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Richard Wagner

The Ring of the Nibelung

Der Ring des Nibelungen, (German: “The Ring of the Nibelung”) four music dramas (grand operas) by German composer Richard Wagner, all with German librettos by the composer himself. The operas are Das Rheingold (“The Rhine Gold”), Die Walküre (“The Valkyrie”), Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung (“The Twilight of the Gods”), first performed in sequence at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany, on August 13, 14, 16, and 17, 1876. Collectively they are often referred to as the Ring cycle.

Wagner had long been interested in early Norse and German heroic poetry, including the medieval German epic Nibelungenlied (“Song of the Nibelung”), when he sketched out a prose version of the Nibelung myth in 1848. His first libretto to use that version was called Siegfrieds Tod (“The Death of Siegfried”), which became the basis of Götterdämmerung. He began composing the music in 1850, but he soon realized that he could not tell of Siegfried’s death without first telling of his life. In 1851 he wrote the libretto for Der junge Siegfried (“The Young Siegfried”; later shortened to Siegfried). Continuing back toward the beginning of the story, he finished the librettos for Die Walküre and Das Rheingold, respectively, in 1852. After completing the massive text, he composed the operas in the order of the story. The first two were composed by 1856, and then Wagner took a long break to complete Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg before completing Siegfried in 1871 and Götterdämmerung in 1874—26 years after he started work on the project.

Der Ring des Nibelungen, or the Ring cycle, is an unsurpassed exaltation of German heritage and mythology. In places, Wagner tells the story with the orchestra, using leitmotifs—fragments of melody that convey emotions and themes as they recur in varying contexts. It is even possible for the orchestra to convey ideas that are hidden from the characters themselves—an idea that later found its way into film scores.

Wagner was perpetually in need of funds, and the Ring would be extremely expensive to stage. Faced with a double motivation, Wagner conducted a series of concerts that featured orchestral excerpts from his forthcoming epic. Most famous of those is the Ride of the Valkyries, which opens the last act of Die Walküre, second of the four operas; other frequently encountered excerpts are the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla from Das Rheingold; Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre; Forest Murmurs from Siegfried; and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Funeral March, and Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung. The concerts provided him with a steady income, and they whetted the public appetite for the operas that would follow.

The original and ongoing home of the cycle, the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, was built to the composer’s specifications at the command of Bavaria’s King Louis II (often referred to by his German name, Ludwig). The first festival, which consisted of three multiday performances of the cycle, drew some of the best-known musical figures of the age, including Franz Liszt, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Anton Bruckner. The festival lost money, and the staging of the operas was problematic because of the complexity of the set design. The music was another story. Whatever others thought of Wagner’s vocal writing and ponderousness, none could deny his control of harmony, dramatic structure, and orchestration. Wagner had reimagined opera.




Wotan, King of the Gods (god of light, air, and wind) (bass-baritone)
Fricka, Wotan's wife, goddess of marriage (mezzo-soprano)
Freia, Fricka's sister, goddess of love, youth, and beauty (soprano)
Donner, Fricka's brother, god of thunder (baritone)
Froh, Fricka's brother, god of spring/happiness (tenor)
Erda, goddess of wisdom/fate/Earth (contralto)
Loge, demigod of fire (tenor)
The Norns, the weavers of fate, daughters of Erda (contralto, mezzo-soprano, soprano)



Siegmund, mortal son of Wotan (tenor)
Sieglinde, his twin sister (soprano)
Siegfried, their son (tenor)

Hunding, Sieglinde's husband, chief of the Neidings (bass)

Gunther, King of the Gibichungs (baritone)
Gutrune, his sister (soprano)
Hagen, their half-brother, and Alberich's son (bass)
A male choir of Gibichung vassals and a small female choir of Gibichung women


Brünnhilde (soprano)
Waltraute (mezzo-soprano)
Helmwige (soprano)
Gerhilde (soprano)
Siegrune (mezzo-soprano)
Schwertleite (mezzo-soprano)
Ortlinde (soprano)
Grimgerde (mezzo-soprano)
Rossweisse (mezzo-soprano)

Rhinemaidens, Giants & Nibelungs


Woglinde (soprano)
Wellgunde (soprano)
Flosshilde (mezzo-soprano)

Fasolt (bass-baritone/high bass)
Fafner, his brother, later turned into a dragon (bass)

Alberich (bass-baritone)
Mime, his brother, and Siegfried's foster father (tenor)

Other characters

The Voice of a Woodbird (soprano)


In Germanic mythology, Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn) is a widely revered god. In Norse mythology, from which stems most of the information about the god, Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym wōđanaz.

In Old English texts, Odin holds a particular place as a euhemerized ancestral figure among royalty, and he is frequently referred to as a founding figure among various other Germanic peoples, including the Langobards. Forms of his name appear frequently throughout the Germanic record, though narratives regarding Odin are mainly found in Old Norse works recorded in Iceland, primarily around the 13th century. These texts make up the bulk of modern understanding of Norse mythology.

In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions and familiars—the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn, who bring him information from all over Midgard—and rides the flying, eight-legged steed Sleipnir across the sky and into the underworld. Odin is attested as having many sons, most famously the gods Thor (with Jörð) and Baldr (with Frigg), and is known by hundreds of names. In these texts, he frequently seeks greater knowledge, at times in disguise (most famously by obtaining the Mead of Poetry), makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits, and takes part in both the creation of the world by way of slaying the primordial being Ymir and the gift of life to the first two humans Ask and Embla. Odin has a particular association with Yule, and mankind's knowledge of both the runes and poetry is also attributed to him, giving Odin aspects of the culture hero

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra - Wagner - Ride of the Valkyries - Ring


In Germanic mythology, Frigg (Old Norse), Frija (Old High German), Frea (Langobardic), and Frige (Old English) is a goddess. In nearly all sources, she is described as the wife of the god Odin. In Old High German and Old Norse sources, she is also connected with the goddess Fulla. The English weekday name Friday (etymologically Old English "Frīge's day") bears her name.

Frigg is described as a goddess associated with foreknowledge and wisdom in Norse mythology, the northernmost branch of Germanic mythology and most extensively attested. Frigg is the wife of the major god Odin and dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir, is famous for her foreknowledge, is associated with the goddesses Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gná, and is ambiguously associated with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity Jörð (Old Norse "Earth"). The children of Frigg and Odin include the gleaming god Baldr. Due to significant thematic overlap, scholars have proposed a particular connection to the goddess Freyja.

After Christianization, mention of Frigg continued to occur in Scandinavian folklore. In modern times, Frigg has appeared in modern popular culture, has been the subject of art, and receives modern veneration in Germanic Neopaganism.


In Norse mythology, Freyja (/ˈfreɪə/; Old Norse for "(the) Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, accompanied by the boar Hildisvíni, and possesses a cloak of falcon feathers. By her husband Óðr, she is the mother of two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. Along with her twin brother Freyr, her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr's sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the Vanir. Stemming from Old Norse Freyja, modern forms of the name include Freya, Freyia, and Freja.

Freyja rules over her heavenly field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin's hall, Valhalla. Within Fólkvangr lies her hall, Sessrúmnir. Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak, is invoked in matters of fertility and love, and is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife. Freyja's husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names. Freyja has numerous names, including Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís.

Freyja is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, composed by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century; in several Sagas of Icelanders; in the short story Sörla þáttr; in the poetry of skalds; and into the modern age in Scandinavian folklore.


In Norse mythology, Thor; from Old Norse Þórr) is the hammer-wielding Æsir god of thunder and lightning, associated with storms, oak trees, strength, hallowing, fertility, the protection of mankind and of the fortress of Asgard. The son of Odin All-Father and Jörð (the personification of Earth), he is physically the strongest of the Æsir. The cognate deity in wider Germanic mythology and paganism was known in Old English as Þunor (Thunor) and in Old High German as Donar, stemming from a Proto-Germanic Þunraz, meaning "thunder".

Thor is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, to the tribal expansions of the Migration Period, to his high popularity during the Viking Age, when, in the face of the process of the Christianization of Scandinavia, emblems of his hammer, Mjölnir, were worn and Norse pagan personal names containing the name of the god bear witness to his popularity.

Thor has inspired numerous works of art and references to Thor appear in modern popular culture. Like other Germanic deities, veneration of Thor is revived in the modern period in Heathenry.


Freyr (Old Norse: Lord), sometimes anglicized as Frey, is a widely attested god associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and pictured as a phallic fertility god in Norse mythology. Freyr is said to "bestow peace and pleasure on mortals." Freyr, sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the Swedish royal house.

In the Icelandic books the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr is presented as one of the Vanir, the son of the sea god Njörðr, as well as the twin brother of the goddess Freyja. The gods gave him Álfheimr, the realm of the Elves, as a teething present. He rides the shining dwarf-made boar Gullinbursti and possesses the ship Skíðblaðnir which always has a favorable breeze and can be folded together and carried in a pouch when it is not being used. He has the servants Skírnir, Byggvir and Beyla.

The most extensive surviving Freyr myth relates Freyr's falling in love with the female jötunn Gerðr. Eventually, she becomes his wife but first Freyr has to give away his magic sword which fights on its own "if wise be he who wields it." Although deprived of this weapon, Freyr defeats the jötunn Beli with an antler. However, lacking his sword, Freyr will be killed by the fire jötunn Surtr during the events of Ragnarök.

Like other Germanic deities, veneration of Freyr is revived in the modern period in Heathenry movement.


Urðr (Old Norse "fate") is one of the Norns in Norse mythology. Along with Verðandi (possibly "happening" or "present") and Skuld (possibly "debt" or "future"), Urðr makes up a trio of Norns that are described as deciding the fates of people. Urðr is attested in stanza 20 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá and the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning.

Urðr is together with the Norns located at the well Urðarbrunnr beneath the world ash tree Yggdrasil of Asgard. They spin threads of life, cut marks in the pole figures and measure people's destinies, which shows the fate of all human beings and gods. Norns are always present when a child is born and decide its fate. The three Norns represent the past (Urðr), future (Skuld) and present (Verðandi).

Urðr is commonly written as Urd or Urth. In some English translations, her name is glossed with the Old English form of urðr; Wyrd.

Wagner: Ring - Barenboim - Kupfer - Bayreuth Festival


Loki (Old Norse [ˈloki], Modern Icelandic, often Anglicized as /ˈloʊki/) is a god in Norse mythology. Loki is in some sources the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Narfi and/or Nari. By the stallion Svaðilfari, Loki is the mother—giving birth in the form of a mare—to the eight-legged horse Sleipnir. In addition, Loki is referred to as the father of Váli in Prose Edda, though this source also refers to Odin as the father of Váli twice, and Váli is found mentioned as a Son of Loki only once.

Loki's relation with the gods varies by source; Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes behaves in a malicious manner towards them. Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, a mare, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman named Þökk (Old Norse 'thanks'). Loki's positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr and Loki is eventually bound by Váli with the entrails of one of his sons. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, the goddess Skaði is responsible for placing a serpent above him while he is bound. The serpent drips venom from above him that Sigyn collects into a bowl; however, she must empty the bowl when it is full, and the venom that drips in the meantime causes Loki to writhe in pain, thereby causing earthquakes. With the onset of Ragnarök, Loki is foretold to slip free from his bonds and to fight against the gods among the forces of the jötnar, at which time he will encounter the god Heimdallr and the two will slay each other.

Loki is referred to in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; the Norwegian Rune Poems, in the poetry of skalds, and in Scandinavian folklore. Loki may be depicted on the Snaptun Stone, the Kirkby Stephen Stone, and the Gosforth Cross. Loki's origins and role in Norse mythology, which some scholars have described as that of a trickster god, have been much debated by scholars. Loki has been depicted in or is referenced in a variety of media in modern popular culture.


The Norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) in Norse mythology are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men. They roughly correspond to other controllers of humans' destiny, such as the Fates, elsewhere in European mythology.

In Snorri Sturluson's interpretation of the Völuspá, Urðr (Wyrd), Verðandi and Skuld, the three most important of the Norns, come out from a hall standing at the Well of Urðr or Well of Fate. They draw water from the well and take sand that lies around it, which they pour over Yggdrasill so that its branches will not rot. These three Norns are described as powerful maiden giantesses (Jotuns) whose arrival from Jötunheimr ended the golden age of the gods. They may be the same as the maidens of Mögþrasir who are described in Vafþrúðnismál.

Beside these three famous Norns, there are many others who appear at a person's birth in order to determine his or her future. In the pre-Christian Norse societies, Norns were thought to have visited newborn children. There were both malevolent and benevolent Norns: the former caused all the malevolent and tragic events in the world while the latter were kind and protective goddesses.


In Norse mythology, Sigmund (old norse: Sigmundr) is a hero whose story is told in the Völsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Völsung and his wife Hljod. Sigmund is best known as the father of Sigurð the dragon-slayer, though Sigurð's tale has almost no connections to the Völsung cycle.

Völsunga saga
In the Völsunga saga, Signý marries Siggeir, the king of Gautland (modern Västergötland). Völsung and Sigmund are attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Odin, disguised as a beggar, plunges a sword (Gram) into the living tree Barnstokk ("offspring-trunk") around which Völsung's hall is built. The disguised Odin announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword from the tree.


Siggeir is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. He tries to buy it but Sigmund refuses. Siggeir invites Sigmund, his father Völsung and Sigmund's nine brothers to visit him in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Völsung clan arrive, they are attacked by the Gauts; King Völsung is killed and his sons captured. Signý beseeches her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeir thinks that the brothers deserve to be tortured before they are killed, he agrees.

He then lets his shapeshifting mother turn into a wolf and devour one of the brothers each night. During that time, Signý tries various ruses but fails every time until only Sigmund remains. On the ninth night, she has a servant smear honey on Sigmund's face and when the she-wolf arrives, she starts licking the honey off and sticks her tongue into Sigmund's mouth, whereupon Sigmund bites her tongue off, killing her. Sigmund then escapes his bonds and hides in the forest.

Signý brings Sigmund everything he needs. Bent on revenge for their father's death, she also sends her sons to him in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each fails, she urges Sigmund to kill them, until one day when he refuses to continue killing innocent children. Finally, in despair, she comes to him in the guise of a völva and conceives a child by him, Sinfjötli (the Fitela of Beowulf). Sinfjötli, born of their incest, passes the test.

Sigmund and his son/nephew, Sinfjötli, grow wealthy as outlaws. In their wanderings, they come upon men sleeping in cursed wolf skins. Upon killing the men and putting on the wolf skins, they are cursed with a type of lycanthropy. Eventually, they avenge the death of Völsung.

After Signý dies, Sigmund and Sinfjötli go harrying together. Sigmund marries a woman named Borghild and has two sons, one of them named Helgi. Sinfjötli slays Borghild's brother while vying for a woman they both want. Borghild avenges her brother by poisoning Sinfjötli.

Later, Sigmund marries a woman named Hjördís. After a short time of peace, Sigmund's lands are attacked by King Lyngi. In battle, Sigmund matches up against an old man who is Odin in disguise. Odin shatters Sigmund's sword, and Sigmund falls at the hands of others. Dying, he tells Hjördís that she is pregnant and that her son will one day make a great weapon out of the fragments of his sword. That son was to be Sigurd. Sigurd himself had a son named Sigmund, who was killed when he was three years old by a vengeful Brynhild.


Signy or Signe (sometimes known as Sieglinde) is the name of two heroines in two connected legends from Scandinavian mythology which were very popular in medieval Scandinavia. Both appear in the Völsunga saga, which was adapted into other works such as Wagner's 'Ring' cycle, including its famous opera The Valkyrie. Signy is also the name of two characters in several other sagas.


The first Signy is the daughter of King Völsung. She was married to the villainous Geatish king Siggeir who has her whole family treacherously murdered, except for her brother Sigmund. She saves her brother, has an incestuous affair with him and bears the son Sinfjötli. She burnt herself to death with her hated husband.

The second Signy is the daughter of King Siggeir's nephew Sigar. She fell in love with the Sea-King Hagbard, and promised him that she would not live if he died. They were discovered and Hagbard was sentenced to be hanged. Hagbard managed to signal this to Signy who set her house on fire and died in the flames whereupon Hagbard hanged himself in the gallows.

A third Signy is the daughter of a witch named Grid in Illuga saga Gríðarfóstra. They are both delivered from a curse by a young man named Illugi.

A fourth Signy was Hroðgar's sister in Skjöldunga saga and Hrólfr Kraki's saga. She is unnamed in Beowulf.

In Völsunga saga
Signy was the only daughter of King Völsung of Hunaland and Hljod the giantess. She and her twin brother Sigmund were the oldest of Volsung’s eleven children. Signy reluctantly married King Siggeir of Gautland after he asked King Volsung for her hand. It was at their wedding feast that Sigmund drew the sword Gram from Barnstokkr.


Three months after her wedding, Signy's father and brothers visited her at her new home in Gautland. Signy warned them of her husband’s plan to betray them. Despite her warning, Volsung is killed and all of Signy’s brothers are captured. At Signy’s request, her brothers are put in the stocks rather than executed, but each night one was killed by a she-wolf. When only Sigmund was left alive, Signy sent a man to smear honey on his face and mouth, which the wolf only licked, allowing Sigmund to escape alive. Signy then helped her brother to hide in the woods.

Signy wanted nothing but to see her father’s death avenged. She sent her elder son to Sigmund for him to help in this endeavor. When Sigmund revealed to her that he was unworthy, Signy told Sigmund to kill him, which he did. The same happened with her younger son.

Signy met a sorceress with whom she exchanged shapes. Signy, looking like the sorceress, went to her brother in the woods and slept with him for three nights. She then returned to the castle and regained her appearance. After a time she gave birth to a son Sinfjötli. He was also sent to her brother in the forest when he was nine years old. Sigmund and Sinfjötli kill Siggeir to avenge the death of their father/grandfather together. It is only after this that Signy informs Sigmund of the incest that led to Sinfjötli's birth. Signy then walks into the fire that is killing her husband, announcing, "In everything I have worked toward the killing of King Siggeir. I have worked so hard to bring about vengeance that I am by no means fit to live. Willingly I will now die with King Siggeir, although I married him reluctantly."


Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving (c. 1000) and the Gök Runestone (11th century).


As Siegfried, he is one of the heroes in the German Nibelungenlied, and Richard Wagner's operas Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.

As Sivard Snarensven(d), he was the hero of several medieval Scandinavian ballads.

The name Sigurðr is not the same name as the German Siegfried. The Old Norse form of Siegfried would have been Sigfroðr. Sivard is a variant form of Sigurðr. These name forms all share the first element Sig-, which means victory (as do the German Sieg- and Dutch zege-).

Völsunga saga
In the Völsunga saga, Sigurd is the posthumous son of Sigmund and his second wife, Hiordis. Sigmund dies in battle when he attacks Odin (who is in disguise), and Odin shatters Sigmund's sword. Dying, Sigmund tells Hiordis of her pregnancy and bequeaths the fragments of his sword to his unborn son.

Hiordis marries King Alf, and then Alf decides to send Sigurd to Regin as a foster. Regin tempts Sigurd to greed and violence by first asking Sigurd if he has control over Sigmund's gold. When Sigurd says that Alf and his family control the gold and will give him anything he desires, Regin asks Sigurd why he consents to a lowly position at court. Sigurd replies that he is treated as an equal by the kings and can get anything he desires. Then Regin asks Sigurd why he acts as stableboy to the kings and has no horse of his own. Sigurd then goes to get a horse. An old man (Odin in disguise) advises Sigurd on choice of horse. In this way Sigurd acquires Grani, a horse directly descended from Odin's own horse, Sleipnir.

Finally, Regin tries to tempt Sigurd by telling him the story of the Otter's Gold. Regin explains to Sigurd that his father is Hreidmar, a powerful magician, and that his two brothers are Ótr and Fafnir. Regin explains that he is a master at smithing. He also describes how his brother, Ótr possesses many magical talents. Regin tells a story of how Ótr enjoys taking the form of an otter and swimming at a waterfall, where the dwarf, Andvari, resides. Andvari often assumes the form of a pike and swims in the same pool as well.

One day, the Æsir see Ótr in the form of an otter carrying a fish in his mouth on the banks and mistake him for a real otter. Loki kills him for his pelt. They take the pelt to the nearby home of Hreidmar to display their catch. Hreidmar, Fafnir, and Regin promptly seize the Æsir and demand compensation for the death of Ótr. The Æsir consent to stuff Ótr's body with gold, cover his skin with fine treasures, and deliver the corpse back to the three dwarves along with all of the treasure as compensation for having killed Ótr to begin with. Loki acquires a net from the sea giantess, Rán. Loki then uses the net to catch Andvari in the form of a pike. Loki orders Andvari to give him all of his gold. Andvari willingly gives him all of the gold, except for one ring. Loki takes this ring also, unaware of the fact that it carries a curse of death on its bearer. The Æsir use this gold to stuff Ótr's skin and then cover it. They then cover the last exposed place (a whisker) with the ring of Andvari. Afterwards, Fafnir murders Hreidmar and takes all of the gold, denying Regin his rightful share.

Sigurd agrees to avenge Regin and Hreidmar by killing Fafnir, who has been turned into a dragon by the curse on Andvari's ring. Sigurd requests for Regin to make him a sword and tests the sword by striking it against the anvil. The sword shatters, so he orders Regin to make another. This one also shatters. Finally, Sigurd orders Regin to make a sword out of the fragments that have been left to him by Sigmund. The resulting sword, Gram, cuts straight through the anvil. To kill Fafnir, Regin advises Sigurd to dig a pit, wait for Fafnir to walk over it, and then stab the dragon once he has fallen into the pit. Odin, posing as an old man, advises Sigurd to dig trenches also to drain the blood. Odin advises Sigurd to bathe in the dragon's blood after killing the dragon, telling him that bathing in a dragon's blood confers invulnerability. Sigurd follows the instructions given to him by both Regin and Odin and successfully kills Fafnir. Regin then asks Sigurd to give him Fafnir's heart for himself. Sigurd drinks some of Fafnir's blood and gains the ability to understand the language of birds. The birds advise him to kill Regin, since Regin has also been corrupted by the ring and is plotting Sigurd's death. Sigurd beheads Regin, roasts Fafnir's heart, and consumes part of it. This gives him the gift of "wisdom" (prophecy).


After defeating Fafnir, Sigurd meets Brynhildr, a "shieldmaiden." She pledges herself to him but also prophesies his doom and marriage to another. (In Völsunga saga, it is not clear whether or not Brynhild is a Valkyrie or in any way supernatural.)

