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Jonathan Harvey Wagner Dream

Opera to a libretto by Jean-Claude Carrière

Ictus Ensemble conducted by Martyn Brabbins Assistant conductor : Boudewijn Jansen IRCAM computer music designer : Gilbert Nouno IRCAM computer music designers for the interludes : Gilbert Nouno and Carl Faia Recorded in June 2007 at Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, during the Holland Festival, directed by Pierre Audi, with set design and lighting by Jean Kalman. Recording of the performance : Franck Rossi and David Poissonnier Real-time electronic mixing : Jonathan Harvey and Gilbert Nouno

Claire Booth ( Prakriti ) | Gordon Gietz ( Ananda ) Matthew Best ( Vairochana ) | Dale Duesing ( Buddha ) Rebecca de Pont Davies ( Mother ) Richard Angas ( Old Brahmin ) Actor Johan Leysen ( Wagner ) | Catherine ten Bruggencate ( Cosima Wagner ) | Bracha van Doesburgh ( Carrie Pringle ) | Charles van Tassel ( Doctor Keppler ) | Jane Oakland ( Housemaid) | Basja Chanowsky ( Vajrayogini ) Vocal Ensemble_Elisa Roep | Trish Hayward | Pascal Pittie Rudi de Vries |Jan-Willem Baljet | Onno Pels

Cypres CYP5624 [94 mins]

Jonathan Harvey's opera about Buddhist renunciation was premiered in Luxembourg (2007) before a run of performances in Amsterdam, which can be briefly sampled on YouTube, and it is generously illustrated in a very full review by Malcolm Miller; a recommended overview - don't ignore this link !

This timely release needs above all to be approached with tact and humility; not critical cleverness and trivialisation. It is about the deaths of great composers, Richard Wagner and Jonathan Harvey.

Harvey, terminally ill with motor neurone disease, was unable to be present at its semi-staged British premiere last month, to which Musical Pointers was not invited. It was subjected to some untimely critical ridicule [The Telegraph]. Better to see Harvey's frank interview with Tom Service for The Guardian.

We don't know how long Jonathan Harvey has lived with this diagnosis, indeed whether he was already ill when composing Wagner Dream? Harvey was patient and helpful the last time I met him, at an electronics music seminar at the Royal Academy, enquiring about my son who had been a student of his at Sussex University many decades ago; that made me wonder about his own son, who featured in the first of Jonathan Harvey's electronic works to gain popularity, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco).

Reviews of the Barbican event suggest that hearing the CDs, with a full English libretto as provided by Cypres, is probably the better way to get to know this opera than with sur-titles in the theatre (the main character Prakti is sung by Claire Booth, her high tessitura making it impossible to follow the words without help). There is an introduction with music examples by Bruno Bossis, but that is in French only. The Buddha himself is an on stage protagonist, urging the renunciation of all desire, even the desire not to die. Finally he says "Nothing is over. Nothing begins and nothing comes to an end". Heady stuff, into which critics should only enter with temerity and respect...

Peter Grahame Woolf

- - it proves vivid and arresting as audio-only music drama [Fiona Maddocks, The Observer]

See also in MusicalPointers "Buddhism and contemporary Western Music"