"Andrew Lowe-Watson has produced a score of which he should feel rightly proud"      Musical Opinion

Marianne Dreams

Op. 23

Opera in two acts

Libretto by Catherine Storr

About the opera

Marianne Dreams is based on the classic children's novel by Catherine Storr, published by Faber and Faber. It was given its world premiere in a concert performance at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadlers' Wells, London on June 16th 2004.

The performance has been recorded on CD for private use. A limited number of CDs are available on request (see below).

The story

Marianne is ill in bed on her birthday. She finds an old pencil and starts to draw a picture of a lonely house on a wide grassy plain. She falls asleep and dreams that she is outside the house in her drawing. Her mother engages a tutor as Marianne is told by the Doctor she must stay in bed for a long time.
The tutor, Miss Hemingford, tells Marianne about another student of hers, a boy called Mark who has been seriously injured in a football accident . Marianne draws a boy in the house and then dreams the same dream, but this time Mark is there too.
It is Miss Hemingford's birthday. Marianne is furious when her gift of nine roses is totally buried by Mark's flamboyant bouquet. In temper she draws thick bars across the windows and gives eyes to the ring of standing stones circling the house. She dreams that she too is in this new prison, which is dark and gloomy now. The stones terrify her as they watch, each with their single eye.
Miss Hemingford tells her that the real Mark is dangerously ill in hospital. Marianne is desperate to get back into the dream to see if he is still alive. She vows to save him and draws things to make his life more comfortable - books, games, a roast chicken, a four-poster bed and a bicycle to make his legs stronger so they can both escape. She draws a distant lighthouse too as a beacon to light their journey. With a second bike for Marianne, they plan to escape and live there.
The doctor, her mum and her tutor all become increasingly concerned that Marianne is getting obsessed with her drawings . She is very distressed when he tries to take the drawing book away from her. She returns to her dream and together she and Mark escape from the house and the stones which have moved ever closer . The stones are temporarily blinded by the beams of the lighthouse but still try to follow their prey. Eventually the two children reach the safety of the lighthouse and Mark and Marianne rest after their flight, enjoying the sound of the sea and the smell of seaweed and salt air.

Hear excerpts from the opera

Marianne draws the dream house

The first dream

Marianne vows to save Mark

Mum and Miss Hemingford worry about Marianne

Marianne and Mark hear the Stones talking through the radio

Doctor Burton and Mum try to persuade Marianne to stop drawing

Marianne and Mark arrive at the lighthouse

The CD

Marianne Dreams CD

A live CD of the premiere is available on request .

Recording engineered and mastered by Tony Wass of Ninth Wave Audio

I would like to know more about the CD


for World Premiere CD recording

Marianne   Suzy Robinson

Mum    Lise Christensen

Doctor Burton  Darron Moore

Miss Hemingford  Miranda Sinani

Mark    Kevin Kyle


Flute  Sarah Newbold

Oboe  Joseph Sanders

Clarinet  Jennifer McLaren

Bassoon  Claire Wadsworth

Horn  Stephen Roberts

Trumpet  Adam Wright

Trombone  Matthew Parry

Timpani  Markus Gruett

Percussion  Oliver Yates

Harp  Lucy Wakeford

Piano/Celeste  Krystian Belliere

Violins  Claire Stirling, Maya Bickell

Viola  Ann Trygstad

Cello  Timothy Wells

Double Bass Charlott Hooper-Greenhill

Conductor  Leo Hussain


Article in the Independent

The Economist "Intelligent Life"

Composing Marianne Dreams

The idea of an opera based on Marianne Dreams came to me one day in 1998 - I don't remember exactly when but recall that I was walking along Theobalds Road in London. I had been looking for a story about healing in some way, possibly because of the fact that I myself had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few months earlier.

Marianne Dreams is a book I have known and loved all my life. It was my brother James who introduced it to me, and the opera is dedicated to his memory. I recall being both frightened and inspired by the book as a child, and I recognised from my own dreams the strange half-light of Marianne's lonely house. For me it is a modern fairy tale with a moral - you have to live in the world your imagination conjures up, and sometimes the anger we turn on others rebounds on ourselves.

Initially I approached Faber and Faber about the the rights, expecting to be turned away. I was very gratified that, as well as giving the go-ahead to the project , Catherine offered to write the libretto herself, ''If that is what you would like''. Her modesty was genuine but she knew she had written a masterpiece and I believe the prospect of it becoming an opera excited her. I didn't even have to ponder a second before accepting her offer.

Over the next few months I started to plan the shape of my new opera, reducing the action to ten scenes, each one containing a dream sequence. I wanted it to be a chamber opera so that the vocals would not be overwhelmed by the orchestral texture. The full force of the orchestra would be kept in reserve for a few special moments of drama and intensity.

We spent many working lunches together, eating home-made bread with soup and cheese in her flat overlooking the rooftops of Hampstead, going over the words she had written until we had a workable libretto. One of the things that impressed me most was her insistence that simple words were best in opera. "Let the music show the wind in the grass " she told me once.

Catherine loved music and went regularly to the theatre and the opera. She enjoyed working on the opera and was looking forward to hearing it complete and orchestrated. I hope that this premiere recording would have pleased her.

Andrew Lowe Watson