Ralf Pleger, German director and filmmaker, was born in 1967 in the region of Brandenburg. He currently lives in Berlin. His work focuses on innovative music films and film portraits of notable personalities. The musical make of his films, and the fusion of classical music and unorthodox narrative styles are award-winning signature features.
His internationally successful film “WAGNERWAHN” won the Public Award at the 2013 World Film Festival in Montreal, and received a nomination for the International EMMY Award, 2014.
Film formats defying general categorisation are those with which Ralf Pleger currently works. Some of his most recent creations demonstrate a fusion of fictional film, documentary and animation. Against such backdrops, he has presented unconventional portraits of composers, including Richard Wagner (“WAGNERWAHN”/“The Wagner Files” 2013), Ludwig van Beethoven (“The Beethoven Files”, 2013, Co-director: Hedwig Schmutte), and Peter Tchaikovsky (“The Tchaikovsky Files – Confessions of a Composer”, 2015).
Starring opera superstar Joyce DiDonato in the title role, Ralf Pleger created his latest cinematic production “The Florence Foster Jenkins Story” in 2016. The film tells the story of the “worst singer of all time” in a flamboyant mix of drama and documentary.
Ralf Pleger studied Musicology; Art History; and Italian in Berlin and Milan. Freelancing as a dramaturge he contributed to various international Opera productions, including the Berlin State Opera - Unter den Linden, and the Innsbrucker Festwochen. He simultaneously worked as an author and director for various film productions and television broadcasters.
As a director of music films Ralf Pleger has worked together with internationally renowned artists such Daniel Barenboim, Plácido Domingo and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. For the French-German TV broadcaster ARTE he has presented a number of artist portraits, which include the conductor Simone Young (2005), the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (2007) and the best-selling crime writer Donna Leon (2009).
Pleger’s documentary film “The Maestro-Maker” (3sat 2007), a portrait of the unique Finnish conducting teacher Jorma Panula, won the Czech Crystal Award for the best music documentary at the 2008 International Television Festival Golden Prague.
In 2008, Ralf Pleger directed two ambitious semi-fictional films about George Frideric Handel which aired on the First German Television networks.
Then, in 2009, he created for ARTE a film about vocal talent in South Africa. For this documentary he followed a passionate group of opera singers on their 5,000 km mission to deliver opera music to the South African provinces.
Ralf Pleger’s filmic journey across the international opera scene continues in the exotic and revealing documentary „China’s New Odeons“ (3sat 2012), as well as in the four-part documentary “Vocal Battle on the High Seas” (3sat 2013).
Other recent works include a series of film portraits which combine musical topics with particular narrative and visual elements. He employed this style when forming several musical films with the ensemble Salut Salon (2010, 2015), as well as a film about the pianist Markus Groh - who goes on an adventurous concert tour in a carriage loaded with a copy of the Hammerklavier, and drawn by four horses (2010). An exploration of extravagance, topically and visually, is illustrated in Ralf Pleger’s portrait of „DRAMA QUEENS“, featuring opera star Joyce DiDonato and fashion queen Vivienne Westwood (ARTE 2012).
The Florence Foster Jenkins Story, Documentary feature, 3B-Produktion 2016.
Die Akte Tschaikowsky – Bekenntnisse eines Komponisten (The Tchaikovsky Files – Confessions of a Composer), Documentary, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion 2015.
WAGNERWAHN (The Wagner Files), Documentary feature, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion 2013. +++ Winner of the Public Award at the 2013 World Film Festival in Montreal +++ Nominated for the International Emmy Award, 2014 +++
Die Akte Beethoven (The Beethoven Files), Documentary, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion 2013. Co-Director: Hedwig Schmutte.
“Beauty is a Crime”, Concert film, 3B-Produktion, 2015.
Sängerkrieg auf Hoher See (Vocal Battle on the High Seas), A Film in Four Parts, Music film / Documentary, Florianfilm 2013.
Chinas neue Musentempel (China’s New Odeons), Documentary, AVE Gesellschaft für Fernsehproduktion 2012.
Joyce DiDonato: DRAMA QUEENS, Music film / Music portrait, Seelmannfilm 2012.
Salut Salon: Der Film, Music film, Salut Salon 2012.
Konzertreise mit 4 PS – Die Zeitreise des Pianisten Markus Groh (Horsepower Performances – The Time Journey of the Pianist Markus Groh), Music film / Documentary, Seelmannfilm 2010.
Kap der guten Stimmen – Südafrika im Opernrausch (Cape of Good Voices – South Africa Hooked on Opera), Music film / documentary, Looksfilm 2010.
Donna Leon – Abenteuer einer Krimi-Lady (Donna Leon – Crime Novels from Venice), Film portrait, Seelmannfilm 2009.
Händel – Der Film (Handel – Life of a Pop Icon), Music film / Docu-fiction, Seelmannfilm 2008.
Anne Sophie Mutter – Dynamik eines Welterfolgs (Anne-Sophie Mutter – Portrait of a Global Success), Music portrait, dmfilm 2007. +++ Nominated for the Deutscher Kamerapreis 2008 +++
Der Maestro-Macher – Jorma Panula und seine finnische Dirigentenschule (The Maestro-Maker – Jorma Panula and his Finnish Conducting School), Film portrait, Seelmannfilm 2007. +++ Winner of the Czech Crystal award as best music documentary
at the 2008 International TV Festival Golden Prague +++
Mit Krone und Kamera – Das Heimkino der Welfen (With Crown and Camera – The House of the Welf’s Secret Cinema), Documentary, Seelmannfilm 2007.
Von Australien an die Alster – Die Dirigentin Simone Young (Simone Young – To Hamburg from Downunder), Music portrait, Seelmannfilm 2005.
Fate to Fado – A Musical Tour of Lisbon, Music film / Documentary, Seelmannfilm 2003.
Palermo: City of Music, Music film / Documentary, Seelmannfilm 2002.
Source: EuroArts (Warner Classics)