Wagner’s Dream


Exhaustive to the point of being occasionally exhausting, Wagner’s Dream charts the audacious efforts of opera director Robert Lepage to stage Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle—the medium’s most daunting challenge and one even Wagner himself had never satisfactorily pulled off—at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2011–12. Susan Froemke’s documentary details the four-year process of putting together this show, which is defined by the immense creative and logistical risks of employing a complicated multi-plank set (replete with video projections) that severely diverges from more conventional, literal past productions. Expertly assembled by editor Bob Eisenhardt, Froemke’s footage covers every aspect of the lead-up to and debut of the opera, a process that requires not only massive planning but also last-second problem solving when the inevitable technical glitches, illnesses, and performer anxieties threaten everything. Froemke’s comprehensive backstage pass of a film has run out of drama. Nonetheless, it remains a rousing portrait of creative renewal and, specifically, the way in which—by attempting something daring and new in the face of an opera culture deeply invested in tradition—Lepage proves that classic art can survive and flourish in a marriage with modern technology and imagination. Nick Schager