You’ve probably heard of Susan Boyle’s amazing rendition of the song I Dream A Dream. It’s not very polished but there’s a strength and sweetness to her voice that makes her rendition compelling.
Listening from a singer’s perspective, I find the song’s a challenging one to sing. It requires stellar breath support and a wide range. The song’s not for a light soprano – you’d need someone with a big, gutsy voice to do it well and yet be able to match the top notes. An alto might find the range a challenge but it fits quite well within the standard mezzo-soprano tessitura.
(Ruthie Henshall singing a beautiful version of it)
The song itself is one with a beautiful melody but lyrics that twist your gut. And well they should, for the character they were written for is as tragic a heroine as you could imagine. Les Miserables’s Fantine has a child out of wedlock, and finds herself abandoned by the child’s father who seduced her and then left.
She sacrifices so much to keep her child alive, enduring shame, hardship and work as a prostitute. Poor Fantine is a romantic victim of circumstance and in I Dream A Dream encapsulates all the hopeless heartache of having loved and finding that love was in vain and unrequited.
I’ve been where Fantine was. Loved to the point of oblivion, only to have it all sadly reduced to anguish and painful memories. Romantic love, I find, is a happy dream. But the dream doesn’t always end well or translate to real life. I’m not looking. I’ve stopped looking for the longest time. Sometimes I do get lonely and miss the comfort of a hand to hold, sweet nothings on the phone, cuddles and languishing together, speaking of everything and nothing at the same time. Maybe I’ll find that again. Maybe I won’t. For now, those moments are distant, bittersweet memories of times I cannot return to. But loss is but a cycle of life, one that’s inescapable and a truth as bitter as unrequited affection.
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.