Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Innovative opera composer and director Robert Wilson attempted to create a truly international opera to be performed at the Los Angeles Olympics. Six different composers from six countries were to compose operas from his libretto based on the United States' Civil War. After an initial performance in their countries of origin, they were to be performed in one nine-hour-long epic in Los Angeles during the games. Since the very word "opera" means "work," and the ideal of opera is to join every major art form into one massive undertaking, the ideals of "The Civil War" series of operas parallels the internationalist ideas of the Olympic movement itself. Unfortunately, though the organizers okayed the project and the Olympics Committee agreed to put up matching funds, other funding fell short and the deadlines were not met. Despite that, this extraordinary effort involved casts and composers in Tokyo, Marseilles, Rome, Minneapolis, Rotterdam, and Cologne, with Robert Wilson writing the libretto and directing each of the productions. This documentary begins by considering the composer's life and more innovative works, such as "Einstein on the Beach" and "The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud," and it goes on to document the extraordinary international artistic venture involved in bringing "The Civil War" to life.