"For perhaps the most ambitious project in its famed history, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned visionary director Robert Lepage to stage a new production of opera’s most formidable masterpiece: Richard Wagner’s four-part Ring Cycle. Shot over five years, Susan Froemke’s documentary captures the unprecedented challenges of bringing Lepage’s electrifying production to life. Featuring such opera luminaries as Deborah Voigt, the film is a rare and engrossing look at the artistic process." (Source: Official Synopsis) Click here for movie times.
A watch so taut a better title may have been Wagner's Nightmare. Robert Lepage and his believers set out convinced Wagner’s claim can be proved wrong – that the epic four-part opera is not actually 'unstageable'. But by the end of the documentary, that’s still debatable.
The production faces huge challenges, not least of which is taming 'The Machine,' the 45-tonne set made up of spinning planks which terrifies the Met’s esteemed cast. For good reason, star soprano Deborah Voigt tripping during her grand entrance as Brünnhilde. Director Susan Froemke has full access for this fly-on-the-wall making-of, so while the opera audience is left puzzling over Voigt’s tumble the camera follows her billowing silver skirts backstage, giving us front row seats to her humiliation. This access is the strength of the documentary, which will excite opera fans and intrigue anyone interested in the creative process.
Froemke’s got some good raw material. It’s a high stakes game creating a $16 million opera for a revered institution that risks offending its stalwart supporters ("I don’t want to see pizzazz," one drawls in the ticket line outside) and the drama is heightened by a soundtrack seeped in Wagner.
Ultimately, the narrative comes down to a man vs machine nail-biter. Will the set perform on opening night? The frankness of the people behind this monstrous endeavour (Voigt’s fear, Lepage’s blind optimism) means you can’t help but root for the opera’s success, even when it falls excruciatingly short of its dreams.