Götterdämmerung

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Ragnarök
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) is the last in Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas titled 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung).
It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 17 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of the Ring.
The title is a translation into German of the Old Norse phrase Ragnarök, which in Norse mythology refers to a prophesied war among various beings and gods that ultimately results in the burning, immersion in water, and renewal of the world, however, as with the rest of the Ring, Wagner's account diverges significantly from his Old Norse sources.

Mythological Background

Norse mythology is unique in that it includes a narration of future events, the end of the gods in a great battle. Ragnarok means "fate or doom of the gods" which in German becomes 'Gotterdammerung', (Twilight of the Gods).
The great battle is preceded by three year-long winters and general moral decay.
Ominous signs appear: wolves that eat the sun and moon, and the stars fall.

The Wolf Fenrir
Bifrost - Rainbow Bridge
At Ragnarok, Loki escapes his chains (his punishment for plotting Balder's death), captains the ship Naglfar (made of dead men's nails) to attack Asgard along with the frost giants, riding on tidal waves created by the loosing of Jormungandr, the world serpent, from the ocean bottom.
Fenrir the giant wolf breaks his bonds, and Surt and the fire-demons attack from the south.
Heimdall, guardian of the Rainbow Bridge (Bifrost), who never sleeps and sees and hears everything, sounds his trumpet as warning, but it's too late to avoid the final battle.
In the battle all the gods meet their end: Wotan is swallowed by Fenrir, who in turn is torn asunder by Wotan's son Vidar.
Thor kills Jormungandr but dies of its venom.
Loki and Heimdall kill each other.
Surt kills Freyr, then destroys the world by fire.
Some things manage to survive Ragnarok: Valhalla itself, Thor's hammer and his two sons, Odin's favorite son Balder returns to life, and two humans, protected under the World Ash Tree Yggdrasil, who repopulate the world.
Wagner's innovation was to link the story of the gods' end with the death of Siegfried and Brunnhilde.

Synopsis

Siegfried and Brunhilde
Nornen
The opening scene depicts the Norns, daughters of Erda, weaving the threads of fate at the base of the World Ash Tree.

The Norns in Nordic mythology are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, and comparable to the 'Fates' in Greek mythology.
The three most important norns, Wyrd, Verðandi and Skuld, come out from a hall standing at the Wwell of Fate, and 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.
Ther is a theory that the three main norns should each be associated exclusively with the past, the present, and the future.

The Norns see glimpses of things to come involving Siegfried before the thread mysteriously breaks.
The scene shifts to the mountain where the two lovers are saying their farewells before Siegfried leaves in search of adventure.
Siegfried gives the ring to Brunnhilde for safe-keeping as a symbol of their love.

Hall of the Gibichungs
Siegfried and Gutrune
Traveling down the Rhine river, Siegfried arrives at the hall of the Gibichungs.
In a dream Alberich incites his son Hagen to help him regain the ring, which Hagen does with the unwitting aid of his half-brother and sister, Gunther and Gutrune.
Hagen gives Siegfried a drugged drink, causing him to forget his relationship with Brunnhilde, and he falls in love with Gutrune instead.
Meanwhile, one of Brunnhilde's sisters arrives at the mountain to tell her that Wotan has cut branches off Yggdrasil (the World Ash Tree) and has surrounded Valhalla with them, intending to set himself and the gods on fire.

Yggdrasil - World Ash Tree
In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil  is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.
Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.
Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, Hoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

She asks Brunnhilde to return the ring to Wotan but she refuses.
Siegfried then appears but has transformed himself into the guise of Gunther with the help of the tarnhelm.
He forcibly takes back the ring and kidnaps Brunnhilde for the real Gunther to marry.
On discovering Siegfried's treachery, Brunnhilde betrays him to Hagen, revealing how Siegfried may be killed by striking him in the back, the only place that she has not covered with a protective spell.
Hagen promptly slays him during a hunt.
Learning too late that Hagen has tricked them both in order to regain the ring, Brunnhilde orders Siegfried's funeral pyre to be lit and she rides her horse into it, forgiving Siegfried and uniting them in death.
Wotan and the other gods are consumed by the flames that destroy Valhalla.
Hagen is drowned in the rising waters of the Rhine, as the Rhinedaughters repossess the ring; its curse is lifted when it is returned to nature.

Prologue

This scene mirrors the opening of Rhinegold with the three Rhinedaughters and the crime against nature with the theft of the gold, which Wagner reminds us of with the Rhine motif.
Three Norns, Erda's daughters, weave the threads of fate (their weaving becomes an inversion of the Rhine motif).
They sing of long ago when they wove at the base of the World Ash Tree.
There Wotan gave up an eye to drink from the stream of wisdom, but also he tore a limb from the tree to make his spear.
Because of this violence, the tree is now dead, the result of Wotan's abuse of power, perverting his wisdom, symbolized by the stream of wisdom drying up.
The Norns tell of the final collapse of the old world order which has become rotten at its 'roots.'
The tree now provides the funeral pyre for the waiting gods, resigned to their doom.
As the Norns weave their rope around the rocks, it breaks, signifying the end of Erda's foreknowledge, but does this mean fate no longer rules, that humanity is now completely free?
Fate (or lot) is mentioned infrequently in the text of the Ring, mostly in Valkyrie - but the Fate motif is heard frequently (ex: when Brunnhilde enters to prepare Siegmund for death, before the Wanderer/Erda confrontation, at Siegfried's discovery of Brunnhilde, her confusion at his later betrayal, at Siegfried's last breath, at the immolation scene).

Mythological background to the World Ash Tree:
Yggdrasil (old Norse name) lies at the center of the world, its three roots separating Asgard (land of the gods), the land of the Frost Giants, and Hel (name for both the place of the dead and its queen). The World Tree represents and sustains life, and its fate determines life's end (Ragnarok). A serpent gnaws at its roots; three Norns (Fate, Being, Necessity) sit at its base at the well of Urd and carve runes in its trunk telling the future of each person. Also at its base lies Mimir's well of wisdom (Mimisbrunn) where Odin came for a drink and left one eye as payment. One cryptic reference in the Poetic Edda implies that Odin hung himself on the tree for nine days, pierced with his spear, in order to gain control of the magic runes (one of his names is "God of the hanged"). Some critics think this might be a late Christian influence on the older myth. Wagner invented the ideas of Wotan's tearing a branch from the tree, causing it to wither and die, and using its wood for kindling at the fiery end of Valhalla.

When the rope breaks, the themes of the Ring's Curse and Siegfried's horn and sword predict a future that the Norns can no longer see.
Later in Act 3 Siegfried boasts to the Rhinedaughters that his sword can sever the Norn's thread into which the curse is woven.
Fate is closely associated with the ring and its curse throughout, so breaking the rope may not mean the end of fate itself but the end of the curse and the gods' foreknowledge and influence in the world.
Siegfried doesn't escape the curse, but his actions, along with Brunnhilde's devotion unto death, eventually break it.
When we next see Siegfried and Brunnhilde, both receive new motifs (Siegfried's is a majestic version of his horn call), signifying their new relationship and new beginning.
Brunnhilde is no longer the warrior maid but a mortal woman, her music soft and feminine.
Unfortunately, the hope heard in these new themes won't last long.
Both of them are unknowingly caught up and manipulated by the old order.
They too must perish before humanity can be truly free of the gods' influence.

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 known as 'Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt' -  (Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine) starts.
'Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt' includes these Leitmotifs: Siegfried, his horn-call,  Loge's fire, Rhine, Erda, Rhinegold, Rhinedaughters.
At his arrival at Gibichung hall: Leitmotifs - the curse, the god's destruction, sword, power of the Ring.

Act 1

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 and leave for Brünnhilde's rock.
(Hagen holds the drinking horn in which they mix their blood, but he does not join in the oath.)
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 Gungnir 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 in runes.
Wotan ordered branches of Yggdrasil, 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.

Act 2

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 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 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 slain for Gunther's standing to be regained. 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.
Brünnhilde and Gunther then 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.

Act 3

Siegfried and the Rhinemaidens
Rheintöchter
In the woods by the bank of the Rhine, the Rhinemaidens mourn the lost Rhine gold. Siegfried happens by, separated from the hunting party.
They 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.


Siegfrieds Tod
Wotan's ravens fly up distracting Siegfried, and Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear.
The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains in three words ("Meineid rächt sich!" – "Perjury avenges itself") 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.
Gutrune meanwhile dies of grief.
Brünnhilde makes her entrance and takes charge of events (the Immolation Scene).
Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled by the river.
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"; they fly off.
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 people watch, deeply moved, the interior of Valhalla is finally seen, with gods and heroes visible as described by Waltraute in Act 1.

