins and features the soprano Claire Booth as Prakriti and baritone Roderick Williams, Buddha and bass Richard Angas, the old Brahmin.

Sunday January 29th 2012 7:30 p.m.

For more information:      

A little about Jonathan Harvey:

Born in Sutton Coldfield in 1939, Jonathan Harvey won a scholarship from Repton to St. John’s College, Cambridge. He studied with Erwin Stein, after whose death he continued composition and analysis with Hans Keller, obtaining a PhD. At Cambridge he was preoccupied with mystical ideas while becoming acquainted with procedures in medieval and renaissance music that were later to influence his own compositions. During the 1960s, Jonathan Harvey composed freely, responding to a wide variety of musical and religious experiences in his settings of medieval texts. Schoenberg, Berg, Messiaen and Britten were also early influences, and a broader base was achieved through the guidance of Hans Keller.

As a Harkness Fellow at Princeton (1969-70) he came into contact with Milton Babbit. In the early 1980s Jonathan Harvey was invited by Boulez to work at IRCAM, a connection that has resulted in many new commissions in recent years.

A little about “Wagner Dream”

The work had its World Premier in July 2007 at the Holland Festival in a production by the famed director Pierre Audi.  You can read more here in an excellent review of the Holland Festival performance with many fine photos: