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Der Ring des Nibelungen

Richard Wagner
Introduction
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), WWV 86, is a cycle of four epic music
dramas by the German composer Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters
from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a
"Bühnenfestspiel" (stage festival play), structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend
("preliminary evening"). It is often referred to as the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The
Ring.
Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to
1874. The four parts that constitute the Ring cycle are, in sequence:



Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold)
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
Siegfried
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)

Although individual works of the sequence have been occasionally performed separately,
Wagner intended them to be performed in series. The first performance as a cycle opened the
first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, beginning with Das Rheingold on 13 August and ending with
Götterdämmerung on 17 August.Story
The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the
Nibelung dwarf Alberich from gold he stole from the Rhine maidens in the river Rhine. With the
assistance of the god Loge, Wotan – the chief of the gods – steals the ring from Alberich, but is
forced to hand it over to the giants, Fafner and Fasolt in payment for building the home of the
gods, Valhalla, or they will take Freia, who provides the gods with the golden apples that keep
them young. Wotan's schemes to regain the ring, spanning generations, drive much of the
action in the story. His grandson, the mortal Siegfried, wins the ring by slaying Fafner (who slew
Fasolt for the ring) – as Wotan intended – but is eventually betrayed and slain as a result of the
intrigues of Alberich's son Hagen, who wants the ring. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde –
Siegfried's lover and Wotan's daughter who lost her immortality for defying her father in an
attempt to save Siegfried's father Sigmund – returns the ring to the Rhine maidens as she
commits suicide on Siegfried's funeral pyre. Hagen is drowned as he attempts to recover the
ring. In the process, the gods and Valhalla are destroyed.
Wagner created the story of the Ring by fusing elements from many German and Scandinavian
myths and folk tales. The Old Norse Edda supplied much of the material for Das Rheingold,
while Die Walküre was largely based on the Völsunga saga. Siegfried contains elements from
the Eddur, the Völsunga saga and Thidrekssaga. The final Götterdämmerung, draws from the
12th-century German poem, the Nibelungenlied, which appears to have been the original
inspiration for the Ring.
The Ring has been the subject of myriad interpretations. For example, George Bernard Shaw, in
The Perfect Wagnerite, argues for a view of The Ring as an essentially socialist critique of

Wagner referred to them in "Opera and Drama" as "guides-to-feeling". and assisted Wagner in building the work's huge structures. and in the ingenuity of their combination and development. but rather in 'key regions'. as well as variations of existing instruments. cymbals. If such a bell is not to be used. three tenor trombones. Siegfried requires one onstage cor anglais and one onstage horn. While other composers before Wagner had already used similar techniques. emotion. and an on-stage steerhorn. three oboes. one contrabass trombone (doubling bass trombone). including the Wagner tuba. one bass trumpet. These are recurring themes and/or harmonic progressions.industrial society and its abuses. He also developed the "Wagner bell". cor anglais (doubling fourth oboe). Tonality Much of the Ring. Götterdämmerung requires five onstage horns and four onstage steerhorns. three trumpets. three soprano clarinets. the Ring was a landmark in the extent to which they were employed. He wrote for a very large orchestra. such as the bass trumpet and a contrabass trombone with a double slide. Robert Donington in Wagner's Ring And Its Symbols interprets it in terms of Jungian psychology. three bassoons. three flutes (third doubling second piccolo). glockenspiel. 12 violas. and described how they could be used to inform the listener of a musical or dramatic subtext to the action onstage in the same way as a Greek chorus did for the theatre of ancient Greece. using the whole range of instruments used singly or in combination to express the great range of emotion and events of the drama. and 8 double basses. leading towards individuation. especially from Siegfried act 3 onwards. then a contrabassoon should be employed. invented to fill a gap he found between the tone qualities of the horn and the trombone. Wagner adopted the use of leitmotifs. Instrumentation Wagner made significant innovations in orchestration in this work. whereas normally B-flat is the instrument's lowest note. All four parts have a very similar instrumentation. Das Rheingold requires one bass drum. The core ensemble of instruments are one piccolo. enabling the bassoon to reach the low A-natural. each of which flows smoothly into the following. character or other subject mentioned in the text and/or presented onstage. Tonal indeterminacy . cannot be said to be in traditionally clearly defined keys for long stretches. eight horns (fifth through eight doubling wagner tubas). one bass clarinet. This fluidity avoided the musical equivalent of clearly defined musical paragraphs. Die Walküre requires one snare drum. Wagner even commissioned the production of new instruments. one contrabass tuba. one tam-tam. tam-tam. They musically denote an action. as an account of the development of unconscious archetypes in the mind. object. 12 violoncellos. triangle. a percussion section with 4 timpani (requiring two players). six harps and a string section consisting of 16 first and second violins. one onstage harp and 18 onstage anvils. Music Leitmotifs As a significant element in the Ring and his subsequent works.

soprano) Mortals Wälsungs ● ● ● Siegmund. goddess of marriage (mezzo-soprano) ● Freia. Fricka's brother. goddess of wisdom/fate/Earth (contralto) ● Loge. and beauty (soprano) ● Donner. son of Wotan (tenor) Sieglinde. son of Siegmund and Sieglinde (tenor) ● Hunding. their half-brother (bass) A male choir of Gibichung vassals and a small female choir of women Brünnhilde (soprano) Waltraute (mezzo-soprano) Helmwige (soprano) Gerhilde (soprano) Siegrune (mezzo-soprano) Schwertleite (mezzo-soprano) Ortlinde (soprano) Grimgerde (mezzo-soprano) .Characters Gods ● Wotan. and this feature. is often cited as a milestone on the way to Arnold Schoenberg's revolutionary break with the traditional concept of key and his dissolution of consonance as the basis of an organising principle in music. Chromatically altered chords are used very liberally in the Ring. King of the Gibichungs (baritone) Gutrune. King of the Gods (god of light. air. goddess of love. his twin sister (soprano) Siegfried. daughters of Erda (contralto. his sister (soprano) Hagen. god of spring/happiness (tenor) ● Erda. god of thunder (baritone) ● Froh. youth. Fricka's sister. chief of the Neidings (bass) Neidings Gibichungs ● ● ● ● Valkyries ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Gunther. the weavers of fate. Wotan's wife. demigod of fire (tenor) ● The Norns. which is also prominent in Tristan und Isolde. mezzo-soprano. Fricka's brother. and wind) (bass-baritone) ● Fricka.was heightened by the increased freedom with which he used dissonance and chromaticism. Sieglinde's husband.

playing together. Scene 2 Wotan. It is considered the best-known drone piece in the concert repertory. in exchange Wotan has promised to give them Fricka's sister Freia. . Giants. Woglinde. seizes the gold and returns to his chasm. leaving them screaming in dismay. and Flosshilde. They think they have nothing to fear from the lustful dwarf. later turned into a dragon (bass) Nibelungs ● Alberich (bass-baritone) ● Mime. is asleep on a mountaintop with Fricka. Fricka awakes and sees a magnificent castle behind them. The curtain rises to show. beginning with a low E flat. which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic ring which will let its bearer rule the world. the three Rhine maidens. The Rhine maidens tell him about the Rhine gold.● Rossweisse (mezzo-soprano) Rhinemaidens. curses love. He chases them and tries to catch them in his arms. his brother. and building in more and more elaborate figurations of the chord of E flat major. and Siegfried's foster father (tenor) Other ● The Voice of a Woodbird (soprano)Das Rheingold Richard Wagner Scene 1 The scale of the whole work is established in the prelude. but Alberich. Fricka is worried for her sister. a Nibelung dwarf. the goddess of youth and beauty and feminine love. his brother. appears from a deep chasm and tries to woo them. because he has dispatched his clever servant Loge to search the world for something else to give the giants instead. at the bottom of the Rhine. but only by someone who first renounces love. lasting approximately four minutes. but Wotan is confident that they will not have to give Freia away. to portray the motion of the river Rhine. & Nibelungs Rhinemaidens ● Woglinde (soprano) ● Wellgunde (soprano) ● Flosshilde (mezzo-soprano) Giants ● Fasolt (high bass) ● Fafner. The giants Fasolt and Fafner built the castle. Alberich. As the sun begins to rise. the Rhine maidens mock his advances and he grows angry. but they elude him and laugh. his wife. over 136 bars. embittered by their mockery. Struck by Alberich's ugliness. the maidens praise the golden glow atop a nearby rock. She wakes Wotan and points out that their new home has been completed. Wellgunde. ruler of the gods. The key shifts to A flat as Woglinde begins an innocent song whose melody is frequently used to characterise the Rhine maidens later in the cycle. Alberich asks what it is.

) Wotan and Loge arrive and happen upon Mime. and. Freia's golden apples had kept the Gods eternally young. quantity and pitch) beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to give a stark depiction of the toiling of the enslaved dwarves. in pursuit of the gold. Alberich returns. including his contract with the giants. He points out that Wotan's authority is sustained by the treaties carved into his spear. nothing the giants would accept in exchange for Freia. and teleport him long distances. When they have finished. by extension. Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves with the power of the ring. depending on the translation). Loge asks how he can protect himself against a thief while he sleeps. Fafner makes a counteroffer: the giants will accept the Nibelung's treasure in payment. In order to win Freia back. He has forced his brother Mime. they begin to age and weaken. and give them. Loge tells them that he was able to find only one instance where someone willingly gave up love for something else: Alberich the dwarf has renounced love. Scene 3 In Nibelheim. the Tarnhelm. A general discussion of the ring ensues and everyone finds good reasons for wanting it. Wotan resolves to travel to Alberich's kingdom under the earth. He boasts to them about his plans to use his gold to conquer the world. turning into a giant snake (or dragon. it gives way to a choir of 18 tuned anvils (indicated in the score with specific size. he cannot permit the use of force to break the agreement. stolen the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. Loge acts suitably impressed and then he asks if he can . Alberich complies. the most skillful smith. taking Freia with them as hostage and vowing to keep her prisoner forever if the gods do not obtain. When Wotan tries to haggle. An orchestral interlude follows: it "paints" the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. Loge says he doesn't believe it and requests a demonstration. to create a magic helmet. will act as Wotan's guide.Freia rushes onstage in a panic. Donner (god of thunder) and Froh (god of spring) arrive to defend their sister Freia. as ruler of the gods. Fasolt demands payment for their finished work. who knows the underground kingdom. the better to torment his subjects. (The Tarnhelm can also change the wearer's shape. Loge. Alberich says the Tarnhelm would hide him. the giants depart. by evening. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm's power by making himself invisible. in her absence. driving his slaves to pile up a huge mound of gold. by allowing him to turn invisible or change his form. which Wotan therefore cannot violate. but Wotan stops them. the Nibelung's treasure. As the orchestra fades. who tells them about Alberich's forging of the ring and the misery of the Nibelungs under his rule. followed by Fasolt and Fafner. instead of Freia. Hoping Loge will arrive with the alternative payment he promised. Loge finally returns with a discouraging report: there is nothing that men will accept in exchange for feminine love. Wotan tries to stall. he dismisses them and turns his attention to the two visitors.

whoever does not possess it will desire it.also reduce his size. carrying Freia. Loge. realizes that Alberich's curse has terrible power. he asks for the return of the Tarnhelm. The giants seize Freia and start to leave. but Loge says that it is part of his ransom. which he names Valhalla. Alberich transforms himself into a toad. Far below. Wotan angrily and defensively declares that he will keep it for his own. but they quarrel over the ring itself. Froh creates a rainbow bridge that stretches to the gate of the castle. Wotan. However. He demands that Wotan fill the crack by yielding the ring. a primeval goddess older than Wotan. Donner summons a thunderstorm to clear the air. Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. The giants release Freia and begin dividing the treasure. Fasolt spots a remaining crack in the gold. and drag him up to the mountain top. Wotan and Loge force Alberich to exchange his wealth for his freedom. Erda the earth goddess. appears out of the ground. Wotan leads them across the bridge to the castle. but Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. They pile up the gold. The gods reconvene. which would be very useful for hiding. Hunding's unhappy wife. Suddenly. and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde. Fricka asks him about the name. Loge reminds all present that the ring rightly belongs to the Rhine maidens. the Rhine maidens mourn the loss of their gold and proclaim that the glory of the gods is only an illusion. and he uses the ring to summon his Nibelung slaves. Alberich is crushed by his loss. They untie his right hand. Troubled. and he replies enigmatically that its meaning will become clear when his plans come to fruition. who bring the hoard of gold. At last. Scene 4 On the mountaintop. he tells the audience that he is tempted to destroy the gods and all they have deceitfully acquired. Reluctant to release Freia. Loge remarks that Wotan is indeed a lucky fellow: his enemies are killing each other for the gold he gave up. does not follow the others into Valhalla. After the gold has been delivered. through which one of Freia's eyes can be seen. and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner. Wotan demands the ring. horrified. Fasolt insists that the gold be heaped high enough to hide her from view. this time forever.Die Walküre Richard Wagner Act 1 During a raging storm. Finally. Fafner clubs Fasolt to death (the orchestra repeats the "Death-Curse" leitmotif). and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it should return to him. Wotan calls the giants back and surrenders the ring. Siegmund tells her . Alberich's discordant "Death-Curse" leitmotif is one of the few leitmotifs which occur regularly and unchanged in all four parts of the Ring Cycle. who knows that the end of the gods is coming. Hunding is not present. Fasolt and Fafner return. After the storm has ended. She warns Wotan of impending doom and urges him to give up the cursed ring. tie him up. the gods prepare to enter their new home. Alberich refuses. and Wotan is forced to relinquish the Tarnhelm to help cover Freia completely. The two gods quickly seize him.

his twin sister. As the act closes he calls her "bride and sister". He grants Siegmund a night's stay. During their wedding feast. and draws her to him with passionate fervour. which she reciprocates. he moves to leave.that he is fleeing from enemies. having drugged Hunding's drink to send him into a deep sleep. disguised as the mortal man Wälse. he had seduced the earth- . After taking a drink of mead. but they are to do battle in the morning. Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund will die. that she already knows him. Wotan's wife and the guardian of wedlock. one not ruled by him) to aid his plans. Sieglinde. choosing to call himself Wehwalt. Siegmund now easily draws the sword forth. Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund the hospitality demanded by custom. but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero but Wotan's creature and unwitting pawn. Returning. recalling his father's promise that he would find a sword when he most needed it. Wälse. Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund's pursuers. Act 2 Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhilde. for this is the weapon that he needs for his forthcoming fight with Hunding). Siegmund expresses his love for her. which neither Hunding nor any of his companions could remove. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero (i. His weapons were broken and the bride was killed. she declares that he is Siegmund. She knows that Wotan. Wotan explains his problems: troubled by the warning delivered by Erda (at the end of Das Rheingold). leaving Brünnhilde with a despairing Wotan. Backed into a corner. arrives demanding the punishment of Siegmund and Sieglinde. One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl's relatives. Sieglinde returns. Siegmund laments his misfortune. Fricka exits. and that the Wanderer left the sword for him. When Siegmund finishes. she realises it is in the echo of her own voice. Siegmund describes returning home with his father one day to find his mother dead and his twin sister abducted. He then wandered with his father until he was parted from him as well. and reflection of her image.e. She reveals that she was forced into a marriage with Hunding. and as she strives to understand her recognition of him. Fricka. But Sieglinde bids him stay. He names the blade "Nothung" (or needful. fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. an old man appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room. who have committed adultery and incest. 'filled with woe'. She expresses her longing for the hero who could draw the sword and save her. his Valkyrie daughter. and she tells him she is Sieglinde. When he speaks the name of his father.. ignoring his wife's distress. and he was forced to flee to Hunding's home. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde. He instructs Brünnhilde to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Initially Siegmund does not reveal his name. saying he can bring no misfortune to the "house where ill luck lives". increasingly fascinated by the visitor. urges him to tell his tale. claiming to be cursed by misfortune.