Sigurd travels to the court of Heimar, who is married to Bekkhild, sister of Brynhild. Afterwards, he travels to the court of Gjúki, where he comes to live. Gjuki has three sons and one daughter by his wife, Grimhild. The sons are Gunnar, Hogni, and Guttorm. The daughter is Gudrun. Desiring Sigurd's ring and gold for her own family, Grimhild makes an "Ale of Forgetfulness" to force Sigurd to forget Brynhild, so he will be able to marry Gudrun. Later, Gunnar decides to court Brynhild. Brynhild's bower is surrounded by flames and she promises herself only to the man daring enough to go through them. Only Grani, Sigurd's horse, is willing to do it, and only with Sigurd on it. Sigurd exchanges shapes with Gunnar, rides through the flames, and wins Brynhild for Gunnar.

Some time later, Brynhild taunts Gudrun for having a better husband. In response, Gudrun reveals everything that has happened to Brynhild and explains the deception. Brynhild plots revenge against Grimhild for having deceived her and cheated her out of the husband she had desired. First, she refuses to speak to anyone and withdraws. Eventually, Sigurd is sent by Gunnar to see what is wrong. Brynhild accuses Sigurd of taking liberties with her. Gunnar and Hogni plot Sigurd's death and enchant their brother, Guttorm, to a frenzy to accomplish the deed. Guttorm attacks Sigurd in bed, and they are both killed in the struggle. Brynhild kills Sigurd's three-year-old son, Sigmund (named for Sigurd's father). Brynhild then wills herself to die and builds a funeral pyre for Sigurd, his son, Guttorm, and herself. Before this tragedy, Sigurd and Brynhild produce a daughter, Aslaug, who marries Ragnar Lodbrok.

Sigurd and Gudrun are parents to the twins Sigmund (named after Sigurd's father) and Svanhild.

Richard Wagner - Siegfried (1993, conductor Daniel Barenboim)
Siegfried forges Notung anew


Gunther (Gundahar, Gundahari, Latin Gundaharius, Gundicharius, or Guntharius, Old English Gūðhere, Old Norse Gunnarr, anglicised as Gunnar, d. 437) was a historical King of Burgundy in the early 5th century. Legendary tales about him appear in Latin, medieval Middle High German, Old Norse, and Old English texts, especially concerning his relations with Siegfried (Sigurd in Old Norse) and his death by treachery in the hall of Attila the Hun.

In legend
The destruction of Worms and the Burgundian kingdom by the Huns became the subject of heroic legends that were afterwards incorporated into many works of medieval literature such as the Middle High German epic poem, the Nibelungenlied, where King Gunther and Queen Brünhild hold their court at Worms, and Siegfried comes to woo Gunther's sister Kriemhild. In Old Norse sources, the names are Gunnar, Brynhild, Sigurd, and Gudrun as normally rendered in English.

In the Waltharius, Gibicho and his son Guntharius are kings of the Franks, whereas the king of the Burgundians is named Heriricus who is father to Hiltgunt, the heroine of the story. Hagano appears here as a kinsman of Gibicho and Guntharius, but the relationship is not made explicit. In their combats with Waltharius, Guntharius loses a leg, Hagano loses half his face and one eye, and Waltharius loses a hand. But there is no hint in later tales that Gunther is in any way maimed. Another version of the story of Waltharius and Hiltgunt appears in the Norse Thidreks saga, but in this account Gunther plays no part at all.

In the Nibelungenlied, Gunther is a Burgundian king once more and seeks to make Brünhild, queen of Iceland, his wife. He is only able to pass her marriage test with the aid of the hero Siegfried and his magic cloak that grants invisibility and strength. Gunther marries Brünhild but the queen refuses to consummate the marriage until she learns the truth about Siegfried whom she has become suspicious of.

Again with Siegfried's help, Gunther is able to overpower his queen and her great strength is lost with consummation. Siegfried marries Gunther's sister Kriemhild. An impassioned debate between Brünhild and Kriemhild about who has a more noble husband leads to Kriemhild telling the lie that Siegfried slept with Brünhild himself, instead of Gunther, making Brünhild no better than a concubine. Brünhild is so offended that she seeks the death of Siegfried and enlists the help of Hagen/ Hagano. Gunther eventually agrees to assist in Siegfried's murder as well, though he knows Siegfried has done no wrong. After Siegfried is murdered Kriemhild plots her revenge on his killers and eventually marries Etzel (i.e., Attila the Hun). She hatches her plot and invites her brothers to a festival in Etzel's court. Hagen warns of treachery but is ultimately ignored and Gunther and his brothers travel to the court of Etzel, leaving Brünhild behind in Burgundy. There fighting breaks out between the Burgundians and the people in Etzel's court, among whom is found the Gothic king Dietrich (or Theoderic the Great) and his loyal companion Hildebrand. All of Kriemhild's brothers die until only Gunther and Hagen remain of the Burgundians. Kriemhild orders Gunther to be killed and then beheads Hagen herself before being struck down herself by Hildebrand.

In the Völsunga saga, Gunnar/Gunther is the son of Gjuki. Sigurd/ Siegfried arrives in the court of Gjuki and befriends his sons. Gjuki's wife Grimhild tricks Sigurd into marrying her daughter Gudrun/Kriemhild and afterwards Sigurd sets out with Gunnar and his brother Högni/Hagen to win the valkyrie Brynhild/Brunhild as a wife for Gunnar. Gunnar is unable to pass through the barrier of fire that protects Brynhild's castle, so Sigurd takes Gunnar's form and passes through for him and woos Brynhild bringing her back to Gjuki's court with them. Gudrun and Brynhild get into an argument over whose husband is more noble and Gudrun reveals to Brynhild that she had been deceived and it was really Sigurd who rode through the flames to win her. Brynhild despairs and will speak to no one. She says that Sigurd should have been her husband but when Sigurd offers to marry her she refuses. Brynhild tells Gunnar that she will return to the court of her father and stay there if he does not kill Sigurd and his son. Gunnar enlists the help of Hogni who advises against killing Sigurd, but suggests they get their younger brother Guttorm, who has sworn no oaths of brotherhood with Sigurd, to commit the murder. Sigurd is slain in his bed but kills Guttorm before dying. Brynhild throws herself onto Sigurd's funeral pyre committing suicide. Gudrun leaves her brothers court but is later manipulated into marrying Atli (Old Norse name for Attila) Atli hatches a plot to kill Gunnar and Hogni and take possession of the treasure they took from the murdered Sigurd and as retribution for the death of his sister Brynhild. Despite warnings of treachery from both Gudrun and their wives, Gunnar and Hogni travel to Atli's court where they are attacked and many are killed on both sides. Gunnar and Hogni are the last of their men standing and are eventually captured. Hogni has his heart cut out and shown to Gunnar which solidifies Gunnar's resolve not to give the treasure to Atli. Gunnar is thrown, bound, into a snake pit where he lulls the serpents by playing a harp with his toes. One large snake is not affected and burrows into his heart killing him.

According to the Norse poem "Atlamal", Gunnar remarried after Brynhild's death to a woman named Glaumvor.

These stories were later adapted by Richard Wagner into Der Ring Des Nibelungen. Gunther appears in the last part Gotterdammerung. From there events happen in a similar manner to the Völsunga saga. After Hagen kills Siegfried he and Gunther argue over the Ring, leading to Hagen murdering Gunther.


Gudrun is a major figure in early Germanic literature that is centred on the hero Sigurd, son of Sigmund. She appears as Kriemhild in the Nibelungenlied and as Gutrune in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Norse mythology
In Norse mythology, Gudrun (Guðrún Gjúkadóttir) is the sister of king Gunnar. She falls in love with Sigurd, who does not care for her, as he is in love with the valkyrie Brynhild, to whom he once gave the ring of Andvaranaut. Gudrun's brother Gunnar also wished to marry Brynhild, but this was impossible as she had sworn to marry only the man who could defeat her in a fair fight, whom she knew to be Sigurd.


In another version of the myth, Brynhild is imprisoned inside a ring of fire as punishment by Odin. Sigurd fights his way through the fire and promises to marry Brynhild, but is then bewitched by the ring of Andvarinaut. Sigurd then switches bodies with Gunnar and, in this guise, gallops through the fire and wins Brynhild again, who is deceived by this ruse into marrying the real Gunnar. Gunnar had agreed to Sigurd's marrying Gudrun under the condition that Sigurd would win Brynhild for him first. When he was disguised as Gunnar, Sigurd also took the ring of Andvaranaut from Brynhild and gave it to Gudrun as his morning gift. Both queens, Gudrun and Brynhild, were married on the same day.

Gudrun's scheming mother, Grimhild, called Ute in the Nibelungenlied, mixes a potion to make Sigurd forget his love for Brynhild.

Later, when Brynhild learns that she has been tricked into marrying the inferior Gunnar, she exacts vengeance by telling Gunnar that Sigurd had taken liberties with her, so Gunnar has Sigurd killed. Gudrun is so overcome with grief at the death of the one she loves that she cannot weep. The royal court fears for her life, and when finally her sister shows Sigurd's corpse to Gudrun, tears flow at last. Gudrun laments her lost husband and predicts the death of his killer, her own brother Gunnar.

Gudrun sets fire to Atli's hall, killing him along with all of his men. She tries to drown herself by jumping into the sea with an armful of stones. The waves find her revenge fitting, however, and instead of drowning her, they carry her to Sweden, where she marries another king, Jónakr, with whom she has three sons Hamdir, Sörli and Erp. Svanhild, her daughter by Sigurd, is wooed by Ermanaric, but is accused wrongly of adultery and is killed by her husband. Gudrun also has a son by Sigurd, named Sigmund (named after Sigurd's father). Subsequently, her three sons are killed when they avenge Svanhild (see Jonakr's sons).

In the southern version of the saga, Gudrun, here Kriemhild, kills her brothers to get back the Nibelung gold, and is killed in turn by Dietrich von Bern.


Hagen (German form) or Högni (Old Norse Hǫgni, often anglicized as Hogni) is a Burgundian warrior in tales about the Burgundian kingdom at Worms. Hagen is often identified as a brother or half-brother of King Gunther (Old Norse Gunnarr). In the Nibelungenlied he is nicknamed "from Tronje".

In the opera Götterdämmerung, part of The Ring Cycle, Hagen is portrayed as the half-brother of Gunther and Gutrune, illegitimately fathered by the dwarf Alberich (and so by extension Siegfried's step-cousin). He is similarly depicted as evil and cunning, acting under the influence of his father but for his own interests. He convinces Gunther and Brünnhilde that by marrying Gutrune, Siegfried has committed an act of perjury that justifies his murder, allowing Hagen to claim the ring.

When Gunther objects to this claim Hagen kills him (and their sister dies in grief) but is too frightened to take the ring when Siegfried's corpse makes a threatening gesture. Brünnhilde takes the ring and returns it to the Rhinemaidens and Hagen is drowned in the river trying to reclaim it.



(also spelled Brünhild, Brünnhilde, Brynhild) is a shieldmaiden and a valkyrie in Germanic mythology, where she appears as a main character in the Völsunga saga and some Eddic poems treating the same events. Under the name Brünnhild she appears in the Nibelungenlied and therefore also in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. She may be inspired by the Visigothic princess Brunhilda of Austrasia. The history of Brynhildr includes fratricide, a long battle between brothers, and dealings with the Huns. She is also known as Sigrdrífa, as written in the poem Sigrdrífumál.


Völsunga saga
According to the Völsunga saga, Brynhildr is a shieldmaiden and seemingly valkyrie who is the daughter of Budli. She was ordered to decide a fight between two kings, Hjalmgunnar and Agnar, and knew that Odin preferred the older king, Hjalmgunnar, yet she decided the battle for Agnar. For this Odin condemned her to live the life of a mortal woman, and imprisoned her in a remote castle behind a wall of shields on top of mount Hindarfjall, where she sleeps in a ring of flames until any man rescues and marries her. The hero Sigurðr Sigmundson (Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied), heir to the clan of Völsung and slayer of the dragon Fafnir, entered the castle and awoke Brynhildr by removing her helmet and cutting off her chainmail armour. The two fell in love and Sigurðr proposed to her with the magic ring Andvaranaut.