Götterdämmerung
Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely as the gods are consumed in the flames.
With the emphasis now on freedom from the will rather than freedom of the will, the heroic center of the cycle shifted from Siegfried to Wotan and Brunnhilde, who both learn that redemption comes through self-renunciation. In Act 3, scene 2 of Siegfried (the turning point of the cycle), the will of the god that once ruled the world now wills to renounce its claims. The deaths of Siegfried and Brunnhilde are now seen as an earthly image of Wotan's own renunciation, their funeral pyre a reflection of the burning of Valhalla.
Wagner's unique Romanticism was both idealistic (infinite longing) and fatalistic (inevitable disappointment). Attempting through abuse of power to hold onto what we cannot keep causes us to hurt and destroy others and is ultimately futile.
Wagner finally chose not to rely on words to express the poem's final meaning but on his music,
The final bars of Götterdämmerung speak of  the beauty and harmonyof 'new world order', despite the death of heroes and gods.



'Siegfried'

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015

'Siegfried' is the third of the four operas that constitute 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner.
It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of 'The Ring'.
This part of the opera is primarily inspired by the story of the legendary hero Sigurd in Norse mythology.

Composition

Arthur Schopenhauer
Georg Herwegh
In September or October 1854 the German poet and political activist Georg Herwegh introduced Wagner to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.
Schopenhauer's pessimistic and renunciatory philosophy had a profound effect on Wagner, and it was only to be expected that it should influence the composition of the Ring. In 1856 the libretto of Siegfried was revised and a new ending was devised for Götterdämmerung – the so-called Schopenhauer Ending.
When Wagner came to compose Siegfried, he made three significant alterations to his modus operandi.
Firstly, he wrote (in ink and on at least three staves) a developed draft between the preliminary draft and the full score; this intermediate draft included most of the orchestral details of the final score; this procedure, Wagner hoped, would facilitate the writing of the full score, obviating the difficulties he had encountered during the composition of 'Die Walküre'.
Secondly, he composed one act at a time, carrying the composition of the music through all three stages from preliminary draft to full score (but not necessarily fair copy) for the first act before proceeding to the composition of the second act; this way he ensured that as little time as possible elapsed between the initial drafting of a passage and its final orchestration.
Thirdly, he frequently worked on the various drafts at the same time, orchestrating the earlier scenes of an act while still drafting the later ones.

Richard Wagner
Discounting the earlier sketches he had made for 'Der junge Siegfried' (summer 1851), the composition of 'Siegfried' was begun in Zürich in September 1856.
The developed draft was begun on 22 September, almost immediately after the (undated) preliminary draft. The full score was begun on 11 October, so Wagner was working on all three stages at the same time.
On 19 December, however, he began to sketch some themes for 'Tristan und Isolde'; from this point on there were to be many interruptions in the composition of 'Siegfried'.
Nevertheless, by 31 March 1857 the full score of Act I was finished.
Sometime thereafter Wagner began to make a fair copy, but he abandoned this task after just one scene.
Fafners Ruhe - Siegfried
Almost two months elapsed before he began work on Act II; the prelude, Fafners Ruhe ("Fafner's Rest") was sketched on 20 May 1857, while the preliminary draft was begun on 22 May, the composer's forty-fourth birthday.
On 18 June, he began the developed draft while still working on the preliminary draft; but later that same month he dropped the work (at the point where Siegfried rests himself beneath the linden tree) to concentrate on 'Tristan und Isolde'.
The preliminary draft reached this point on the 26th, and the developed draft on the 27th.
It seems that Wagner was tiring of the 'Ring' and he considered putting it aside for a while:
"I have determined finally to give up my headstrong design of completing the 'Nibelungen'.
I have led my young Siegfried to a beautiful forest solitude, and there have left him under a linden tree, and taken leave of him with heartfelt tears." (Wagner, in a letter to Franz Liszt, dated 8 May 1857)
This hiatus, however, did not last as long as Wagner had anticipated. On 13 July 1857 he took up the work again and finished Act II within four weeks, the preliminary draft being completed on 30 July and the developed draft on 9 August.

'Tristan und Isolde'
The full score of the first act was now complete (in pencil), and a fair copy had been made (in ink) of the opening scene; the developed draft of the second act was finished, but the full score had not yet been begun. At this point Wagner once again put the opera aside to concentrate on 'Tristan und Isolde'.