kisses her eyes closed into an enchanted sleep. Wotan looks down on Siegmund's body. Having fled Hunding's hall. Siegmund refuses to follow Brünnhilde to Valhalla when she tells him Sieglinde cannot accompany him there. in a long embrace.goddess to learn more of the prophesied doom. She recounts the courage of Siegmund and her decision to protect him. which will deter all but the bravest of heroes (who. but they dare not defy Wotan. Dismayed. knowing that was Wotan's true desire. Wotan orders Brünnhilde to obey Fricka and ensure the death of his beloved child Siegmund. she identifies her actions as Wotan's true will. and names the unborn son Siegfried. and angrily sets out in pursuit of his disobedient daughter. he can create only thralls (i. He summons Loge (the Norse demigod of fire) to ignite the circle of flame that will protect her. lurking in a forest with the Nibelung treasure. they both know will be the yet unborn Siegfried).e. then slowly departs in sorrow. Wotan lays Brünnhilde down on a rock and. Act 3 The other Valkyries assemble on the summit of a mountain. The giant has transformed himself into a dragon. Hunding arrives and attacks Siegmund. Valhalla's army will fail if Alberich should ever wield the ring. to be held in a magic sleep on the mountain. Wotan consents to her last request: to encircle the mountaintop with magic flame. who is bound to him by contract. after pronouncing: "Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire. Wotan arrives in wrath and passes judgement on Brünnhilde: she is to be stripped of her Valkyrie status and become a mortal woman. But as Fricka pointed out. Brünnhilde approaches Siegmund and tells him of his impending death. introducing the key of E major. and Brünnhilde gathers up the fragments of Nothung and flees on horseback with Sieglinde. While Siegmund is thus disarmed and helpless. a living woman. Brünnhilde relents and agrees to grant victory to Siegmund instead of Hunding. Siegmund dismisses Brünnhilde's warning since he has Wälse's sword. warrior maidens who gather the souls of fallen heroes to form an army against Alberich. With the words 'Der diese Liebe mir ins Herz gehaucht' (He who breathed this love into me). but Wotan appears and shatters Nothung (Siegmund's sword) with his spear. Bitterly. Impressed by his passion. She also reveals that Sieglinde is pregnant by Siegmund. They are astonished when Brünnhilde arrives with Sieglinde. but Brünnhilde tells him it has lost its power. She begs them to help. which is in Fafner's possession. Siegmund begins to overpower Hunding. prey to any man who happens by. grieving. He raised Brünnhilde and eight other daughters as the Valkyries. Brünnhilde decides to delay Wotan as Sieglinde flees. Hunding stabs him to death.Siegfried . Siegmund draws his sword and threatens to kill both Sieglinde and himself." The curtain falls as the Magic Fire Music again resolves into E major. Wotan strikes Hunding dead with a contemptuous gesture. each with a dead hero in her saddlebag. as shown through the leitmotif. Siegmund and Sieglinde enter the mountain pass. where Sieglinde faints in guilt and exhaustion. which his father assured him would win victory for him. Brünnhilde begs mercy of Wotan for herself. Wotan cannot wrest the ring from Fafner. he needs a free hero to defeat Fafner in his stead. servants) to himself. Brünnhilde was born to him by Erda. Blessed by Brünnhilde. the other Valkyries flee. his favorite child.