Wagner's "Ring" cycle
Though the cycle of four operas is titled Der Ring des Nibelungen, Richard Wagner in fact took Brünnhilde's role from the Norse sagas rather than from the Nibelungenlied. Brünnhilde appears in the latter three operas (Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung), playing a central role in the overall story of Wotan's downfall.


In Wagner's tale, Brünnhilde is one of the valkyries, who are born out of a union between Wotan and Erda, the personification of the earth. In Die Walküre Wotan initially commissions her to protect Siegmund, his son by a mortal mother. When Fricka protests and forces Wotan to have Siegmund die for his adultery and incest, Brünnhilde disobeys her father's change of orders and takes away Siegmund's wife (and sister) Sieglinde and the shards of Siegmund's sword, Nothung. She manages to hide them, but must then face the wrath of her father who is determined to make her mortal and put her into an enchanted sleep to be claimed by any man who happens across her. Brünnhilde argues that what she did was in obeyance of the god's true will and does not deserve such a fate. He is eventually persuaded to protect her sleep with magical fire, sentencing her to await awakening by a hero who does not know fear.

Brünnhilde does not appear again until near the end of the third act of Siegfried. The title character is the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, born after Siegmund's death and raised by the dwarf Mime, the brother of Alberich who stole the gold and fashioned the ring around which the operas are centered. Having killed the giant-turned-dragon Fafnir, Siegfried takes the ring and is guided to Brünnhilde's rock by a bird, the blood of Fafnir having enabled him to understand birdsong. Wotan tries to stop him but he breaks the God's spear. He then awakens Brünnhilde.

Siegfried and Brünnhilde appear again at the beginning of Götterdämmerung, at which point he gives her the ring and they are separated. Here again Wagner chooses to follow the Norse story, though with substantial modifications. Siegfried does go to Gunther's hall, where he is given a potion to cause him to forget Brünnhilde so that Gunther may marry her. All this occurs at the instigation of Hagen, Alberich's son and Gunther's half-brother. The plan is successful, and Siegfried leads Gunther to Brünnhilde's rock. In the meantime she has been visited by her sister valkyrie Waltraute, who warns her of Wotan's plans for self-immolation and urges her to give up the ring. Brünnhilde refuses, only to be overpowered by Siegfried who, disguised as Gunther using the Tarnhelm, takes the ring from her by force.

As potion-enchanted Siegfried goes to marry Gutrune, Gunther's sister, Brünnhilde sees that he has the ring and denounces him for his treachery. Still rejected, she joins Gunther and Hagen in a plot to murder Siegfried, telling Hagen that Siegfried can only be attacked from the back. So Gunther and Hagen take Siegfried on a hunting trip, in the course of which Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back with a spear. Upon their return, where Hagen kills Gunther in a dispute over the ring, Brünnhilde takes charge, and has a pyre built in which she is to perish, cleansing the ring of its curse and returning it to the Rhinemaidens. Her pyre becomes the signal by which Valhalla and all the gods also perish in flames.


Reginn, often Anglicized as Regin or Regan, in Norse mythology, was the son of Hreiðmarr and foster father of Sigurd. His brothers are Fafnir and Ótr. When Loki mistakenly kills Ótr, Hreiðmarr demands to be repaid with the amount of gold it takes to fill Ótr's skin and cover the outside. Loki takes this gold from the dwarf Andvari, who curses it and especially the ring Andvaranaut. Fafnir kills his father for this gold, but eventually becomes a greedy dragon. Reginn gets none of the gold, but he becomes smith to the king, and foster father to Sigurd, teaching him many languages as well as sports, chess, and runes.


Reginn had all wisdom and deftness of hand. Of his two brothers, he has the ability to work iron as well as silver and gold and he makes many beautiful and useful things. While Sigurd is living with Reginn, Reginn challenges Sigurd's respect in the kingdom. He tells Sigurd to ask for a horse. Sigurd asks the advice of an old man in the forest, and the old man shows him how to get a horse that is descended from Sleipnir, the eight legged horse of Odin. Reginn continues to goad Sigurd, this time into killing Reginn's brother Fafnir. He offers to make a sword for Sigurd, but Sigurd broke every sword Reginn forged for him by striking at an anvil. Sigurd retrieves the broken pieces of his father Sigmund's sword, Gram, and brings them to Reginn.

Reginn repairs the sword and gives it back to Sigurd. When Sigurd again tests the blade by striking the anvil, the anvil this time is split down to its base, and when Sigurd places a piece of wool in a stream, the current pushing the wool against the sword was enough to cause the blade to cut it in two. Sigurd is finally very pleased with Reginn's repaired weapon.

After using Gram to kill Fafnir, Sigurd returns to ask Reginn what to do. Reginn instructs him to roast the heart of Fafnir, his brother, and let him eat it. As juice from the dragon's heart foams out, Sigurd tests it with his finger to see if it is done cooking. As the blood touches his tongue, Sigurd understands the speech of birds, who warn him that Reginn intends to kill him. Before he lets any of this happen, Sigurd first wields Gram and cuts off Reginn's head.

The Norwegian Thidrekssaga relates a slightly different tale, with Reginn as the dragon and Mimir as his brother and foster father to Sigurd.

In the operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, by Richard Wagner, the role of Reginn is played by the Nibelung dwarf Mime, brother of Alberich (the Nibelung who forged the cursed ring out of the Rhinegold). Except for the change in name, probably inspired by the Thidrekssaga, the story of Reginn, Sigurd and Fafner in Wagner's opera Siegfried follows closely the text of the Eddas. However, in this version Mime is unable to reforge the sword Nothung, since only one who doesn't know fear - such as Siegfried - can do so.


In Norse mythology, Fáfnir (Old Norse and Icelandic) or Frænir is a son of the dwarf king Hreidmar and brother of Regin, Ótr, Lyngheiðr and Lofnheiðr. After being affected by the curse of Andvari's ring and gold, Fafnir became a dragon and was slain by Sigurd.

Fafnir appears – as "Fafner" – in Richard Wagner's epic opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1848–1874), although he began life as a giant rather than a dwarf. In the first opera, Das Rheingold (1869), which has some basis from the Gylfaginning, Fafner and his brother Fasolt try to take the Goddess Freia, based on Idun, who has been promised to them by Wotan, the king of the gods, in exchange for building the castle Valhalla. Fasolt is in love with her, while Fafner wants her as without her golden apples the Gods will lose their youth. The Giants, mainly Fafner, agree to accept a massive hoard of treasure stolen from the dwarf Alberich instead. The treasure includes the magic helmet Tarnhelm and a magic ring of power. As they divide the treasure, the brothers argue and Fafner kills Fasolt and takes the ring for himself. Escaping to earth, he uses the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a dragon and guards the treasure in a cave for many years before being ultimately killed by Wotan's mortal grandson Siegfried, as depicted in the opera of the same name. The Giants are thought to represent the working class. However, while Fasolt is a romantic revolutionary, Fafner is a more violent and jealous figure, plotting to overthrow the gods. In many productions, he is shown to return to his original Giant form while delivering his death-speech to Siegfried.


In the Middle High German Nibelungenlied, Alberich is a dwarf, who guards the treasure of the Nibelungen, but is overcome by Siegfried. News of the gold robbery and ring of power incited gods and giants alike to action. The giants Fafner and Fasolt demanded the ring in payment for building Valhalla, and carried off Freyja as a hostage. In the border, the gods, Odin, Frigg, Loki, Freyr, and Thor all search despairingly for the hidden treasure.


In Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, Alberich is the chief of the Nibelungen race of dwarfs and the main antagonist driving events. He gains the power to forge the ring after renouncing love. His brother, the smith Mime, creates the Tarnhelm for Alberich. Hagen, the murderer of the hero [Siegfried], is the son of Alberich by Grimhilde, a human woman.


Wagner's Alberich is a composite character, mostly based on Alberich from the Nibelungenlied, but also on Andvari from Norse mythology. He has been widely described, most notably by Theodor Adorno, as a negative Jewish stereotype, with his race expressed through "distorted" music and "muttering" speech; other critics, however, disagree with this assessment.


Reginn, often Anglicized as Regin or Regan, in Norse mythology, was the son of Hreiðmarr and foster father of Sigurd. His brothers are Fafnir and Ótr. When Loki mistakenly kills Ótr, Hreiðmarr demands to be repaid with the amount of gold it takes to fill Ótr's skin and cover the outside. Loki takes this gold from the dwarf Andvari, who curses it and especially the ring Andvaranaut. Fafnir kills his father for this gold, but eventually becomes a greedy dragon. Reginn gets none of the gold, but he becomes smith to the king, and foster father to Sigurd, teaching him many languages as well as sports, chess, and runes.


Reginn had all wisdom and deftness of hand. Of his two brothers, he has the ability to work iron as well as silver and gold and he makes many beautiful and useful things. While Sigurd is living with Reginn, Reginn challenges Sigurd's respect in the kingdom. He tells Sigurd to ask for a horse. Sigurd asks the advice of an old man in the forest, and the old man shows him how to get a horse that is descended from Sleipnir, the eight legged horse of Odin. Reginn continues to goad Sigurd, this time into killing Reginn's brother Fafnir. He offers to make a sword for Sigurd, but Sigurd broke every sword Reginn forged for him by striking at an anvil. Sigurd retrieves the broken pieces of his father Sigmund's sword, Gram, and brings them to Reginn. Reginn repairs the sword and gives it back to Sigurd. When Sigurd again tests the blade by striking the anvil, the anvil this time is split down to its base, and when Sigurd places a piece of wool in a stream, the current pushing the wool against the sword was enough to cause the blade to cut it in two. Sigurd is finally very pleased with Reginn's repaired weapon.

After using Gram to kill Fafnir, Sigurd returns to ask Reginn what to do. Reginn instructs him to roast the heart of Fafnir, his brother, and let him eat it. As juice from the dragon's heart foams out, Sigurd tests it with his finger to see if it is done cooking. As the blood touches his tongue, Sigurd understands the speech of birds, who warn him that Reginn intends to kill him. Before he lets any of this happen, Sigurd first wields Gram and cuts off Reginn's head.

The Norwegian Thidrekssaga relates a slightly different tale, with Reginn as the dragon and Mimir as his brother and foster father to Sigurd.

In the operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, by Richard Wagner, the role of Reginn is played by the Nibelung dwarf Mime, brother of Alberich (the Nibelung who forged the cursed ring out of the Rhinegold). Except for the change in name, probably inspired by the Thidrekssaga, the story of Reginn, Sigurd and Fafner in Wagner's opera Siegfried follows closely the text of the Eddas. However, in this version Mime is unable to reforge the sword Nothung, since only one who doesn't know fear - such as Siegfried - can do so.



(The Rhinegold)

                            Opera in one act by Richard Wagner with libretto m German by the composer.

