There is an ancient question that never ceases to haunt art and philosophy: if everything we experience in the dream seems so real while it lasts, how can we not doubt the real nature of the day before? Couldn’t our daily life, our very identity, be another form of dream? And isn’t death a change of state of consciousness similar to waking up or falling asleep? These questions arise naturally. Life and sleep – like death and sleep – is a natural metaphor, an almost inevitable comparison. It is shown by Shakespeare (“All our life is covered with sleep,” says Prospero), Descartes (“My astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I am asleep”) and, among many others, Jorge Luis Borges:
To feel that the wake is another dream
That dreams of not dreaming and that the death
That has our flesh is this death
Of each night that we call dream.
Life is a Dream by Calderón de la Barca is a work that combines this metaphysical question about the wake and dreams with the debate on the existence of free will. It is a simple story, but full of allegories and philosophical resonances: a king locks his son, the crown prince, in a tower in the forest, because he fears the fulfillment of a prophecy and that his son will become a cruel king. The prince grows up, isolated and unhappy, until one day the king decides to check if the prophecy is certain and orders his son to be put to sleep and taken to the palace. The prince suddenly wakes up as the heir to the kingdom, but cannot shake off a feeling of unreality: the suspicion that his own life – like perhaps all lives – is only the manifestation of a dream.
The opera Life is a Dream follows the narrative curve of Calderón de la Barca’s original play, highlights its most intense verbal treasures, and does not renounce the structural unity and optimism of Spanish Baroque theater. But the operatic language allows to accentuate the contrasts and to increase the dynamism of the work. The text and the musical discourse, both baroque and contemporary, reinforce the dreamlike atmosphere and lead the essential idea of Calderón’s play to its ultimate consequences: can the spectator be sure that the opera is not really the manifestation of a dream? Can we be sure when we leave the theater – leaving behind the period instruments, the poetic plot, the baroque characters – that instead of waking up we have not fallen into an even deeper dream?
Valentin Tournet, direction
Vendredi 9 juin 2023, 19h30 ~ Festival Alcalá de Henares, Madrid
Samedi 10 juin 2023, 19h30 ~ Festival Alcalá de Henares, Madrid
Vendredi 21 juillet 2023, 20h ~ Teatro Mayor, Colombie
Samedi 22 juillet 2023, 20h ~ Teatro Mayor, Colombie