and immediately breaks the new sword. In the meantime. Siegfried will kill him. Mime is forced to explain how he took in Siegfried's mother. to kill Fafner. on the earth. Mime realizes that Siegfried is "the one who does not know fear" and that unless he can instill fear in him. Siegfried decides to do it himself. Siegfried orders him to reforge the sword. These are the Nibelung. Wotan spares Mime. and Mime promises to teach him by taking him to Fafner. as the Wanderer answers correctly. However. which Mime had obtained from her. The Wanderer then induces Mime to wager his own head on three further riddles: the race most beloved of Wotan. Scene 2 An old man (Wotan in disguise) arrives at the door and introduces himself as the Wanderer. He shows Siegfried the broken pieces of the sword Nothung. Mime needs a sword for Siegfried to use. telling him that only "he who does not know fear" can reforge Nothung. is forging a sword. he cannot answer the last. the dwarf Mime. He has raised the human boy Siegfried as a foster child. After he finishes forging the sword. The dwarf asks the Wanderer to name the races that live beneath the ground. however. but the youth has contemptuously broken every sword Mime has made. Siegfried departs. Siegfried senses why he keeps coming back to Mime although he despises him: he wants to know his parentage. Act 2 . Siegfried is eager to learn it. while "the orchestra paints a dazzling picture of flickering lights and roaring flames". who obtained the ring and other treasures in the opera Das Rheingold and has since transformed himself from a giant to a dragon. the Giants. he wagers his head on answering any three questions of Mime. Siegfried returns and is annoyed by Mime's lack of progress. and casting it anew. is unable to accomplish this. After a whining speech by Mime about ingratitude. Mime brews a poisoned drink to offer Siegfried after the youth has defeated the dragon. Mime is plotting to obtain the powerful ring originally created by his brother Alberich for himself. giving birth to Siegfried. and in the skies. and leaves Mime's head forfeit to that person. In return for the hospitality due a guest. He tells Siegfried that fear is an essential craft. Mime answers the first two questions: the Wälsungs (Siegmund and Sieglinde whose tale is told in the opera Die Walküre) and Nothung. As the curtain rises. melting it. and one in B flat minor associated with the Nibelungs themselves. Since Mime was unable to forge Nothung. An orchestral introduction includes references to leitmotifs including themes relating to the original hoard plundered by the Nibelung Alberich. and the Gods. Scene 3 Mime despairs as he imagines the ferocity of the dragon Fafner. Siegfried demonstrates its strength by chopping the anvil in half with it. Sieglinde. the name of the sword that can destroy Fafner. Mime. who then died. and the person who can repair the sword. and how Mime has brought him up from a mewling infant ("Als zullendes Kind").Richard Wagner Act 1 Scene 1 A cave in rocks in the forest. but most harshly treated. leaving Mime in despair. Alberich's brother. Siegfried returns from his wanderings in the forest with a wild bear in tow. He succeeds by shredding the metal.

declines Alberich's offer. Following its instructions. follows the bird towards the rock. He throws Mime's body into the treasure cave and places Fafner's body in the cave entrance to block it. In his last moments. but is unsuccessful. Scene 2 Siegfried arrives. Mime offers him the poisoned drink. indeed. and offers to prevent the fight in exchange for the ring. Alberich warns the dragon that a hero is coming to kill him. After a short exchange. He even offers to awaken the dragon so that Alberich can bargain with him." Dismissed. Wotan states that he does not intend to interfere. and the Wanderer questions the youth. the magic power of the dragon's blood allows Siegfried to read Mime's treacherous thoughts. who will "work the deed that redeems the World. but Siegfried mocks him. and breaks his spear (the symbol of Wotan's authority) with a blow from Nothung. pointing out his floppy hat and his missing eye. it is his desire. The Wanderer arrives at the entrance to Fafner's cave. After assuring Siegfried that the dragon will teach him what fear is. The woodbird now sings of a woman sleeping on a rock surrounded by magic fire. where Alberich is keeping vigil. Alberich and Mime quarrel over the treasure. The Wanderer summons Erda. and Brünnhilde (Erda's and Wotan's child). however. Fafner learns Siegfried's name. and returns to sleep. As Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear. which brings Fafner out of his cave. The Wanderer blocks his path. Siegfried. He then plays a tune on his horn. Mime withdraws. Siegfried. Alberich boasts of his plans to regain the ring and rule the world. Fafner dismisses the threat. Siegfried complains to Mime that he has still not learned the meaning of fear. Scene 3 Outside the cave. he finds that he can understand the woodbird's song. he takes the ring and the magic helmet Tarnhelm from Fafner's hoard. they fight. answers insolently and starts down the path toward Brünnhilde's rock. appearing confused. Wotan calmly gathers up the pieces and vanishes. Siegfried stabs Fafner in the heart with Nothung. On tasting the blood. the earth goddess. His heritage will be left to Siegfried the Wälsung. only to observe. When Siegfried withdraws his sword. Alberich hides as Siegfried comes out of the cave. and he stabs him to death. and tells him to beware of treachery. He attempts to mimic the bird's song using a reed pipe. wondering if he can learn fear from this woman. he hears a woodbird singing. Wotan informs her that he no longer fears the end of the gods. his hands are burned by the dragon's blood and he puts his finger in his mouth. Wotan leaves and Alberich withdraws. Erda. The two enemies recognize each other. who does not recognize his grandfather. Scene 2 At daybreak. Act 3 Scene 1 At the foot of Brünnhilde's rock. .Scene 1 Deep in the forest. Erda sinks back into the earth. is unable to offer any advice. Siegfried and Mime arrive.

