An Opera in Three Acts | 120 minutes
Libretto by Alasdair Middleton
after the play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca
S.Mez.2T.B-Bar.B Soli—SATB Chorus
Life Is a Dream was commissioned by Graham Vick’s extraordinary Birmingham Opera Company for professionals and the people of Birmingham to perform together in a disused chemical works
in the city.
Jonathan Dove’s full-length operatic version of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s ‘philosophical play’ La vida es sueño with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton has echoes of 19th-century grand opera. The polarised struggles between father and son, freewill and predestination, dream and reality are passionately carried along with powerful choruses and strongly etched characters including a tour de force for bass-baritone in the role of the Prince.
Prince Segismund has been imprisoned in a remote tower since his birth, and the only human face he has ever seen is that of his jailor. Then, one day, he wakes up in a palace, and finds himself king. Is this really happening? By the end of this eventful day, he has ordered the execution of his jailor, thrown a courtier out of the window, and attempted to rape the beautiful Rosaura. He wakes again to find himself locked up back in his tower. Was everything that happened just a dream? Is life itself a dream?
The original orchestration, designed for the Birmingham production, is for 28 players, but in opera-house productions the opera may be performed with a conventional string section.
Commissioned by Birmingham Opera Company
Banner image: Birmingham Opera Company © Donald Cooper
Birmingham Opera Company, UK, 21 March 2012