I like the performance of “I Dreamed a Dreamed” when Ruthie Henshall sings it. I’ve included the clip of her singing it at the 10th anniversary concert. I love the subtlety of her emotions. It’s almost as if she’s slowly dying with the progression of the words.
I know this song has made the rounds of fame because of the performance by Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. Since then, it’s become a sort of inspirational song. No hate for Susan Boyle’s performance. It was such a surprising and inspiring moment that still brings me to tears when I watch the YouTube video. But for a little bit, I want to put Susan Boyle out of my head and just listen to this song for what it is.
It’s the song of a woman who has lost everything. She thought she’d lost it all when the man she loved and gave herself to decided to move on. But now she’s reached the bottom of the bottom. Her means of income is gone and her disgrace as the mother of an illegitimate child has become known. She has no idea how she will pay for the survival of this little girl who is relying on her for everything.
The sadness of the song is that Fantine is taking a moment to remember what life was like when she was young and in love. She sings, “Dreams were made and used and wasted” and seems to spurn herself for her naivety.
Sometimes these words come into my head when I think about my own childhood. Hope seems so much easier when you are still young and dreaming is all you can do. It’s when you grow up and start to pursue those dreams that it’s a struggle to hold onto hope. You realize dreams don’t come easy. Factors outside of your control will invade and keep you from them. The biggest blow for hope is when a dream dies and you realize that nothing will cause that dream to come true.
As the song goes on she sings,
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
This is the moment when Fantine realizes her dreaming is ended. All dreams are dead. Like Valjean when he realizes freedom from prison is the exact opposite of what he had imagined, Fantine knows she’s reached the end. She thought she’d fallen as far as she could go, but she’s about to discover that her suffering isn’t over. She still has a long way to go.