Composers and their stage works 

Life Is a Dream

(La vida es sueño)

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

A Comedia filosófica wr. ca. 1631/32

Basilio, King of Poland, having read in the stars that his newly born son Segismundo is fated to be a tyrant, decides to have him brought up in solitary imprisonment. Locked in a mountain tower where he sees only his adviser and jailer Clotaldo, Segismundo has after twenty years become a mixture of man and beast. In a famous monologue he envies the freedom of animals. The aged King, concerned over the succession to his throne, now determines to test the predictions of the stars and see whether free will can triumph over predestination. He decides to have Segismundo drugged and brought to court while still asleep. If when he awakens, Segismundo shows himself capable of controlling his passions, he will be allowed to reign. If he proves to be a cruel man, he will be drugged and returned to prison, where he will be told that his experiences in the palace were a dream.

When Segismundo awakens in the palace, he is, for the first time, told of his royal birth. Having been brought up like a beast, he proceeds to behave as one. He attempts to kill Clotaldo, throws a servant who tries to intervene out of the window, and forces his attentions on Rosaura, a woman who has come to court in search of her seducer, the Duke of Muscovy. Drugged and returned to his prison, Segismundo awakens and ponders the nature of reality. Had the court been a dream, or is the present prison a dream?

Basilio must choose as his successor either the Duke of Muscovy or the visiting Princess Estrella. When he decides on the Duke, his soldiers rebel against the notion of a foreign ruler. Freeing Segismundo, they proclaim him King. Segismundo is tempted to revenge himself on Basilio, but experience has taught him prudence. After first reproving his father, he throws himself at his feet and begs his forgiveness. With princely justice, he then compels the Duke of Muscovy to marry Rosaura, who is discovered to be nobly born and the daughter of Clotaldo, and he himself asks for the hand of Princess Estrella. Though his happiness now seems complete, Segismundo is haunted by the possibility that he may once more be dreaming and that he will again awaken in prison.