Without warning. As day breaks. waking her from her magic sleep. he finds a woman beneath. he loses his memory of Brünnhilde and falls in love with Gutrune instead. and currently waits in Valhalla for the end. Bearing Brünnhilde's shield and mounting her horse Grane. their rope breaks. sent his magic ravens to spy on the world and bring him news. under its influence. Brünnhilde sends Siegfried off to new adventures. Siegfried toasts Brünnhilde and their love. In his drugged state. He reminds Gutrune that he has given her a potion that she can use to make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde and fall in love with Gutrune. and laughing death. weaving the rope of Destiny. In desperation. Wotan is dismayed at losing his spear. left on guard duty. Hagen. to be piled around Valhalla. Waltraute begs Brünnhilde to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens. Hesitant at first. Gunther. Brünnhilde is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute. the World tree. Siegfried rides away as an orchestral interlude (Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine) starts. Gunther and Gutrune agree enthusiastically with this plan. Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from their cave. Meanwhile. daughters of Erda. emerging on Brünnhilde's rock. sits enthroned. They sing of the past and the present. he kisses Brünnhilde. high on a mountaintop surrounded by magic fire. Lamenting the loss of their wisdom. when he removes the armor. a population dwelling by the Rhine. Together. and of the future when Wotan will set fire to Valhalla to signal the end of the gods. Wotan ordered branches of Yggdrasil. Act 1 The act begins in the Hall of the Gibichungs. lord of the Gibichungs. Siegfried offers to win a wife for Gunther. Unaware of the deception. At first. but he does not join in the oath) and leave for Brünnhilde's rock. urging him to keep their love in mind. seeking to meet Gunther. Drinking the potion."Götterdämmerung Richard Wagner Prologue The three Norns. Siegfried will win Brünnhilde for Gunther. Siegfried at last experiences fear. they hail "light-bringing love.Scene 3 Brünnhilde's rock. At the sight of the first woman he has ever seen. he thinks the armored figure is a man. However. Siegfried gives her the ring of power that he took from Fafner's hoard. He suggests Brünnhilde for Gunther's wife. and renounces the world of the gods. Siegfried appears at Gibichung Hall. since the . and Siegfried for Gutrune's husband. who tells him about Brünnhilde and the magic fire which only a fearless person can cross. They swear blood-brotherhood (Hagen holds the drinking horn in which they mix their blood. who tells her that Wotan returned from his wanderings with his spear Gungnir shattered. Gunther extends his hospitality to the hero. Hagen. the Norns disappear. as it has all the treaties and bargains he has made—everything that gives him power— carved into its shaft. and Gutrune offers him the love potion. gather beside Brünnhilde's rock. His half-brother and chief minister. gloats that his so-called masters are unwittingly bringing the ring to him (Monologue: Hagen's watch). Brünnhilde is won over by Siegfried's love. Siegfried enters the ring of fire. As a pledge of fidelity. advises him to find a wife for himself and a husband for their sister Gutrune.