'Die Meistersinger'
Seven years would pass before he took it up again, during which time he completed 'Tristan' and started 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg'.
With Wagner's exile from Bavaria in December 1865, a third hiatus ensued in the composition of 'Siegfried', during which Wagner completed 'Die Meistersinger'.
Work on 'Siegfried' was resumed at the start of 1869 and on 23 February the fair copies of Acts I and II were finally completed.
A week later, on 1 March, Wagner began the composition of Act III.
Working from sketches dating from around 1864 and thereafter, he proceeded to make a preliminary draft of the entire act, as was his usual practice.
Siegfried
This was completed fifteen weeks later on 14 June.
The second complete draft – the orchestral draft – was finished on 5 August.
The full score was begun on 25 August and completed on 5 February 1871.
It is often said that twelve years elapsed between the second and third acts of 'Siegfried', but this is an exaggeration.
While it is true that eleven years and twenty-nine weeks passed between the completion of the developed draft of Act II and the beginning of the preliminary draft of Act III, Wagner devoted more than a year of this so-called hiatus to the composition of 'Siegfried,' completing the fair copy of Act I, drawing up both the full score and fair copy of Act II, and making sketches for Act III.



Synopsis

Wagner envisioned Siegfried as a "free human being" who can change the world order.
He will accomplish this feat with the sword Northung which he reforges himself, breaking Wotan's spear.

Wotan's Spear - Gungnir
In Norse mythology, Gungnir is the spear of the god Odin.
The spear is described as being so well balanced that it could strike any target, no matter the skill or strength of the wielder.
After the wars between the older rulers of the earth and the lords of the sky, the victorious young king of the gods, Wotan, wanders the middle earth looking to gain all the knowledge and power he can find. He comes to a spring at the foot of the World Ash Tree and asks the norns at the fountain of Mimr for all knowledge of the past, present, and future. The Norns agree to give Wotan most of their knowledge, but only after he hangs on the world ash tree for a long space of time, and to give the Norns one of his eyes.
Wotan does all this and the Norns give him sacred knowledge. He breaks off one of the branches of the World Ash tree and fashions for himself a spear 'Gungnir', on which he carves the runes and sacred knowledge he has learned. He decrees that henceforth all contracts and sacred pacts (Vertragen) must be protected by his spear. But by breaking off this branch, Wotan himself starts the slow decay of the World Ash Tree which will contribute to the ultimate downfall of the gods.When Wotan tries to bar the eponymous hero of the opera 'Siegfried' from awakening Brünnhilde from her magic sleep, Siegfried breaks the spear in two, and Wotan flees. It is implied that this is also the end of Wotan's power, and he never appears onstage again.

In this way Wagner links Siegfried's story to Wotan's ultimate plan to regain the ring.
Siegfried is the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde - (see 'Die Walküre') - whom we meet as a young man several years later.

Siegfried is a German language male given name, composed from the Germanic elements sig "victory" and frithu "protection, peace".

Both Wotan and Alberich see in Siegfried, the innocent and fearless hero, the means by which they might regain the ring.

Sieglinde und Mime
So too does Alberich's brother Mime, who raised Siegfried in the forest after his mother died in childbirth. 
Using the magical tarnhelm, Fafner the giant has transformed himself into a dragon to protect his gold.
Mime encourages Siegfried to challenge the dragon in order to learn the meaning of fear, which Siegfried has never experienced.
Mime attempts to repair the broken sword which he got from Sieglinde, but each time Siegfried easily smashes it against the anvil.
Finally Siegfried begins the task himself, melts the pieces of his father's sword to create a stronger weapon, and this time splits the anvil with one stroke.
With his new version of the sword Nothung, Siegfried kills Fafner and takes the ring and the tarnhelm.
He then kills Mime who was trying to poison him.
Having tasted the dragon's blood, Siegfried now understands the language of the birds in the forest, who tell him of a beautiful maiden asleep on a fiery mountaintop.
When Siegfried seeks her out, Wotan is standing guard, but this time Northung shatters Wotan's spear, symbol of his authority.
The rule of the gods nears its end as Wotan admits his defeat at the hands of a free human being.
Finally Siegfried strides through the fire to find the sleeping Brunnhilde, and they fall deeply in love.

