The Making of The Ring at The Met. A Documentary Encore

March 7, 2019


On Friday, March 15 at 9 p.m., THIRTEEN presents an encore of Great Performances at the Met: Wagner’s Dream (2012).

Preparations for opera’s most challenging work – Wagner’s Ring Cycle – are captured in this behind-the-scenes documentary on the Metropolitan Opera’s groundbreaking new staging in 2010. This broadcast encore for New York audiences celebrates the 2019 season return of Wagner’s Ring to the Met. Three complete cycles will take place between March 9 and May 11, with Christine Goerke in her Met role debut as Brünnhilde, and Philippe Jordan conducting.

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About the Documentary

Wagner’s Dream (2012), by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke, follows the Metropolitan Opera’s production of opera’s greatest epic, Richard Wagner’s four-part, 16-hour Ring Cycle.

Visionary stage director Robert Lepage sets out to create the most technically demanding production in the history of the Met, a process fraught with a formidable array of challenges for the director, singers, administration, and stage crew.

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 from its first presentation in 1876. The cosmic vision of gods and mortals vying for power and destroyed by greed calls for astonishing stage visuals of fire storms and flying warriors, not to mention major sequences set underwater and in the heavens.

At the invitation of the Metropolitan Opera, Robert Lepage, the director who works on the cutting edge of theatrical invention, accepted the challenge of the Ring . Ms. Froemke’s cameras have captured all the creative birth pains of Lepage’s concept, covering the numerous technical demands throughout 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 undertook their own epic journey through tense technical glitches and various singer crises, while preparing to face a demanding Met audience unaccustomed to dramatic changes from traditional stagings.

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 the truly 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 highest profile role debut of her career, soprano Deborah Voigt is torn between excitement and fear of 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.

The first opera in the cycle, Das Rheingold, premiered at the Met in September 2010. The subsequent operas premiered over the course of the next two years, with Die Walküre opening in April 2011, Siegfried in October 2011, and Götterdämmerung in January 2012.

Photos from the Ring Cycle, 2010-2012

More Opera from Great Performances

Birgit Nilsson and Rudolf Bing

Birgit Nilsson with the Metropolitan Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing. Credit: Courtesy C Major Entertainment

Upcoming opera programs on Great Performances include the documentary Birgit Nilsson: A League of Her Own, premiering Friday, March 22 at 9 p.m., and Great Performances at the Met broadcasts of Samson et Dalila (Sunday, March 24 at 1 p.m. on THIRTEEN) and La Traviata (Friday, April 5 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN). See the entire Great Performances of the Met Season 13 lineup, here.

Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Opera on ALL ARTS

Soprano Julia Bullock

Soprano Julia Bullock hosts ALL ARTS opera programs. She is artist-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Christian Steiner


Soprano Julia Bullock is the host of opera programs on ALL ARTS, the new broadcast channel and streaming platform dedicated to arts and culture. The following opera broadcasts will stream the same day on the ALL ARTS app and allarts.org.

ALL ARTS’s debut opera episode on Sunday, March 10 at 8 p.m. (check local listings) is Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord’s production of Leoš Janácek’s opera, Katia Kabanova. Told in three acts, the opera explores themes of forbidden love, as Katia contemplates life outside of her unhappy marriage. Julia Bullock gives her take on the opera at the beginning of the episode. Watch the trailer.

The Set List: Joyce DiDonato’s Songplay premieres Sunday, March 24 at 8 p.m. (check local listings). American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato’s album Songplay unites extraordinary musicians from the varied worlds of opera, jazz and tango in the pure pleasure of improvisation, experimentation and exchange. Together they create their own musical language. In this concert, she surprises viewers with timeless melodies transformed and universal stories retold over centuries.