Freia, goddess of youth (soprano)
Fricka, Wotan’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Erda, goddess of the earth (contralto)
Froh, god of the sun (tenor)
Loge, god of fire (tenor)
Mime, a Nibelung (tenor)
Wotan, king of the gods (bass-baritone)
Alberich, a Nibelung (bass-baritone)
Donner, god of thunder (bass-baritone)
Fafner, a giant (bass)
Fasolt, a giant (bass)
Woglinde, sister Rhinemaidens (soprano)
Wellgunde, sister Rhinemaidens (soprano)
Flosshilde, sister Rhinemaidens (mezzo-soprano)


Time: mythological

Place: in and about the Rntne

First performance at Munich, September 22, 1869


Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold - English Subs

Conductor: Pierre Boulez

Wotan: Donald McIntyre
Donner: Martin Egel
Froh: Siegfried Jerusalem
Loge: Heinz Zednik
Alberich: Hermann Becht
Mime: Helmut Pampuch
Fasolt: Matti Salminen
Fafner: Fritz Hübner
Fricka: Hanna Schwarz
Freia: Carmen Reppel
Erda: Ortrun Wenkel
Woglinde: Norma Sharp
Wellgunde: Ilse Gramatzki
Flosshilde: Marga Schiml

Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele


Scene 1

The scale of the whole work is established in the prelude, over 136 bars, beginning with a low E flat, and building in more and more elaborate figurations of the chord of E-flat major, to portray the motion of the river Rhine. It has been noted as one of the best-known drone examples in the concert repertory, lasting approximately four minutes.

The curtain rises to show, at the bottom of the Rhine, the three Rhine maidens, Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde, playing together. 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, a Nibelung dwarf, appears from a deep chasm and tries to woo them. Struck by Alberich's ugliness, the Rhine maidens mock his advances and he grows angry. He chases them and tries to catch them in his arms, but they elude, tease and humiliate him.

As the sun begins to rise, the maidens praise the golden glow atop a nearby rock; Alberich asks what it is. The Rhine maidens tell him about the Rhine gold, which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic ring which will enable its bearer to rule the world, but only by someone who first renounces love. They think they have nothing to fear from the lustful dwarf, but Alberich, embittered by their mockery, curses love, seizes the gold and returns to his chasm, leaving them screaming in dismay.

Plate 1 - The Merry Rhinemaidens

The three Rhinemaidens—Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde—frolic in the depths of the mighty River Rhine. It is their task to guard the Rhinegold. In the waters the gold is pristine ore; taken and fashioned into a ring, it would confer on the wearer measureless power. But to be able to seize the gold, a person must first renounce love. The Rhinemaidens are sure no one would be willing to make such a sacrifice.

Plate 2 - The Appearance of Alberich

From a fissure in a rock appears Alberich, one of the Nibelungs, a race of dwarfs who dwell beneath the earth. He falls desperately in love with the alluring Rhinemaidens, who tease him heartlessly.

Plate 3 - Alberich Pursues the Rhinemaidens

Infuriated by the Rhinemaidens' taunts, Alberich climbs the rock for the Rhinegold.

Plate 4 - Theft of the Rhinegold

Alberich steals the Rhinegold and rushes off, plunging the waters into darkness.

Scene 2

Wotan, ruler of the gods, is asleep on a mountaintop with Fricka, his wife. Fricka awakes and sees a magnificent castle behind them. She wakes Wotan and points out that their new home has been completed. The giants Fasolt and Fafner built the castle; in exchange Wotan has promised to give them Fricka's sister Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty and feminine love. Fricka is worried for her sister, but Wotan is confident that they will not have to give Freia away, because he has dispatched his clever servant Loge, the demigod of fire, to search the world for something else to give the giants instead.

Freia rushes onstage in a panic, followed by Fasolt and Fafner. Fasolt demands payment for their finished work. He points out that Wotan's authority is sustained by the treaties carved into his spear, including his contract with the giants, which Wotan therefore cannot violate. Donner (god of thunder) and Froh (god of spring) arrive to defend their sister Freia, but Wotan stops them; as ruler of the gods, he cannot permit the use of force to break the agreement. Hoping Loge will arrive with the alternative payment he promised, Wotan tries to stall.

Loge finally returns with a discouraging report: there is nothing that men will accept in exchange for feminine love, and, by extension, nothing the giants would accept in exchange for Freia. Loge tells them that he was able to find only one instance where someone willingly gave up love for something else: Alberich the Nibelung has renounced love, stolen the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. A general discussion of the ring ensues and everyone finds good reasons for wanting it. Fafner makes a counteroffer: the giants will accept the Nibelung's treasure in payment, instead of Freia. When Wotan tries to haggle, the giants depart, taking Freia with them as hostage and vowing to keep her prisoner forever if the gods do not obtain, and give them, the Nibelung's treasure, by evening.

Freia's golden apples had kept the Gods eternally young; in her absence, they begin to age and weaken. In order to win Freia back, Wotan resolves to travel to Alberich's kingdom under the earth, in pursuit of the gold. Loge, who knows the underground kingdom, will act as Wotan's guide.

An orchestral interlude follows: it "paints" the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. As the orchestra fades, it gives way to a choir of 18 tuned anvils (indicated in the score with specific size, quantity and pitch) beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to give a stark depiction of the toiling of the enslaved dwarves.

Plate 5 - Freja Goddess of Love

Freia, the goddess of youth, grows apples which keep the gods eternally young. Wotan, the chief god, has offered her to the giants Fasolt and Fafner as payment for building the fortress Walhalla, never thinking that they could accomplish the task. This they have done, and Wotan desperately tries to offer other payment. He is refused.

Plate 6 - Loge God of Fire

Loge, the god of fire and mischief, tells the other gods that he has seen the Rhinemaidens, who told him of the gold's theft and implored him to have Wotan recover it and return it to their safekeeping.

Plate 7 - Fasolt & Fafner

Hearing of the Rhinegold, Fasolt and Fafner decide that it would make an acceptable substitute for Freia. Charging Wotan to steal the gold and have it on hand by evening, they carry off Freia.

Plate 8 - The Gods Grow Old

Without Freia in their midst, the gods immediately begin to age.

Plate 9 - Alberich Berates Mime

In a cavern, Alberich, having forged the ring, has compelled his brother Mime to fashion the magical Tarnhelm, a cap that allows its wearer to change his form or become invisible.

Scene 3

In Nibelheim, Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves with the power of the ring. He has forced his brother Mime, the most skillful smith, to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm's power by making himself invisible, the better to torment his subjects. (The Tarnhelm can also change the wearer's shape, and teleport him long distances.)

Wotan and Loge arrive and happen upon Mime, who tells them about Alberich's forging of the ring and the misery of the Nibelungs under his rule. Alberich returns, driving his slaves to pile up a huge mound of gold. When they have finished, he dismisses them and turns his attention to the two visitors. He boasts to them about his plans to use his gold to conquer the world. Loge asks how he can protect himself against a thief while he sleeps. Alberich says the Tarnhelm would hide him, by allowing him to turn invisible or change his form. Loge says he doesn't believe it and requests a demonstration. Alberich complies, turning into a giant snake (or dragon, depending on the translation). Loge acts suitably impressed and then he asks if he can also reduce his size, which would be very useful for hiding. Alberich transforms himself into a toad. The two gods quickly seize him, tie him up, and drag him up to the mountain top.

Plate 10 - Alberich Dons the Tarnhelm

Putting on the Tarnhelm, Alberich is rendered invisible, terrifying Mime.

Plate 11 - Enslaving of the Nibelungs

Alberich has wielded his incredible power, enslaving the Nibelungs and forcing them to mine gold and fashion it into a great treasure.

Plate 12 - Alberich Transformed

Loge and Wotan visit Alberich, who brags of his powers. Putting the Tarnhelm on his head, he turns himself into a huge serpent. When Loge asks Alberich if he can also turn himself into something small, the dwarf becomes a toad. Loge and Wotan quickly seize him and carry him away.

Scene 4

On the mountaintop, Wotan and Loge force Alberich to exchange his wealth for his freedom. They untie his right hand, and he uses the ring to summon his Nibelung slaves, who bring the hoard of gold. After the gold has been delivered, he asks for the return of the Tarnhelm, but Loge says that it is part of his ransom. Finally, Wotan demands the ring. Alberich refuses, but Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. Alberich is crushed by his loss, and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it should return to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner. 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.

The gods reconvene. Fasolt and Fafner return, carrying Freia. Reluctant to release Freia, Fasolt insists that the gold be heaped high enough to hide her from view. They pile up the gold, and Wotan is forced to relinquish the Tarnhelm to help cover Freia completely. However, Fasolt spots a remaining crack in the gold, through which one of Freia's eyes can be seen. He demands that Wotan fill the crack by yielding the ring. Loge reminds all present that the ring rightly belongs to the Rhine maidens. Wotan angrily and defensively declares that he will keep it for his own. The giants seize Freia and start to leave, this time forever.

Suddenly, Erda the earth goddess, a primeval goddess older than Wotan, appears out of the ground. She warns Wotan of impending doom and urges him to give up the cursed ring. Troubled, Wotan calls the giants back and surrenders the ring. The giants release Freia and begin dividing the treasure, but they quarrel over the ring itself. Fafner clubs Fasolt to death (the orchestra repeats the "Death-Curse" leitmotif). Wotan, horrified, realizes that Alberich's curse has terrible power. Loge remarks that Wotan is indeed a lucky fellow: his enemies are killing each other for the gold he gave up.

At last, the gods prepare to enter their new home. Donner summons a thunderstorm to clear the air. After the storm has ended, Froh creates a rainbow bridge that stretches to the gate of the castle. Wotan leads them across the bridge to the castle, which he names Valhalla. Fricka asks him about the name, and he replies enigmatically that its meaning will become clear when his plans come to fruition.

Loge, who knows that the end of the gods is coming, does not follow the others into Valhalla; he tells the audience that he is tempted to destroy the gods and all they have deceitfully acquired. Far below, the Rhine maidens mourn the loss of their gold and proclaim that the glory of the gods is only an illusion.

Plate 13 - Freja's Ransom

Alberich is held for ransom. He summons the Nibelungs, who surrender the golden hoard. Wotan forces Alberich to give up the ring as well. Shattered, Alberich curses the ring—may its wearer be doomed! The giants Fasolt and Fafner return with Freia, and order that the treasure be stacked up high enough to block her from their sight.

Plate 14 - Erda's Prophecy

But a chink remains in the pile through which they can see Freia. They tell Wotan to fill it with the ring which he is wearing. He refuses, wanting to keep it and its power for himself. Erda, the all-knowing earth goddess, suddenly appears and admonishes Wotan to give up the ring. Warning him that the race of the gods is doomed, she disappears.

Plate 15 - Fafner Slays Fasolt

Wotan surrenders the ring and Freia is returned. As the two giants argue over the division of the treasure, Fasolt puts on the ring. He is immediately slain by Fafner, who takes the ring and the entire hoard and leaves.

Plate 16 - Donner Summons A Thunderstorm

The atmosphere has become heavy and oppressive. To clear the skies, Donner, god of weather, creates a thunderstorm by swinging his hammer.

Plate 17 - Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge

The clouds clear, revealing a rainbow that spans the Rhine between the mountain on which the gods are standing and Walhalla. Ignoring the Rhinemaidens' lamentation for their lost gold, the gods cross the rainbow and enter the castle.




(The Valkyrie)

                            Opera in three act by Richard Wagner with libretto m German by the composer.

Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie (soprano)
Sieglinde, Wotan’s human daughter (soprano)
Fricka, Wotan’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Siegmund, Wotan’s human son (tenor)
Wotan, king of the gods (bass-baritone)
Hunding, Sieglinde’s husband (bass)
Valkyries (sopranos and mezzo-sopranos):

3 Rhinemaidens, 3 Norns (the Fates),  and the Forest Bird.

Time: mythological

Place: Germany

First performance at Munich, June 26, 1870


Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Die Walküre [Act I - II] - English Subs

Conductor: Pierre Boulez

Siegmund: Peter Hofmann 
Sieglinde: Jeannine Altmeyer 
Brünnhilde: Gwyneth Jones 
Wotan: Donald McIntyre 
Hunding: Matti Salminen 
Fricka: Hanna Schwarz 
Gerhilde: Carmen Reppel
Ortlinde: Karen Middleton
Waltraute: Gabriele Schnaut
Schwertleite: Gwendolyn Killebrew
Helmwige: Katie Clarke
Siegrune: Marga Schiml
Grimgerde: Ilse Gramatzki
Rossweisse: Elisabeth Glauser
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele

Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Die Walküre [Act III] - English Subs


Act I

During a raging storm, Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. Hunding is not present, and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde, Hunding's unhappy wife. Siegmund tells her that he is fleeing from enemies. After taking a drink of mead, he moves to leave, claiming to be cursed by misfortune. But Sieglinde bids him stay, saying he can bring no misfortune to the "house where ill luck lives".

Returning, Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund the hospitality demanded by custom. Sieglinde, increasingly fascinated by the visitor, urges him to tell his tale. 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. One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl's relatives. His weapons were broken and the bride was killed, and he was forced to flee to Hunding's home. Initially Siegmund does not reveal his name, choosing to call himself  Wehwalt, 'filled with woe'.

When Siegmund finishes, Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund's pursuers. He grants Siegmund a night's stay, but they are to do battle in the morning. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde, ignoring his wife's distress. Siegmund laments his misfortune, recalling his father's promise that he would find a sword when he most needed it.

Sieglinde returns, having drugged Hunding's drink to send him into a deep sleep. She reveals that she was forced into a marriage with Hunding. During their wedding feast, an old man appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room, which neither Hunding nor any of his companions could remove. She expresses her longing for the hero who could draw the sword and save her. Siegmund expresses his love for her, which she reciprocates, and as she strives to understand her recognition of him, she realises it is in the echo of her own voice, and reflection of her image, that she already knows him. When he speaks the name of his father, Wälse, she declares that he is Siegmund, and that the Wanderer left the sword for him.

Siegmund now easily draws the sword forth, and she tells him she is Sieglinde, his twin sister. He names the blade "Nothung" (or needful, for this is the weapon that he needs for his forthcoming fight with Hunding). As the act closes he calls her "bride and sister", and draws her to him with passionate fervour.

Plate 18 - Siegmund Seeks Refuge

Wounded and fleeing his enemies through a storm, Siegmund, the son of Wälse, seeks refuge in a hut. He is given refreshment by Sieglinde, the wife of cruel Hunding. A tree grows in the hut. In its trunk is a sword that no one has ever been able to remove.

Plate 19 - In Hunding's House

As Sieglinde serves a meal to Hunding and Siegmund, Siegmund tells of his life. His mother had been slain, his sister carried off as a child. His father had later disappeared. Siegmund himself has just been wounded while vainly trying to rescue a girl being wed against her wishes.

Plate 20 - Sieglinde Drugs Hunding
Siegmund's enemies turn out to be Hunding's kinsmen. Hunding, knowing that Siegmund is weaponless, tells him that they will fight in the morning. Sieglinde drugs Hunding's sleeping draft. She and Siegmund falla in love and discover that they are, in fact, brother and sister (and, unknown to both, actually the children of Wotan by a mortal woman).

Plate 21 - Siegmund Discovers Nothung

Siegmund discovers the sword Nothung, which Wotan had driven into the tree years before in anticipation of Siegmund's need. He pulls it out and escapes with Sieglinde into the spring night.

Act II

Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhilde, his Valkyrie daughter. He instructs Brünnhilde to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Fricka, Wotan's wife and the guardian of wedlock, arrives demanding the punishment of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have committed adultery and incest. She knows that Wotan, disguised as the mortal man Wälse, fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero (i.e., one not ruled by Wotan and not bound to respect Wotan's contracts) to aid his plans, but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero but Wotan's creature and unwitting pawn. Backed into a corner, Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund will die.

Fricka exits, leaving Brünnhilde with a despairing Wotan. Wotan explains his problems: troubled by the warning delivered by Erda (at the end of Das Rheingold), he had seduced the earth-goddess to learn more of the prophesied doom; Brünnhilde was born to him by Erda. He raised Brünnhilde and eight other daughters as the Valkyries, warrior maidens who gather the souls of fallen heroes to form an army against Alberich. Valhalla's army will fail if Alberich should ever wield the ring, which is in Fafner's possession. The giant has transformed himself into a dragon, lurking in a forest with the Nibelung treasure. Wotan cannot wrest the ring from Fafner, who is bound to him by contract; he needs a free hero to defeat Fafner in his stead. But as Fricka pointed out, he can create only thralls (i.e. servants) to himself. Bitterly, Wotan orders Brünnhilde to obey Fricka and grant victory to Hunding in his battle with Wotan's beloved son Siegmund.

Having fled Hunding's hall, Siegmund and Sieglinde enter the mountain pass, where Sieglinde faints in guilt and exhaustion. Brünnhilde approaches Siegmund and tells him of his impending death. Siegmund refuses to follow Brünnhilde to Valhalla when she tells him Sieglinde cannot accompany him there. Siegmund dismisses Brünnhilde's warning since he has Wälse's sword, which his father assured him would win victory for him, but Brünnhilde tells him it has lost its power. Siegmund draws his sword and threatens to kill both Sieglinde and himself. Impressed by his passion, Brünnhilde relents and agrees to grant victory to Siegmund instead of Hunding.

Hunding arrives and attacks Siegmund. Blessed by Brünnhilde, Siegmund begins to overpower Hunding, but Wotan appears and shatters Nothung (Siegmund's sword) with his spear. While Siegmund is thus disarmed and helpless, Hunding stabs him to death. Wotan looks down on Siegmund's body, grieving, and Brünnhilde gathers up the fragments of Nothung and flees on horseback with Sieglinde. Wotan strikes Hunding dead with a contemptuous gesture, and angrily sets out in pursuit of his disobedient daughter.

Plate 22 - Brünnhilde Meets Wotan

In a mountain pass, Brünnhilde meets Wotan. She is one of the Valkyries, the daughters of Wotan who gather fallen heroes from the field of battle. Wotan orders her to protect Siegmund in the forthcoming fray with Hunding, who is in pursuit.

Plate 23 - Fricka Enraged

Enraged, Fricka comes to her husband, Wotan. As the goddess of matrimony, the flight and incestuous relationship of Siegmund and Sieglinde are repugnant to her. Using arguments that Wotan cannot resist, she forces him to countermand his orders to Brünnhilde : it is Siegmund who must fall.

Plate 24 - Brünnhilde & Grane

Armed, Brünnhilde returns with her steed Grane. She is shocked to hear Wotan's new commands.

Plate 25 - Brünnhilde Implores Wotan

Brünnhilde implores Wotan to reconsider. He is adamant, even though Siegmund's death means the end of all his hopes. He explains how, in an attempt to recover the ring and remove its curse, he had fathered the Wälsungs—Siegmund and Sieglinde. But now Siegmund will not be able to fulfill Wotan's hopes and the gods, tainted by theft and the ring's curse, face the end predicted by Erda.

Plate 26 - Brünnhilde's Anguish

With a final warning that Brünnhilde must follow his orders, Wotan leaves. She is anguished, and slowly prepares for the battle. When she sees Siegmund and Sieglinde approaching, she quickly hides in a nearby cave. The two lovers arrive exhausted.

Plate 27 - Brünnhilde Revealed

Sieglinde falls into a troubled sleep as Siegmund keeps guard. Majestically, Brünnhilde reveals herself to him and tells him to prepare for death. But his grief and great love for Sieglinde move Brünnhilde to promise that she will defend him against Hunding, in defiance of Wotan. In this she is frustrated, for Wotan appears and Siegmund is killed. Brünnhilde escapes with Sieglinde, followed by the furious Wotan.


The other Valkyries assemble on the summit of a mountain, each with a dead hero in her saddlebag. They are astonished when Brünnhilde arrives with Sieglinde, a human woman. She begs them to help, but they dare not defy Wotan. Sieglinde, in her grief over Siegmund's death, tells Brünnhilde that she no longer wishes to live. Brünnhilde tells her that she is pregnant by Siegmund, and urges her to remain alive for the child's sake, and to name the child Siegfried. Brünnhilde gives the fragments of Nothung to Sieglinde, and resolves to delay Wotan while Sieglinde escapes.

Wotan arrives in wrath and passes judgement on Brünnhilde: she is to be stripped of her Valkyrie status and become a mortal woman, to be held in a magic sleep on the mountain, prey to any man who happens by. Dismayed, the other Valkyries flee. Brünnhilde begs mercy of Wotan for herself, his favorite child. She recounts the courage of Siegmund and her decision to protect him, knowing that was Wotan's true desire. With the words 'Der diese Liebe mir ins Herz gehaucht' (He who breathed this love into me), introducing the key of E major, she identifies her actions as Wotan's true will. Wotan consents to her last request: to encircle the mountaintop with magic flame, which will deter all but the bravest of heroes (who, as shown through the leitmotif, they both know will be the yet unborn Siegfried). Wotan lays Brünnhilde down on a rock and, in a long embrace, kisses her eyes closed into an enchanted sleep. He summons Loge (the Norse demigod of fire) to ignite the circle of flame that will protect her, then slowly departs in sorrow, after pronouncing: "Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire." 

Plate 28 - The Valkyrie

Galloping on their airborne steeds, the Valkyries assemble on a mountaintop. They are about to return to Walhalla with the slain heroes they have gathered from various battlefields. Brünnhilde is late; they look for her anxiously.

Plate 29 - Brünnhilde & The Valkyrie

When Brünnhilde finally arrives, the Valkyries are amazed to find that she has brought Sieglinde with her. Brünnhilde quickly explains what has happened and begs their protection.

Plate 30 - Fafner's Cave

The Valkyries dare not help Brünnhilde, but advise Sieglinde to flee to the forest in the east. Wotan avoids it, for Fafner, having turned himself into a dragon, guards the Nibelung hoard there.

Plate 31 - Wotan's Arrival

Sieglinde wants only to die, but when Brünnhilde tells her that she is pregnant by Siegmund and will give birth to a great hero—Siegfried—she rushes off to save herself and her unborn child. The storm worsens and Wotan arrives on the rock. He orders the Valkyries away from his renegade daughter.

Plate 32 - Loge Ignites The Wall of Fire

Brünnhilde's punishment is to be terrible : placed in an enchanted sleep on the rock, she will become the mortal wife of the first man who wakes her. Frantically, Brünnhilde pleads that in her sleep she be surrounded by fire so that only a hero will dare wake her. Wotan agrees, places the spell on Brünnhilde and invokes the fire god Loge to surround the mountain with his flames.

Plate 33 - Odin's Ban

Gazing at Brünnhilde, Wotan pronounces a ban : let no man who fears his spear point cross the fire. After a final lingering glance, the heartbroken god leaves his beloved daughter forever.

Plate 34 - Brünnhilde's Slumber

Alone on the mountaintop in the deepening night, the slumbering Brünnhilde awaits her heroic awakener.





                            Opera in three act by Richard Wagner with libretto m German by the composer.

Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie (soprano)
Siegfried, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde (tenor)
Edra, the earth goddess (soprano)
Wotan, king of the gods (bass-baritone)
Mime, a Nibelung (tenor)
Alberich, a Nibelung (bass-baritone)
Fafner, a giant (bass) 
Forest Bird (soprano)


Time: mythological

Place: Germany

First performance at Bayreuth, August 16, 1876


Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Siegfried [Act I - II] - English Subs
Conductor: Pierre Boulez

Siegfried: Manfred Jung 
Mime: Heinz Zednik 
Brünnhilde: Gwyneth Jones 
Wanderer (Wotan): Donald McIntyre 
Alberich: Hermann Becht
Fafner: Fritz Hübner
Erda: Ortrun Wenkel
Waldvogel: Norma Sharp

Der Ring des Nibelungen: 2. Tag

Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele

Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Siegfried [Act III] - English Subs

Act I

Scene 1

A cave in rocks in the forest. An orchestral introduction includes references to leitmotifs including themes relating to the original hoard plundered by the Nibelung Alberich, and one in B-flat minor associated with the Nibelungs themselves. As the curtain rises, Alberich's brother, the dwarf Mime, is forging a sword. Mime is plotting to obtain the ring of power originally created by his brother Alberich. He has raised the human boy Siegfried as a foster child, to kill Fafner, who obtained the ring and other treasures in the opera Das Rheingold and has since transformed himself from a giant to a dragon.

Mime needs a sword for Siegfried to use, but the youth has contemptuously broken every sword Mime has made. Siegfried returns from his wanderings in the forest with a wild bear in tow, and immediately breaks the new sword. After a whining speech by Mime about ingratitude, and how Mime has brought him up from a mewling infant ("Als zullendes Kind"), Siegfried senses why he keeps coming back to Mime although he despises him: he wants to know his parentage. Mime is forced to explain how he took in Siegfried's mother, Sieglinde, who then died giving birth to Siegfried. He shows Siegfried the broken pieces of the sword Nothung, which Mime had obtained from her. Siegfried orders him to reforge the sword; Mime, however, is unable to accomplish this. Siegfried departs, leaving Mime in despair.


Scene 2

An old man (Wotan in disguise) arrives at the door and introduces himself as the Wanderer. In return for the hospitality due a guest, he wagers his head on answering any three questions of Mime. The dwarf asks the Wanderer to name the races that live beneath the ground, on the earth, and in the skies. These are the Nibelung, the Giants, and the Gods, as the Wanderer answers correctly. The Wanderer then induces Mime to wager his own head on three further riddles: the race most beloved of Wotan, but most harshly treated; the name of the sword that can destroy Fafner; and the person who can repair the sword. Mime answers the first two questions: the Wälsungs (Siegmund and Sieglinde whose tale is told in the opera Die Walküre) and Nothung. However, he cannot answer the last. Wotan spares Mime, telling him that only "he who does not know fear" can reforge Nothung, and leaves Mime's head forfeit to that person.


Scene 3

Mime despairs as he imagines the ferocity of the dragon Fafner, while "the orchestra paints a dazzling picture of flickering lights and roaring flames". Siegfried returns and is annoyed by Mime's lack of progress. Mime realizes that Siegfried is "the one who does not know fear" and that unless he can instill fear in him, Siegfried will kill him as the Wanderer foretold. He tells Siegfried that fear is an essential craft; Siegfried is eager to learn it, and Mime promises to teach him by taking him to Fafner. Since Mime was unable to forge Nothung, Siegfried decides to do it himself. He succeeds by shredding the metal, melting it, and casting it anew. In the meantime, Mime brews a poisoned drink to offer Siegfried after the youth has defeated the dragon. After he finishes forging the sword, Siegfried demonstrates its strength by chopping the anvil in half with it.

Plate 36 - Mime Fosters Siegfried

Mime tells Siegfried of the care he took in raising him, and complains that Siegfried has never returned his love. Siegfried says it was no love at all, and in truth Mime has raised the boy only so that he will slay Fafner and secure the ring for him.

Plate 37 - Siegfried In The Wild

Siegfried says that he has learned of love by watching the way wild animals, such as foxes, tend their young.

Plate 38 - Siegfried's Reflection

When Mime claims that he is both mother and father to Siegfried, he is met with scorn. Offspring look like their parents, says Siegfried, and once, seeing his reflection in a stream, he had noted that he bore no resemblance to Mime. He demands to know who his parents really were.

Plate 39 - Mime Finds Sieglinde

Mime relates how he found Sieglinde in the forest and tended her. She died in bearing Siegfried, but left the fragments of Nothung. Excited by this legacy from his father, Siegfried charges Mime to reforge the sword and goes out into the forest, away from the loathsome dwarf whose very presence he cannot abide.

Plate 40 - The Wanderer

The Wanderer enters. He is Wotan in disguise, who keeps watch on Siegfried in the hope that the boy will be able to carry out the world-redeeming deed he had intended for Siegmund.

Plate 41 - Fafner's Hoard

The Wanderer and Mime ask each other questions about the realms of the world. Mime tells of Fafner and the hoard. Warning Mime that the sword Nothung will be reforged only by one who does not know fear and that the same man will cause Mime's death, the Wanderer leaves.

Plate 43 - Nothung Reforged

Having remade his father's sword, Siegfried tests Nothung on the anvil, which is split in two with a single stroke. Mime cowers in fear, remembering the Wanderer's prophecy.

Act II

Scene 1

Deep in the forest. The Wanderer arrives at the entrance to Fafner's cave, where Alberich is keeping vigil. The two enemies recognize each other. Alberich boasts of his plans to regain the ring and rule the world. Wotan states that he does not intend to interfere, only to observe. He even offers to awaken the dragon so that Alberich can bargain with him. Alberich warns the dragon that a hero is coming to kill him, and offers to prevent the fight in exchange for the ring. Fafner dismisses the threat, declines Alberich's offer, and returns to sleep. Wotan leaves and Alberich withdraws, muttering threats.

Scene 2

At daybreak, Siegfried and Mime arrive. After assuring Siegfried that the dragon will teach him what fear is, Mime withdraws. As Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear, he hears a woodbird singing. He attempts to mimic the bird's song using a reed pipe, but is unsuccessful. He then plays a tune on his horn, which brings Fafner out of his cave. After a short exchange, they fight; Siegfried stabs Fafner in the heart with Nothung. In his last moments, Fafner learns Siegfried's name, and tells him to beware of treachery. When Siegfried withdraws his sword from Fafner's body, his hands are burned by the dragon's blood and he puts his finger in his mouth. On tasting the blood, he finds that he can understand the woodbird's song. Following its instructions, he takes the ring and the magic helmet Tarnhelm from Fafner's hoard.


Scene 3

Outside the cave, Alberich and Mime quarrel over the treasure. Alberich hides as Siegfried comes out of the cave. Siegfried complains to Mime that he has still not learned the meaning of fear. Mime offers him the poisoned drink; however, the magic power of the dragon's blood allows Siegfried to read Mime's treacherous thoughts, and he stabs him to death. He throws Mime's body into the treasure cave and places Fafner's body in the cave entrance to block it. The woodbird now sings of a woman sleeping on a rock surrounded by magic fire. Siegfried, wondering if he can learn fear from this woman, follows the bird towards the rock.

Plate 44 - The Slaying of Fafnir

Mime leads Siegfried into the forest. Siegfried calls forth the dragon Fafner from his lair and slays 

Plate 45 - Siegfried Tastes Dragon Blood

Fafner's blood trickles onto Siegfried's hand, burning it. Siegfried puts it to his mouth to soothe it and discovers that the blood has given him the power to understand the speech of birds. A forest bird tells Siegfried of the treasure hidden in the cave.


Scene 1

At the foot of Brünnhilde's rock. The Wanderer summons Erda, the earth goddess. Erda, appearing confused, is unable to offer any advice. Wotan informs her that he no longer fears the end of the gods; indeed, it is his desire. His heritage will be left to Siegfried the Wälsung, and Brünnhilde (Erda's and Wotan's child), who will "work the deed that redeems the World." Dismissed, Erda sinks back into the earth.


Scene 2

Siegfried arrives, and the Wanderer questions the youth. Siegfried, who does not recognize his grandfather, answers insolently and starts down the path toward Brünnhilde's rock. The Wanderer blocks his path, but Siegfried mocks him, laughing at his floppy hat and his missing eye, and breaks his spear (the symbol of Wotan's authority) with a blow from Nothung. Wotan calmly gathers up the pieces and vanishes.


Scene 3

Siegfried passes through the ring of fire, emerging on Brünnhilde's rock. At first, he thinks the sleeping armored figure is a man. However, when he removes the armor, he finds a woman beneath. At the sight of the first woman he has ever seen, Siegfried at last experiences fear. In desperation, he kisses Brünnhilde, waking her from her magic sleep. Hesitant at first, Brünnhilde is won over by Siegfried's love, and renounces the world of the gods. Together, they hail "light-bringing love, and laughing death."

Plate 47 - Siegfried Approaches Brünnhilde

Siegfried crosses the fire and reaches Brünnhilde. Seeing the sleeping form, the first woman he has ever known, he is filled with fear. He sinks upon Brünnhilde and kisses her.

Plate 48 - Brünnhilde Awakens

Brünnhilde is finally awakened. Joyously, she salutes the sun.

Plate 49 - Siegfried & Brünnhilde

Then Brünnhilde turns to Siegfried. At first she is horrified by the loss of her godhood. Soon, however, she responds as the mortal woman she has become and, bidding a final farewell to the splendor of Walhalla, offers Siegfried her love.

Plate 35 - Mime's Toil

Years later, Mime toils over an anvil in a cavern in a wood. He is making yet another sword for Siegfried, who has grown to young manhood. But labor as he may to make a sturdy weapon, Siegfried always shatters it. Mime wishes he had the skill to reforge Nothung, Siegmund's sword which was shattered in the final battle with Hunding, and whose pieces he has.

Plate 42 - Siegfried At The Anvil

When Siegfried returns he is angered to find Nothung still in pieces. Mime tells him that only someone who does not know fear can reforge it. Siegfried says that person is he and sets about work. Mime promises to teach him fear at Fafner's lair, and prepares a deadly potion he intends to give the hero after he has slain the dragon. Siegfried files down the sword, melts it and casts it anew.

Plate 46 - Alberich & Mime

As soon as Siegfried enters the cave, Alberich appears and quarrels with Mime over possession of the hoard. Alberich slinks off. When Siegfried emerges he wears the ring and has the Tarnhelm. He is able to read Mime's thoughts about killing him with the potion and so slays the dwarf. The bird tells him that a wife awaits him atop a mountain surrounded by fire, and leads him to her.




(The Twilight of the Gods)


                            Opera in three act by Richard Wagner with libretto m German by the composer.

Brünnhilde, daughter of Wotan (soprano)
Siegfried, grandson of Wotan (tenor)
First Norn, daughter of Erda  (contralto)
Secont Norn, daughter of Erda (mezzo-soprano)
Third Norn, daughter of Erda (soprano)
Guther, gibichungs (bass)
Gutrune, gibichung (soprano)
Hagen, their half brother (bass)
Waltraute, a Valkyrie (mezzo-soprano)
Alberich, a Nibelung (baritone)

3 Rhinemaidens, 3 Norns (the Fates),  and the Forest Bird.

Time: mythological

Place: Germany

First performance at Bayreuth, April 17, 1876


Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Götterdämmerung [Prologue/Act I] - English Subs
Conductor: Pierre Boulez

Brünnhilde Gwyneth Jones
Siegfried Manfred Jung
Hagen Fritz Hübner
Alberich Hermann Becht
Gunther Franz Mazura
Gutrune Jeannine Altmeyer
Waltraute Gwendolyn Killebrew
Woglinde Norma Sharp
Wellgunde Ilse Gramatzki
Flosshilde Marga Schiml
1. Norne Ortrun Wenkel
2. Norne Gabriele Schnaut
3. Norne Katie Clarke

Der Ring des Nibelungen: 3. Tag 
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele

Wagner - Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Götterdämmerung [Act II/III - English Subs 


The three Norns, daughters of Erda, gather beside Brünnhilde's rock, weaving the rope of Destiny. They sing of the past and the present, and of the future when Wotan will set fire to Valhalla to signal the end of the gods. Without warning, their rope breaks. Lamenting the loss of their wisdom, the Norns disappear.