Act 1

Junge Siegfried mit Mime
Mime Forging Northung
In a cave in the forest, the Nibelung dwarf Mime, Alberich's brother, is forging a sword.
Mime is plotting to obtain the Ring for himself.
He has raised the human boy Siegfried as a foster child, to kill the dragon, Fafner, who guards the Ring and other treasures.
He needs a sword for Siegfried to use, but the youth has broken every sword he has made.
Siegfried returns from his wanderings in the forest with a wild bear that he caught and demands his new sword, which he immediately breaks.
After Siegfried's tantrum and a carefully studied speech by Mime about Siegfried's ingratitude toward him, Siegfried comes to understand 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 died giving birth.
He shows Siegfried the broken pieces of Nothung, which he obtained from her.

Wotan und Mime
Siegfried orders him to reforge the sword, which he cannot do because the metal will not yield to his best techniques.
Siegfried departs, leaving Mime in despair.
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 or riddles from Mime.
The dwarf agrees in order to get rid of his unwelcome guest.
He 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.
Mime tells the Wanderer to be on his way but is forced to wager his own head on three more riddles for breaking the law of hospitality.

Siegfried with Northung
Mime mit dem Wanderer
The Wanderer asks him to name the race most beloved of Wotan, but most harshly treated; the name of the sword that can destroy Fafner; and the person who can make the blade.
Mime answers the first two questions: the Wälsungs 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.
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 in accordance with the Wanderer's prediction.

He tells Siegfried that fear is an essential craft; Siegfried is eager to learn it, and Mime promises to teach him by bringing 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.


Act 2

The Wanderer arrives at the entrance to Fafner's cave, where Alberich is keeping vigil.
The old enemies quickly recognize each other.
Alberich blusters, boasting of his plans for regaining the ring and ruling the World.
Wotan calmly states that he does not intend to interfere, only to observe.
He even offers to awaken Fafner so that Alberich can bargain with him.
Alberich warns the dragon that a hero is coming to fight him, and offers to prevent the fight in return for the Ring.
Fafner dismisses the threat, declines Alberich's offer, and returns to sleep.
Wotan leaves and Alberich withdraws.

Mime Guides Siegfried to Fafner
At daybreak, Siegfried and Mime arrive.
Siegfried und der Drache Fafner
Mime decides to draw back while Siegfried confronts the dragon.
As Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear, he notices a woodbird in a tree.
Befriending it, 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, and Siegfried stabs Fafner in the heart with Nothung.






Siegfried mit dem Waldvogel
In his last moments, Fafner learns Siegfried's name, and tells him to beware of treachery.
When Siegfried draws his sword from the corpse, his hands are burned by the dragon's blood, and he instinctively puts them to 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 Tarnhelm from Fafner's hoard.
Outside the cave, Alberich and Mime quarrel loudly over the treasure.
Alberich hides as Siegfried comes out of the cave.
Mime greets Siegfried; Siegfried complains that he has still not learned the meaning of fear.
Mime offers him the poisoned drink, however, the lingering effect of the dragon's blood allows Siegfried to read Mime's treacherous thoughts, and he stabs him to death.
Alberich, observing from offstage, shouts sadistic laughter.
Siegfried then throws Mime's body into the treasure cave and places Fafner's body in the cave entrance to block it as well.
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, heads toward the mountain.

Act 3

Siegfried und Brünnhilde
Siegfried und Brünnhilde
The Wanderer appears on the path to Brünnhilde's rock and 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 their (Erda's and Wotan's) child, Brünnhilde, will "work the deed that redeems the World."
Dismissed, Erda sinks back into the earth.
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 breaks Wotan's spear with a blow from Nothung.
Wotan calmly gathers up the pieces and vanishes.
Siegfried enters the ring of fire, emerging on Brünnhilde's rock.
At first, he thinks the 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."


'Lachend erwachst du Wonnige mir:
Brünnhilde lebt, Brünnhilde lacht!
Heil dem Tage, der uns umleuchtet!
Heil der Sonne, die uns bescheint!
Heil der Welt, der Brünnhilde lebt!
Sie wacht, sie lebt,
sie lacht mir entgegen.
Prangend strahlt mir Brünnhildes Stern!
Sie ist mir ewig, ist mir immer,
Erb' und Eigen, ein und all:
leuchtende Liebe, lachender Tod!'






