WAGNER: Das Rheingold — Rome 1968

Music and libretto by Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

First Performance: 22 September 1869, Kˆniglich Hof- und
Nationaltheater, M¸nchen

Principal Roles:
Wotan Bass-Baritone
Donner Bass-Baritone
Froh Tenor
Loge Tenor
Fricka Mezzo-Soprano
Freia Soprano
Erda Contralto
Alberich Bass-Baritone
Mime Tenor
Fasolt Bass-Baritone
Fafner Bass
Woglinde Soprano
Wellgunde Soprano
Flosshilde Mezzo-Soprano

Prelude and Scene I

The Setting: At the bottom of the Rhine.

Introductory Stage Instructions:

Greenish twilight, lighter above, darker below. The upper part of the
scene is filled with moving water, which restlessly streams from right to
left. Towards the bottom the waters resolve themselves into a fine mist, so
that the space, to a man’s height from the stage, seems free from the water
which floats like a train of clouds over the gloomy depths. Every-where are
steep points of rock jutting up from the depths and enclosing the whole
stage; all the ground is broken up into a wild confusion of jagged pieces, so
that there is no level place, while on all sides darkness indicates other
deeper fissures.


Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde-the three seductive Rhinedaughters
charged with protecting the Rhine gold-are swimming in the Rhine River. As
they frolic in the water, Alberich the Nibelung, an ugly dwarf from the
centre of the earth, approaches the water. He begins to flirt with the
maidens, who tease and taunt him. Alberich becomes more and more frustrated
as one by one the maidens reject him. A beam of light illuminates the Rhine
gold, stopping Alberich’s pursuit and drawing his full attention. Woglinde
tells him that only a man who renounces love can steal the gold. The
Rhinedaughters allow Alberich to get between them and the gold. He tricks the
maidens, steals the gold and scurries away.

Scene II

The Setting: An open space on a mountain height

Introductory Stage Instructions:

The dawning day lights up with growing brightness a castle with glittering
pinnacles, which stands on the top of a cliff in the background. Between this
cliff and the foreground a deep valley through which the Rhine flows is

Wotan and Fricka asleep.


Wotan, chief of the gods, lays sleeping, and his wife Fricka, goddess of
marriage and fidelity, wakes him. A magnificent castle has appeared across
the valley: Valhalla, the new home of the gods. Wotan has promised to give
Fricka’s sister Freia, goddess of youth and love, to the giants Fafner and
Fasolt as reward for building the castle. Wotan tells his wife nevertheless
not to worry; he would never harm the goddess who gives them all their youth
and immortality through her golden apples. Freia appears, and in an attempt
to escape the giants, calls for protection from her brothers, Donner, god of
thunder, and Froh, god of the rainbow. Wotan tells Fricka and Freia that his
ally Loge, demigod of fire, has a plan. Loge arrives, and tells the assembled
crowd that although he has found no solution to their troubles, he does have
news: Alberich has stolen the Rhine gold and will use it to forge a Ring that
will give him absolute power over the entire world – including the gods.
Wotan sees the gold as a way to pay the giants. Fasolt and Fafner agree to
give Wotan until nightfall to bring them the Rhine gold, but until then, they
will hold the terrified Freia hostage. The gods begin to feel weak as soon as
Freia and her golden apples are taken away. Loge and Wotan depart, planning
to surprise Alberich at his home in Nibelheim and take the gold from him.

Scene III

The Setting: Nibelheim.

Introductory Stage Instructions:

Alberich drags the shrieking Mime from a side cleft.


Alberich has created a Ring from the Rhine gold and has used it to enslave
the Nibelung – including his brother Mime – in his gold mine. Mime has
crafted a golden cap for Alberich, a Tarnhelm, that can make him invisible
and able to change shape at will. Alberich wrests the Tarnhelm from Mime and
puts it on, becoming invisible. He taunts Mime, then leaves to lord his power
over others. Wotan and Loge arrive, speaking with the cowed Mime. Alberich
appears, brandishing the Ring, and taunts Wotan and Loge with threats of
domination. Loge plays along with his taunts, tricking him into becoming
first a dragon, then a toad. While Alberich is in toad form, Wotan and Loge
trap him.

Scene IV

The Setting: Open space on mountain heights.

Introductory Stage Instructions:

The prospect is shrouded in pale mist, as at the end of the second


Bringing Alberich back to Valhalla, Wotan and Loge force him to hand over
all the treasures, including Tarnhelm and the Ring, as ransom for his
release. When Wotan takes the Ring from Alberich’s hand and places it on his
own, Alberich curses the wearer of the Ring to death, and others to envy. As
Alberich leaves, Fasolt and Fafner return, bearing Freia. As Donner, Froh and
Fricka gather, Fasolt tells Wotan that the reward for returning Freia must be
large enough to hide her from his view. Wotan agrees, and the gold, including
the Tarnhelm, is placed in front of Freia. Fafner and Fasolt examine the pile
of gold and notice a small hole near Freia’s eye. The Ring will fit the hole
perfectly, but Wotan refuses to give it up. Erda, the Goddess of the Earth,
rises from the ground and warns Wotan to give up the Ring and the curse that
accompanies it. She tells Wotan that the world as he knows it will soon end.
Wotan agrees to give up the Ring and completes the bargain. As Fasolt and
Fafner gather their treasure, they begin to fight over the Ring. Fafner slays
his brother and departs, taking the gold as he leaves. As the gods prepare to
enter Valhalla, demigod Loge remains on earth in the form of fire. As he
watches their entry into Valhalla, he states that he is ashamed to be
involved with a group that deems itself so powerful it cannot fail, and
wonders what the future will hold for the gods. In the distance, the
Rhinedaughters lament the loss of their gold.

here for complete libretto.

image_description=The giants seize Freya by Arthur Rackham (1910)
first_audio_name=Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold
product_title=Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold
product_by=Alberich: Zolt·n KÈlÈmen; Donner: Thomas Tipton; Erda: Oralia Dominguez; Fafner: Karl Ridderbusch; Fasolt: Gerd Nienstedt; Flosshilde: Ilse Gramatzki; Freia: Leonore Kirschstein; Fricka: Janis Martin; Froh: Hermann Winkler; Loge: Herbert Schachtschneider; Mime: Erwin Wohlfahrt; Wellgunde: Ingrit Liljeberg; Woglinde: Lieselotte Hammes; Wotan: Theo Adam. Orchestra di Roma della RAI. Wolfgang Sawallisch, conducting. Live performance, 1968, Rome.