As day breaks, Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from their cave, high on a mountaintop surrounded by magic fire. Brünnhilde sends Siegfried off to new adventures, urging him to keep their love in mind. As a pledge of fidelity, Siegfried gives her the ring of power that he took from Fafner's hoard. Bearing Brünnhilde's shield and mounting her horse Grane, Siegfried rides away as an orchestral interlude (Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine) starts.

Plate 50 - The Norns

It is night. On Brünnhilde's rock the three Norns—the Fates—pass a golden rope back and forth, reflecting on the past and looking to the future, which bodes ill.

Plate 51 - Demise of the Norns

As dawn lightens the sky, the rope suddenly breaks. The days of the old order are numbered; the Norns sink into the earth, their wisdom ended.

Plate 52 - Siegfried's Departure

At daybreak, Brünnhilde and Siegfried emerge from a cave. He is about to go off in search of adventure. To plight their troth, they exchange presents. Brünnhilde gives Siegfried her horse Grane; Siegfried gives her the fatal ring.

Act I

The act begins in the Hall of the Gibichungs, a population dwelling by the Rhine. Gunther, lord of the Gibichungs, sits enthroned. His half-brother and chief minister, Hagen, advises him to find a wife for himself and a husband for their sister Gutrune. He suggests Brünnhilde for Gunther's wife, and Siegfried for Gutrune's husband. 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; under its influence, Siegfried will win Brünnhilde for Gunther. Gunther and Gutrune agree enthusiastically with this plan.

Siegfried appears at Gibichung Hall, seeking to meet Gunther. Gunther extends his hospitality to the hero, and Gutrune offers him the love potion. Unaware of the deception, Siegfried toasts Brünnhilde and their love. Drinking the potion, he loses his memory of Brünnhilde and falls in love with Gutrune instead. In his drugged state, Siegfried offers to win a wife for Gunther, 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, but he does not join in the oath) and leave for Brünnhilde's rock. Hagen, left on guard duty, gloats that his so-called masters are unwittingly bringing the ring to him (Monologue: Hagen's watch).

Meanwhile, Brünnhilde is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute, who tells her that Wotan returned from his wanderings with his spear shattered. Wotan is dismayed at losing his spear, as it has all the treaties and bargains he has made—everything that gives him power—carved into its shaft. Wotan ordered branches of the World tree, to be piled around Valhalla; sent his magic ravens to spy on the world and bring him news; and currently waits in Valhalla for the end. Waltraute begs Brünnhilde to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens, since the ring's curse is now affecting their father, Wotan. However, Brünnhilde refuses to relinquish Siegfried's token of love, and Waltraute rides away in despair.

Siegfried arrives, disguised as Gunther by using the Tarnhelm, and claims Brünnhilde as his wife. Though Brünnhilde resists violently, Siegfried overpowers her, snatching the ring from her hand and placing it on his own.

Plate 53 - Gudrun Welcomes Siegfried

On the banks of the Rhine, Siegfried arrives at the Hall of the Gibichungs, who are ruled by the weak-willed Gunther, his sister Gutrune and their half-brother Hagen. To make Siegfried Gutrune's husband and so gain a prestigious kinsman, they give him a potion that causes him to forget Brünnhilde. Then, to secure a worthy wife for Gunther, Hagen suggests that Siegfried conquer the fabled Valkyrie for his new brother-in-law. Oblivious of his past relationship, the hero agrees.

Plate 54 - Brünnhilde Kisses The Ring

On the mountaintop, Brünnhilde kisses the ring. Suddenly she hears thunder and, looking up, sees her Valkyrie sister Waltraute riding toward her, even though Wotan had forbidden the Valkyries ever to see Brünnhilde again.

Plate 55 - Odin's Ravens

In great agitation Waltraute tells Brünnhilde of what has happened among the gods since she was cast from them. No longer does Wotan go forth into the world. Instead he sits in Walhalla surrounded by the heroes; logs are heaped high around the castle. The god only hears of the world from his two ravens.

Plate 56 - Brünnhilde's Anger

The gods are terrified of the doom that hangs over them. Brünnhilde alone can save them by returning the ring to the Rhinemaidens, cleansing it of its curse. But Brünnhilde refuses, valuing the token of Siegfried's love more than the pomp of Walhalla. Waltraute dashes off in despair. At night the protective fire encircles the rock. The false Gunther (actually Siegfried wearing the Tarnhelm) breaks through and captures the humiliated Brünnhilde. Seizing the ring, he puts it on his finger.

Act II

Hagen, waiting by the bank of the Rhine, is visited in his semi-waking sleep (sitting up, eyes open, but motionless) by his father, Alberich. On Alberich's urging, he swears to kill Siegfried and acquire the ring. Alberich exits as dawn breaks. Siegfried arrives via Tarnhelm-magic, having resumed his natural form and left Brünnhilde on the boat with Gunther. Hagen summons the Gibichung vassals to welcome Gunther and his bride. He does this by sounding the war-alarm. The vassals are surprised to learn that the occasion is not battle, but their master's wedding and party.

Gunther leads in a downcast Brünnhilde, who is astonished to see Siegfried. Noticing the ring on Siegfried's hand, she realizes she has been betrayed—that the man who conquered her was not Gunther, but Siegfried in disguise. She denounces Siegfried in front of Gunther's vassals and accuses Siegfried of having seduced her himself. Siegfried, who does not remember ever having been Brünhilde's lover, swears on Hagen's spear that her accusations are false. Brünnhilde seizes the tip of the spear and swears that they are true. Once again Hagen supervises silently as others take oaths to his advantage. But this time, since the oath is sworn on a weapon, the understanding is that if the oath is proven false, the weapon's owner should avenge it by killing the perjurer with that weapon. Siegfried then leads Gutrune and the bystanders off to the wedding feast, leaving Brünnhilde, Hagen, and Gunther alone by the shore.

Deeply shamed by Brünnhilde's outburst, Gunther agrees to Hagen's suggestion that Siegfried must be killed in order for Gunther to regain his standing. Brünnhilde, seeking revenge for Siegfried's manifest treachery, joins the plot and tells Hagen that Siegfried would be vulnerable to a stab in the back. Hagen and Gunther decide to lure Siegfried on a hunting-trip and murder him. They sing a trio in which Brünnhilde and Gunther vow in the name of Wotan, "guardian of oaths", to kill Siegfried, while Hagen repeats his pledge to Alberich: to acquire the ring and rule the world through its power.

Plate 57 - Alberich & Hagen

Keeping watch at the Hall of the Gibichungs, Hagen is visited by Alberich, who plots with him to recover the ring.

Plate 58 - Grimhild & Alberich

For Hagen is the son of Alberich. The evil Nibelung had gained the favors of Grimhilde, mother of Gunther and Gutrune. Thus the battle for the ring has been passed to a new generation. The gods are represented by the unwitting Siegfried, the Nibelungs by the ruthless Hagen.

Plate 59 - Hagen & Brünnhilde

When Brünnhilde is brought to Gibichung Hall as Gunther's bride, she sees the ring on the finger of Seigfried, who has returned to his normal form. Realizing that she has been deceived, she reveals Gunther's cowardice to all, and with Hagen and Gunther plots her revenge. The next morning a hunting party will set out with Siegfried. Hagen will murder him during the hunt.


In the woods by the bank of the Rhine, the Rhinemaidens mourn the lost Rhine gold. Siegfried happens by, separated from the hunting party. The Rhinemaidens urge him to return the ring and avoid its curse, but he laughs at them and says he prefers to die rather than bargain for his life. They swim away, predicting that Siegfried will die and that his heir, a lady, will treat them more fairly.

Siegfried rejoins the hunters, who include Gunther and Hagen. While resting, he tells them about the adventures of his youth. Hagen gives him another potion, which restores his memory, and he tells of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains in three words ("Meineid rächt' ich!" – "I have avenged perjury!") that since Siegfried admitted loving Brünnhilde, the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false, therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. 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.

Back in the Gibichung Hall, Gutrune awaits Siegfried's return. Hagen arrives ahead of the funeral party. Gutrune is devastated when Siegfried's corpse is brought in. Gunther blames Siegfried's death on Hagen, who replies that Siegfried had incurred the penalty of his false oath, and further, claims the ring on Siegfried's finger by right of conquest. When Gunther objects, Hagen appeals to the vassals to support his claim. Gunther draws his sword but Hagen attacks and easily kills him. However, as Hagen moves to take the ring, Siegfried's hand rises threateningly. Hagen recoils in fear.

Brünnhilde makes her entrance, after having received the complete information from the Rhinemaidens. Gutrune, initially angry at Brünnhilde, later understands the truth of Hagen's deception and that, in fact, Brünnhilde was the true bride of Siegfried. Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river (the start of the Immolation Scene). She takes the ring and tells the Rhinemaidens to claim it from her ashes, once fire has cleansed it of its curse. Lighting the pyre with a firebrand, she sends Wotan's ravens home with "anxiously longed-for tidings", and to fly by the magic fire for Loge to fulfill his task. After an apostrophe to the dead hero, Brünnhilde mounts her horse Grane and rides into the flames.

The fire flares up, and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses. The Rhine overflows its banks, quenching the fire, and the Rhinemaidens swim in to claim the ring. Hagen tries to stop them but they drag him into the depths and drown him. As they celebrate the return of the ring and its gold to the river, a red glow is seen in the sky. As the Gibichungs watch, deeply moved, the interior of Valhalla is finally seen, with gods and heroes visible as described by Waltraute in Act 1. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely. As the gods are consumed in the flames, the curtain falls.

Plate 60 - Siegfried & The Rhinemaidens

During the hunt Siegfried strays by the Rhine to look for his catch, which an elf has stolen from him. He meets the Rhinemaidens, who tease him and ask for the ring in exchange for his booty, which they have taken and hidden. He agrees after some hesitation.

Plate 61 - Pleading of the Rhinemaids

But the Rhinemaidens become deadly serious. It is Siegfried's fate to keep the ring and fall victim to its curse. They bid the hero farewell and swim off to see Brünnhilde, to whom they will explain everything. By the end of the day she will have inherited the ring.

Plate 62 - Siegfried Goes Hunting

Siegfried rejoins the hunting party and is speared in the back by Hagen. His body is borne back to the Gibichung Hall.

Plate 63 - Brünnhilde's Immolation

Brünnhilde now realizes that the world must be purged of the terrible curse, that the bloody chain of events going back to the theft of the Rhinegold must be broken by her sacrifice. Bidding Wotan eternal rest, she puts the ring on her finger, mounts Grane and rides onto Siegfried's funeral pyre. The fire spreads and consumes the entire hall.

Plate 64 - The Ring Reclaimed

Suddenly the Rhine overflows its banks, bearing on its crest the Rhinemaidens, who recover the ring from the ashes. Like a madman, Hagen plunges into the flood after the coveted prize, only to be dragged under to his death by Woglinde and Wellgunde. As the Rhinemaidens rejoice in their recovered gold, a ruddy glow illuminates the horizon. Walhalla is aflame and the order of the gods has come to an end. In the new age the world will be ruled by love alone.

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