Die Walküre

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Die Walküre is the second of the four operas that form the cycle 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner.
Der Walkürenritt - 'Die Walküre' - Wagner
'Die Walküre's' best-known excerpt is the "Ride of the Valkyries".
Wagner took his tale from the Norse mythology told in the 'Volsunga Saga' and the 'Poetic Edda'.
It received its premiere at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich on 26 June 1870 at the insistence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
It premiered in Wagner's Bayreuth Festival as part of the complete cycle on 14 August 1876.
The opera made its United States premiere at the Academy of Music in New York on 2 April 1877.



Composition

Although 'Die Walküre' is the second of the Ring operas, it was the third in order of conception.

Richard Wagner
Wagner worked backwards from planning an opera about Siegfried's death, then deciding he needed another opera to tell of Siegfried's youth, then deciding he needed to tell the tale of Siegfried's conception and of Brünnhilde's attempts to save Siegfried's parents, and finally deciding he also needed a prelude that told of the original theft of the Rheingold and creation of the ring.
Wagner intermingled development of the text of these last two planned operas, i.e. 'Die Walküre', originally entitled 'Siegmund und Sieglinde: der Walküre Bestrafung' (Siegmund and Sieglinde: the Valkyrie's Punishment) and what became 'Das Rheingold'.
Wagner had first written of his intention to create a trilogy of operas in the August 1851 draft of "Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde" (A Communication to My Friends), but did not produce any sketches of the plot of Siegmund and Sieglinde until November.
The following summer, Wagner and his wife rented the Pension Rinderknecht, a pied-à-terre on the Zürichberg (now Hochstrasse 56–58 in Zürich).
There he worked on the prose draft of 'Die Walküre', an extended description of the story including dialogue between 17 and 26 May 1852 and the verse draft between 1 June and 1 July.
It was between these drafts that Wagner made the decision not to introduce Wotan in act 1, instead leaving the sword the god had been going to bring on stage already embedded in the tree before the action starts. The fair copy of the text was completed by 15 December 1852.
Even before the text of the 'Ring' was finalised, Wagner had begun to sketch some of the music.

'Walkürenritt' - 'Die Walküre' - Wagner
On 23 July 1851 he wrote down on a loose sheet of paper what was to become the best-known leitmotif in the entire cycle: the theme from the "Ride of the Valkyries" (Walkürenritt).
Other early sketches for 'Die Walküre' were made in the summer of 1852.
But it was not until 28 June 1854 that Wagner began to transform these into a complete draft of all three acts of the opera.
This preliminary draft (Gesamtentwurf) was completed by 27 December 1854.
Much of the work of this stage of development of the opera overlapped with work on the final orchestral version of 'Das Rheingold'.
As Wagner had included some indication of the orchestration in the draft, he decided to move straight on to developing a full orchestral score in January 1855 without bothering to write an intermediate instrumentation draft as he had done for 'Das Rheingold'.
This was a decision he was soon to regret, as numerous interruptions including a four month visit to London made the task of orchestrating more difficult than he had expected.
If he allowed too much time to elapse between the initial drafting of a passage and its later elaboration, he found that he could not remember how he had intended to orchestrate the draft.
Consequently some passages had to be composed again from scratch.
Wagner, nevertheless, persevered with the task and the full score was finally completed on 20 March 1856. 
The fair copy was begun on 14 July 1855 in the Swiss resort of Seelisberg, where Wagner and his wife spent a month.
It was completed in Zürich on 23 March 1856, just three days after the completion of the full score.

Synopsis

Wotan delights in wandering the earth and womanizing.
His promiscuity is formidable, and no fewer than eleven of his children now appear: nine are his warrior-maidens, the Valkyries, led by his favorite daughter Brünnhilde.
The others are the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde, who fall in love, a relationship not only incestuous but adulterous as Sieglinde is married to Hunding.
Wotan sympathizes with the lovers, placing them under the special guardianship of Brünnhilde and giving them a special sword, Nothung, which Siegmund pulls from a tree.
As Hunding lies asleep from his drugged drink, the lovers escape into the woods.
Wotan secretly plans for Siegmund to gain back the ring. He hopes that an independent agent will be able to accomplish what he is forbidden to do.
However, his plan infuriates his wife Fricka.
As goddess of the sanctity of marriage, she insists that Wotan uphold the law and withdraw his protection from the twins.
If Wotan wants Siegmund to be truly free, he must not protect him now.
Reluctantly Wotan agrees that Siegmund must die and sends Brünnhilde to announce his fate.
Siegmund refuses Brünnhilde's promise of Valhalla and vows to kill both Sieglinde and himself before Hunding finds them.
Moved by their love, Brünnhilde disobeys Wotan and vows to save the couple.
However, Hunding kills Siegmund when Wotan intervenes to shatter the sword Northung.
Brünnhilde gathers up the broken bits of sword and gives them to Sieglinde, sending her away into the forest to bear her child, while she faces the wrath of Wotan alone.
Brünnhilde's punishment for defying Wotan's authority is to be put to sleep on a mountain top, ringed by fire. 
She can be awakened only by the kiss of a hero fearless enough to walk through the flames.
By the end of 'Die Walküre', Wotan, the lawmaker, has seen one of his children die, and lost two more as a result of enforcing his own law.
Act 1


