Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)

Wagner Dream (2003-2007)

opéra en neuf scènes pour six chanteurs, cinq comédiens, chœur, ensemble et électronique

œuvre électronique, Ircam

  • Informations générales
    • Date de composition : 2003 - 2007
    • Durée : 1 h 45 mn
    • Éditeur : Faber Music, Londres
    • Commande: De Nederlandse Opera, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Holland Festival et Ircam-Centre Pompidou
    • Livret (détail, auteur) :

      Jean-Claude Carrière

Effectif détaillé
  • solistes : 2 basse solo [Vairochana ; vieux Brahmane] , ténor solo [Ananda] , soprano solo [Prakriti] , mezzo-soprano solo [mère de Prakriti] , baryton solo [Buddha] , 5 acteur [Wagner, Cosima, Betty, Dr. Keppler, Carrie Pringle]
  • ensemble de voix solistes à 4 voix (soprano solo, contralto solo, ténor solo, basse solo [placés dans la fosse d'orchestre]), ensemble de voix solistes à 2 voix (ténor solo, basse solo [sur scène])
  • flûte (aussi flûte piccolo, flûte alto, flûte basse), hautbois (aussi hautbois d'amour), 2 clarinette (aussi 2 clarinette en la, 1 clarinette basse), basson (aussi contrebasson), cor, trompette (aussi bâton de pluie), trombone, tuba, 2 percussionniste, harpe, clavier électronique/MIDI/synthétiseur, 4 violon, 2 alto, 2 violoncelle, contrebasse

Information sur la création

  • 28 April 2007, Luxembourg, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, dans le cadre du programme Luxembourg 2007, Capitale européenne de la culture', par l'Ensemble Ictus, direction : Martyn Brabbins, Claire Booth : soprano, Gordon Gietz : ténor, Clive Bayley : basse, Rebecca de Pont Davies : mezzo-soprano, Richard Angas : basse, mise en scène : Pierre Audi, décors et lumières : Jean Kalman, costumes : Robby Duiveman.

Information sur l'électronique
Information sur le studio : Ircam
RIM (réalisateur(s) en informatique musicale) : Carl Faia, Gilbert Nouno
Dispositif électronique : autre dispositif électronique (2 operators: 8 or 6 channel system, digital mixer, 1 (or 2) Mac computers with soundcards, Wacom Graphic Tablet, 16 MIDI faders, Clip-on mics for all instruments and several close mics for percussion, CD-ROM)

Note de programme

Jonathan Harvey s’est transporté dans ce rêve que Wagner n'aura jamais réalisé : un opéra inspiré par une légende bouddhique. Le compositeur anglais en compagnie de Jean-Claude Carrière a ainsi pu rassembler tous les motifs de son propre monde.

L’électronique est une part essentielle de cette méditation spirituelle qui débute au moment où Wagner meurt à Venise.

Wagner Dream se déroule au moment où Wagner subit une attaque cardiaque à Venise. Les derniers instants de sa vie nous projettent dans le rêve d’un opéra inspiré par une légende bouddhique que le compositeur allemand entrevoyait mais qu’il n’aura jamais écrit. Jonathan Harvey et Jean-Claude Carrière se sont rencontrés autour de leur passion commune pour l’Inde du Buddha.

Wagner Dream dessine le passage entre le théâtre et la musique, entre la parole et le chant, entre temps historique confié à des acteurs (Wagner, sa femme Cosima, le docteur) et l’espace rêvé du chant, de la musique et de l’électronique réalisée à l’Ircam. Au cœur de cet opéra, la tension entre la volonté de puissance et le renoncement, entre l’occident et l’orient. Cette cohabitation violente de forces contraires qui hante tout le projet wagnérien (Siegfried « ou » Parsifal, Nietzsche « ou » Schopenhauer) appartient pleinement à l’histoire de l’occident.

Opera synopsis

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 barmaid in a disreputable inn. Ananda, a young monk, disciple and cousin of the Buddha, enters and asks for a glass 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 prostates 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 her hand in marriage. She scorned his overture and Ananda lived alone without wife for the rest of his life, unable to forget her, unable to bury her memory.
That woman was Prakriti and that man was 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.

Jonathan Harvey 17/6/05 :

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. Yet Wagner’s racialism, nihilism and hatred of the world, frequently expressed, distort Buddhist philosophy in this work too. Only in the scenario of Die Sieger, never taken further, do we find a ‘truly noble’ Buddhist subject.

The clash of the two cultures is expressed in the opera by a speaking level for Wagner in Venice and a singing level for ‘Die Sieger’ in the Buddha’s India.

The death-process and all its strange inner landscapes are suggested by electronic transformation. This also has the function of unifying two cultures, two aspects of Wagner, two time and space worlds in the ‘one’ which is beyond illusory dualism.

The work is a fantasy, based on fact but following it way beyond what is known.

Jonathan Harvey, Festival Agora, 2007.

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