The Story of... 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables

13 April 2019, 13:43 | Updated: 13 April 2019, 19:53

I Dreamed a Dream
Picture: Universal/ITV

By Tom Eames

'I Dreamed a Dream' is one of the standout songs from Les Miserables, that has since been performed by many artists including Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent.

The powerful and moving power ballad has taken on various meanings over the years, and here is the fascinating story behind its creation and legacy.

  1. Who wrote 'I Dreamed a Dream'?

    Claude Michel Schonberg (left) with Sir Cameron Mackintosh
    Claude Michel Schonberg (left) with Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Picture: Getty

    The music of the song was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, with orchestrations by John Cameron, for the musical Les Miserables.

    The English lyrics were by Herbert Kretzmer, and is based on the French version by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel from the original French production.

    The original French song was extensively rewritten for the English production by Kretzmer, adding the prologue ("There was a time...") and cutting the last few lines, which became the ending to 'Lovely Ladies'.

  2. 'I Dreamed a Dream' meaning: When is it used in Les Miserables?

    The song is a lament, and is sung in the musical by the desperate character Fantine, who has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets.

    She is thinking back to happier days, and wonders how everything has gone wrong in her life.

  3. Who sang 'I Dreamed a Dream' first?

    Patti LuPone I Dreamed A Dream 1992

    In the original Paris production from 1980, it was entitled 'J'avais rêvé d'une autre vie' ('I had dreamed of another life'), and was originally sung by Rose Laurens.

    The first English-language production of Les Misérables opened on the West End in London in October 1985, with the role of Fantine portrayed by Patti LuPone. She later recorded the song on her 1993 album Patti LuPone Live!

    When the musical made its Broadway debut in New York City in March 1987, Fantine was played by Randy Graff. Laurie Beechman then performed the role in the original US touring production in 1988, and on Broadway in 1990. Debra Byrne sang the song on the Complete Symphonic Recording.

    Ruthie Henshall sang it at the Tenth Anniversary Concert Recording in 1995, while the Broadway revival in 2006 featured Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea Salonga and Judy Kuhn. Salonga sang it for the 25th Anniversary Concert in London in 2010.

  4. Les Miserables 2012 movie: Who sang it in the film version?

    I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables) - Anne Hathaway

    'I Dreamed a Dream' was covered again for the 2012 film adaption, directed by Tom Hooper.

    Fantine was played by Anne Hathaway, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

    The film changed the ordering of some songs, and this piece was swapped around with 'Lovely Ladies', for dramatic emphasis on Fantine's depression, after she had become a prostitute.

    The vocals for the song were recorded by Hathaway, live on the set, and later edited together with the music.

    The song reached the top 30 of the UK Singles Chart.

  5. When did Susan Boyle record it?

    Susan Boyle - Britains Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 - Saturday 11th April | HD High Quality

    The song had a resurgence in popularity in 2009, when Scottish singer Susan Boyle performed it as her audition for the third series of Britain's Got Talent.

    Her performance won a standing ovation and three 'yeses' from judges Piers Morgan, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell.

    The programme received high TV ratings, and Boyle's performance was quickly one of the most watched videos on YouTube, and made her an international star.

    It later helped sales of her album I Dreamed a Dream, which was named the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK, selling 701,000 copies in its first week in just the US.

    Soon after Boyle's audition, the Original London Cast Recording of LuPone singing 'I Dreamed a Dream' was downloaded so much that entered music charts in the UK and US. Boyle's studio version later reached 37 in the UK.

  6. Who else has covered it?

    "I Dreamed A Dream" (from Les Miserables)-Neil Diamond (Hot August Night, 1987)

    Many artists have covered the song, including:

    - Neil Diamond recorded the song for his 1987 live album Hot August Night II, changing the lyrics from "Now life has killed the dream I dreamed" to "But life can't kill the dream I dreamed".

    - David Essex on his 1987 album Centre Stage

    - Michael Crawford on his 1987 album The Phantom Unmasked and on his 1992 album With Love

    - Mandy Patinkin on his 1994 album Experiment

    - Michael Ball on his 1996 album The Musicals

    - Aretha Franklin on her 1991 album What You See is What You Sweat

    Aretha Franklin - I Dreamed A Dream

    - In the 1991 film The Commitments, one of the girls auditioning for the band sings 'I Dreamed a Dream' as her audition song

    - Elaine Paige on her 1995 album Encore

    - Petula Clark in 2001

    - The Glee episode 'Dream On' saw it performed by Shelby Corcoran and Rachel Berry, portrayed by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele

    - Josh Groban and Michael Ball sang a duet on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2010

    - Joe McElderry on his album Classic

    - Katherine Jenkins released a French cover on her album Daydream

    I Dreamed A Dream- Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle

  7. I Dreamed a Dream lyrics:

    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 times 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
    As 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