Siegmund und Sieglinde
'Die Walküre'
Sieglinde - 'Die Walküre'
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 parting from him as well.
One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl's relatives.
Hunding's Hut - 'Die Walküre'
His weapons were broken and the bride was killed, and he was forced to flee to Hunding's home.

Siegmund, Sieglinde
und Hunding
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 und Sieglinde -  'Die Walküre'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Siegmund und Sieglinde und Northung
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.

Act 2

Wotan und Brünnhilde - 'Die Walküre'
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 him) 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.
Using the Tarnhelm 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 ensure the death of his beloved child Siegmund.
Having fled Hunding's hall, Siegmund and Sieglinde enter the mountain pass, where Sieglinde faints in guilt and exhaustion.

Siegmund und Hunding - 'Die Walküre'
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.

Act 3

Der Walkürenritt - 'Die Walküre' - Wagner
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 living woman.
She begs them to help, but they dare not defy Wotan.
Brünnhilde decides to delay Wotan as Sieglinde flees.
She also reveals that Sieglinde is pregnant by Siegmund, and names the unborn son Siegfried.
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.
Wotan & Brünnhilde - 'Die Walküre' -Wagner
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.

Wotan then strikes the rock with his spear three time to summon Loge.

In Norse mythology, Loki,  is 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. In addition, Loki is referred to as the father of Váli in the Prose Edda.


Loge - 'Die Walküre' - Wagner
Loki's relation with the gods varies by source. Loki sometimes assists the gods and sometimes causes problems for them. Loki is a shape shifter and the Norse demigod of fire. Loki's positive relations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr.


In the 'Ring', Loki is merged with Logi and called Loge. In the first opera 'Das Rheingold' he hopes to turn into fire and destroys Valhalla, and in the final opera 'Gotterdammerung' Valhalla is set alight, destroying the Gods.

Loge, in his aspect of the spirit of fire, ignites a circle of flame around Brünnhilde in order to ensure that only thd bravest and greates of heroes will be able to approach her.
Wotan hen slowly departs in sorrow, after pronouncing: "Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire."

'Feuerzauber' - 'Die Walküre' - Wagner
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
'If I must lose you, whom I loved, you, the laughing delight of my eyes,
then a bridal fire shall now burn for you
as never has burned for a bride.
Let the glow of fierce flames encircle the rock.
Let it strike devouring fear into the faint-hearts.
Cowards shall flee from Brunnhilde's rock!
Only one shall win the bride,
one freer than I, the god!
Those radiant eyes
that, smiling, I often kissed
when the joy of battle won you an embrace,
when the praise of heroes, flowed in childish chatter
from your sweet lips,
those sparkling eyes
that often shone on me in storms
when hopeless yearning seared my heart,
when, amid wildly weaving alarm,
my wish longed for worldly pleasures,
for the last time let them delight me today, with their last farewell kiss.
On a more fortunate man let their star shine.
For the hapless immortal
they must close for ever.
For so does the god now turn from you!
So does he kiss the godhead from you!
Loge, hear me!
Come hither and hearken!
As first I found you, a fiery glow
as then once you escaped me, a wandering flame,
as I bound you,
so today I summon you!
Arise, flickering flame!
Ring the rock with fire!
Loge!
Loge! Appear!
He who fears my spear point
shall never penetrate the fire!'

The curtain falls as Wagner's brilliant 'Feuerzauber' ('Magic Fire Music') glitters and dances - and then gently resolves into E major - close to the key in which the whole cycle began in the depth of the Rhine