An intimate look at the enormous theatrical and musical challenges of staging opera’s most monumental work, the film chronicles the quest to fulfill Wagner’s dream of a perfect Ring.

The stakes could not be higher as one of the theater's finest stage directors teams up with one of the world's leading opera companies to tackle opera's most monumental challenge: the production of Wagner's epic Ring cycle - the four-part, 16-hour work that the composer first presented in 1876. For the past 130 years, the quest to produce a perfect Ring has stymied directors, including Wagner himself, who struggled to meet the immense theatrical demands of his own creation. The cosmic vision of gods and mortals vying for power and destroyed by greed calls for astonishing stage visuals of fire storms, flying warriors, and underwater and heavenly actions.


At the invitation of the Metropolitan Opera, Robert Lepage, the visionary director who works on the cutting edge of theatrical invention, accepted the challenge of the Ring six years ago. Ms. Froemke's cameras captured the creative birth of Lepage's ideas, the numerous technical demands that had to be met, and the multi-year effort to bring the groundbreaking and risky production to the stage of the Met. Lepage, his Canadian team, and their American counterparts at the Met fought through tense technical glitches and singer crises, while preparing to face an audience not used to significant change.


Wagner's Dream takes you deep into the artistic process, as Lepage journeys to the land of the Nordic Eddas (which, after Wagner, inspired works such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings), where Iceland's otherworldly landscapes fuel his vision for the Ring. It documents the early development leading up to musical and stage rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera House.


The production team battles with the most ambitious staging in Met history, featuring a 90,000-pound set ("The Machine") designed to realize all of Wagner's scenic requirements, representing everything from the depths of the Rhine to a breathtaking ring of fire. Backstage moments of heartbreak and triumph are captured, as "The Machine" malfunctions on the biggest Opening Night in the opera world - but pulls off the stunning, show-ending coup de théâtre at the next performance.


The film follows heroic singers as they take on many of the most daunting roles in opera, while meeting the unique difficulties of this new production. Preparing for the biggest role debut of her career, soprano Deborah Voigt is torn between excitement and fear over playing the warrior goddess Brünnhilde, who stars in three of the Ring operas. Unexpected drama arises as the tenor playing the Ring's hero, Siegfried, withdraws due to illness two days before the final rehearsal, and a new tenor, Jay Hunter Morris, courageously steps in - just in time for the production's world premiere.


An intimate look at the challenges of live theater and the risks that must be taken, the film chronicles the tremendous creativity and unflagging determination behind this daring attempt to realize Wagner's dream of a perfect Ring.

Susan Froemke
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