Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Wagner opera to be performed in ancient Indian language of Pali

An opera about the 19th Century German composer Richard Wagner is to be partly performed in Pali, the ancient language of the Buddhist scriptures.

The Welsh National Opera (WNO) will stage the production - titled 'Wagner Dream' and composed by the late Jonathan Harvey - in which Wagner reflects on an unfinished opera about Buddhism during his dying days.

The original English text for the Buddhist characters has been translated by academics into Pali.

The British composer, who died in 2012, was keen for this to happen to "enhance and clarify the cultural dialogue" of the opera, Pountney said. Wagner's part is sung in German.

WNO director David Pountney said: "Wagner Dream brings together a giant of the Western musical tradition, Richard Wagner, with ideas and narrative elements from the Buddhist tradition."

"We felt that the impact of this cultural dialogue would be enhanced by letting each of these two worlds speak in its own language rather than being confused by both being rendered in a third language, English."

The Pali parts were translated by Professor Richard Gombrich, president of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, who said the task "brought some amusing challenges".

"In some places we had to split the musical notes in order for them to fit," he told the BBC.
Changes were also made to reflect the fact that pubs and tea - referenced in the English text - did not exist in ancient India.

"I also felt obliged to insert, very briefly, some real Buddhist doctrine when the Buddha himself is speaking," he added.

Pali is the language used in the earliest Buddhist scriptures dating back more than 2000 years and was once indigenous to the Indian sub-continent.

It is the foundation for national tongues in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand.

Wagner Dream will be staged at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on 6-7 June, with a performance in Birmingham on 12 June.



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