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Call for Contest: Best audio reproduction of "I dreamed a dream" by Anna Hathaway

edited December 2012
Anna Hathaway's breathtaking performance as Fantine in Les Miserables singing "I dreamed a dream" probably touches the soul of millions worldwide who have watched the movie during the holidays. I was one of them. The first time I listened to this song dated back to 1994 when I was a graduate student in New York. I dressed up to attend the live broadway musical show with my ex girlfriend. It was the melody that caught my attention mostly. It wasn't the emotion.

Susan Boyle's rendition of this song probably elevates the "popularity" of this song to another threshold two years ago. But still I wasn't connected. As the role of Fantine in Victor Hugo's original novel was very fragile constantly in a state of despair, it makes me feel why Susan charges up so much vocal energy to perform this song. The emotions may come entirely from her own life journey. Perhaps, the powerful voice reflects Fantine's ultimate accusations before she died. Again, there is nothing wrong with any approach to art. The bottom line is I wasn't connected.

Then I began to do some researches on the internet about the super divas who have sung this song before. First, I listened to Ruthie Hendall. Her voice is beautiful with excellent diction. The voice projects with confidence. But again, I couldn't feel the pain of Fantine. Instead I feel there is a fairly heavy dosage of hope in her rendition. And that somehow contradicts with the lyrics. Perhaps the requirement of singing live in a braodway show is just different. I simply don't know.

The next is Patti Lupone. She is a legend, period. It is she who gave character to this song. Under the vocalism of Patti, I could feel the pain of Fantine in a different way. There was a slight hint of hope but soon to be taken away by despair. In the end, she conveys a feeling of accepting her tragic live as fate and so be accepted. The emotions are well paced and so artfully controlled backed by heavenly vocal gymnastics. By the way, she is the original singer of "Don't cry for me Argentina" eclipsing Madonna's performance by a few planets.

Anna Hathaway's rendition is unique in spite of technical imperfection. The pain is raw and physical. It is sheer realism of a human being. There is no suggestion of hope. She depicts "fragility" with contrast. There is a feeling of a hatred against the insane world at the end. I don't feel the Fantine under Anna wanted to accept her fate as it is even though the cruel reality killed the dream that she dreamed.

I immediately bought 3 copies of the soundtrack. Before I played the soundtrack, I read the little booklet to understand a bit more about the mastery work before the recordings. I want to check out if the intensity of emotions could equally be conveyed at AE with a 2 channel high end system without the help of cinematography. Anyway, I am already biased. All of a sudden, an idea sprung up in my mind.

I want to call for a contest in Hong Kong. Whoever can reproduce Track 5: "I dreamed a dream" in the latest Les Miserable soundtrack "closest to" or "better than" the performance at AE will win the latest Argento Flow Master Reference SE power cord. I will be the judge with a clear written set of criteria. I will go and visit your system to judge. Whoever wants to join the competition, please send an email to [email protected] The competition is opened to anyone. Application will be closed by the Jan 31st, 2013.

Piano Tuner


  • I watched the musical some time ago but somehow am not interested in the movie. After reading PT's comment, I think I could not escape from the movie now. I must experience how well the sentiment is conveyed by the song.
    The competition is a good idea and must be the major gossip at the start of 2013. I hope I could be a auditor when PT is judging different systems so that I could widen my horizon.
  • This is an very original idea but I got to watch the movie first!
  • What about Lea Salonga who performed at the 25 anniversary of Les Miserable? She is very good too. But I do agree Anna Hathaway's rendition of this song really shocked me in the movie. I wasn't expect anything from her as she is not a professional opera singer. But her performance drove a drop of tears from my eyes. It was groundbreaking!

    PT, thanks for such brilliant idea of a context! It will be fun and I am sure there are many experiences to be shared!
  • What are the criteria? I will watch the movie tonight.
  • I am in if you don't mind to travel to Beijing. A few friends of mine (real musicians) in Beijing finds this idea very innovative.

    Can you confirm which version of the CD do you use? Can you also ask Mr. Zanden to confirm the phase of the recording? That will help a lot.
  • 青衣區有6人參加,包括我和麥sir. 我們在旺角威威掃了十隻CD. 今晚去看電影。
  • This is very interestng and the prize is tempting. As it costs nothing to join, that's great. Neodio users should have the advantage because of the superb tonal color in the mid range.

    What are the criteria to win the competition?
  • 請問膠袋佬等師父會否參賽?
  • Unless PT is willing to travel to Taipei, our gangs probably can't join the game. Young man, what a great idea!

    Anyway, th phasing of the recording is important and I agree that we need some heavy weight to determine the correct phasing of the recording first. I have been privately seeking advice from Mr.Zanden these few days. It is a good idea for him to confirm the phasing first.
  • No matter what school of thought you are in. I do welcome you to join this funny and exciting competition !

    I already have some guys in my mind that may win the PRIZE ! Join and let me listen to your system with your heart in it !
  • Is this only limited to Hong Kong? What about the AE members from Singapore?
  • yes, you can join.
  • 超级想参加,不过住在星洲
  • I watched the movie yesterday and it is really a great one. Thumb up for it! The musical allows imagination for the audience but the movie is an actualization of the scene such as Jean pulling the ship in the beginning. With the simulation of vision, the songs are more appealing and touching, particularly you could see closeup of the actors singing with tears and facial expression.

    One major difference of Les Mis from other musicals like Phantom is that every character is having a chance to perform a unique story, not just limit to the few main characters. The greedy couples in the bar, Fantine, Eponine, Cosette ... I share the same view that Anne sings I dreamed a dream is marvellous. However, for me, I like more for Samatha singing "On my Own" in the raining night. Perhaps I have higher expectation after reading PT's article. Therefore I am not having an unbiased heart when Anne started to sing. Anyway, the inner message from "I dreamed a dream" is complex as it is from a woman who lost everything including her dignity while for "on my own", it is only on love matters.

    Maybe after the "main dish" of the competition "I dream a dream" is played. We could also select a few more songs like "on my own" to play as "dessert".

    It is good to see so many guru can't wait to join. What a great event!

    Happy new year to all of you!
  • Azzurri,

    I watched the movie two days ago in the US. It was a great movie. Many audiences were weeping during some scenes. I agree Samantha Barks clearly has better singing skills than Anna Hathaway but the complexity of emotions as you rightly pointed out is a lot simpler in her role, focusing on love. On the other hand, Fantaine was forced to become a prostitute and lived as a mother who could not even see her child. The cocktails of emotions displayed by Hathaway were very intense over a 4 minute 1-take shot performance. I wasn't expect such powerful emotion connections beforehand. Your "dignity" point is well taken because I could feel the big contrast of her fragility is driven by her strong dignity, however being confined physically as a prostitute. I couldn't feel this aspect from the performances of other divas (I followed PT and watched them all), who have excellent singing skills but could not display the multi-lateral emotions of Fantaine.
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