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 feel of his films, the telling imagery, 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. For his film "The Tchaikovsky Files" Ralf Pleger was honored with the prestigious ECHO Klassik Award 2016.
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 unbelievable story of the “worst singer of all time” in a flamboyant mix of drama and documentary.
Ralf Pleger comes from a musical and theatrical background. He 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 from various fields including Daniel Barenboim, Plácido Domingo, Teodor Currentzis, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Cameron Carpenter. 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).
In 2016, Ralf Pleger presented his staging of "In War & Peace - Harmony Through Music", a concert show performed by Joyce DiDonato, Manuel Palazzo, Maxim Emelyanychev and Il Pomo d'Oro Orchestra. The show includes light design by Henning Blum and video art by Yousef Iskandar, and it adds a new dimension to Pleger's long-term artistic relationship with Joyce DiDonato. "In War & Peace" debuted at 12 renowned concert halls and theaters worldwide, including the Barbican Centre London, Wiener Konzerthaus and Carnegie Hall New York.