predicting that Siegfried will die and that his heir. They swim away. which restores his memory. leaving Brünnhilde. but Siegfried in disguise. The Rhinemaidens urge him to return the ring and avoid its curse. he swears to kill Siegfried and acquire the ring. Siegfried then leads Gutrune and the bystanders off to the wedding feast. Hagen. and Gunther alone by the shore. Act 2 Hagen.ring's curse is now affecting their father. Siegfried rejoins the hunters. will treat them more fairly. who include Gunther and Hagen. and he tells of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. he tells them about the adventures of his youth. The vassals are surprised to learn that the occasion is not battle. "guardian of oaths". But this time. While resting. Siegfried overpowers her. Siegfried arrives. Brünnhilde seizes the tip of the spear and swears that they are true. the understanding is that if the oath is proven false. while Hagen repeats his pledge to Alberich: to acquire the ring and rule the world through its power. a lady. seeking revenge for Siegfried's manifest treachery. Gunther agrees to Hagen's suggestion that Siegfried must be killed for Gunther's standing to be regained. Wotan. and claims Brünnhilde as his wife. the Rhinemaidens mourn the lost Rhine gold. Siegfried arrives via Tarnhelm-magic. having resumed his natural form and left Brünnhilde on the boat with Gunther. Hagen gives him another potion. Alberich exits as dawn breaks. They sing a trio in which Brünnhilde and Gunther vow in the name of Wotan. eyes open. Brünnhilde. she realizes she has been betrayed—that the man who conquered her was not Gunther. who is astonished to see Siegfried. Hagen and Gunther decide to lure Siegfried on a hunting-trip and murder him. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. Noticing the ring on Siegfried's hand. but motionless) by his father. waiting by the bank of the Rhine. and Waltraute rides away in despair. Deeply shamed by Brünnhilde's outburst. Siegfried happens by. However. Though Brünnhilde resists violently. He does this by sounding the waralarm. Act 3 In the woods by the bank of the Rhine. Alberich. snatching the ring from her hand and placing it on his own. and Hagen explains in three words . joins the plot and tells Hagen that Siegfried would be vulnerable to a stab in the back. to kill Siegfried. On Alberich's urging. Gunther leads in a downcast Brünnhilde. the weapon's owner should avenge it by killing the perjurer with that weapon. but their master's wedding and party. Siegfried swears on Hagen's spear that her accusations are false. since the oath is sworn on a weapon. disguised as Gunther by using the Tarnhelm. The others look on in horror. Once again Hagen supervises silently as others take oaths to his advantage. Brünnhilde refuses to relinquish Siegfried's token of love. but he laughs at them and says he prefers to die rather than bargain for his life. She denounces Siegfried in front of Gunther's vassals and accuses Siegfried of having seduced her himself. is visited in his semi-waking sleep (sitting up. separated from the hunting party. Hagen summons the Gibichung vassals to welcome Gunther and his bride.

the curtain falls. His body is carried away in a solemn funeral procession (Siegfried's funeral march) that forms the interlude as the scene is changed and recapitulates many of the themes associated with Siegfried and the Wälsungs. Gunther draws his sword but Hagen attacks and easily kills him. She takes the ring and tells the Rhinemaidens to claim it from her ashes. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods. As the people watch. The fire flares up. quenching the fire. they fly off. The Rhine overflows its banks. Siegfried's hand rises threateningly. therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it.("Meineid rächt' ich!" – "I have avenged perjury!") that since Siegfried admitted loving Brünnhilde. As the gods are consumed in the flames. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. Hagen recoils in fear. with gods and heroes visible as described by Waltraute in Act 1. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. However. Brünnhilde mounts her horse Grane and rides into the flames. who replies that Siegfried had incurred the penalty of his false oath. the interior of Valhalla is finally seen. as Hagen moves to take the ring. the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false. Gutrune awaits Siegfried's return. Gutrune meanwhile dies of grief. claims the ring on Siegfried's finger by right of conquest. a red glow is seen in the sky. hiding it and them from sight completely. and further. deeply moved. once fire has cleansed it of its curse. Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river. When Gunther objects. Hagen appeals to the vassals to support his claim. As they celebrate the return of the ring and its gold to the river. and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses. After an apostrophe to the dead hero. Brünnhilde makes her entrance and takes charge of events (the Immolation Scene). Lighting the pyre with a firebrand. Gunther blames Siegfried's death on Hagen. she sends Wotan's ravens home with "anxiously longed-for tidings". and the Rhinemaidens swim in to claim the ring. . Hagen tries to stop them but they drag him into the depths and drown him. Gutrune is devastated when Siegfried's corpse is brought in. Back in the Gibichung Hall. Hagen arrives ahead of the funeral party.