SILVERDOCS: ‘Wagner’s Dream’ by Bari Biern

Wagner’s Dream (USA) 112 minutes

Richard Wagner spent 25 years composing the Ring Cycle, a 16-hour magnum opus, largely based on Norse and German myths. The Ring is comprised of four operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung). Even by grand opera standards, the Ring has always been a beast to produce, requiring outsized commitments of time, talent and financing.

Deborah Voigt in 'Götterdämmerung.' Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Wagner’s Dream, directed by Susan Froemke, is the story of the latest incarnation of the Ring at the Metropolitan Opera, under the direction of Canadian Robert Lepage. The centerpiece of all four operas is a single set, made up of 24 giant cedar planks, rigged to rise, lower, tilt and turn in myriad formations.

Clearly, this is a high-risk undertaking for all involved, starting with Met General Manager Peter Gelb, who is banking on the new production to lift the company out of the doldrums and give it new relevance for the 21st century.

Soprano Deborah Voigt is also the focus of the film, as she prepares to sing her first Brunnhilde in this ambitious new production. The role alone is challenging enough, but Voigt also has tremendous trepidation about working on the 90,000 lb. ‘machine,’ which can malfunction without notice. Any number of calamities can befall the singers, making every performance a nail-biter for everyone on and offstage.

Wagner’s Dream is a terrific documentary, a genuine roller coaster ride through the perils of creating and mounting a production that is well outside the comfort zone of an opera institution and its discriminating and demanding audience. The stakes couldn’t be higher – and that makes for riveting filmmaking.

Remaining Performances
Friday, June 22 at 2:30 pm
Sunday, June 24 at 5:15 pm

Purchase tickets here.


Wagner’s Dream website.

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