Music and libretto by Richard Wagner.
First Performance: 26 June 1870, Munich, Kˆnigliches Hof-
und Nationaltheater (first performance as part of cycle: 14 August 1876,
The interior of Hunding’s dwelling
A storm is raging. Siegmund stumbles in exhausted. Sieglinde, Hunding’s
wife, gives him a drink and he explains that he has had to run from his enemies
because his weapons failed him. Hunding arrives and extends hospitality to
Siegmund, noticing the resemblance between him and Sieglinde.
When asked his name he explains that a sad life qualifies him to be called
Woeful. When he was young he and his father Wolf had returned home to find his
mother murdered, the house burnt and his twin sister carried off. He and his
father had lived homeless in the forest, until one day his father vanished.
Seeking human company he had found only misfortune. His present predicament
arose when he tried to rescue a girl who was being married against her will. He
killed her brothers but was unable to save her from death before fleeing from
Hunding reveals that these were his kinsmen and declares his intention of
avenging them on Siegmund in the morning, though he grants him hospitality for
the night, retiring with Sieglinde.
The weaponless Siegmund remembers that his father had promised that he would
find a sword when he most needed one. Sieglinde returns, telling him she has
drugged Hunding and urging him to flee. She shows him a sword, embedded in the
tree growing through the centre of the house, and tells him how it came to be
there. When she was being married against her will to Hunding an old one-eyed
man had appeared (the music identifies him as Wotan) and plunged the sword into
the tree. No one has been able to move it but she is sure she knows who it is
Siegmund and Sieglinde embrace. The door flies open, revealing the spring
night. Siegmund compares their love to the union of love and spring. They
recognise the resemblance between them and Siegmund reveals that his father’s
real name was W‰lse. Sieglinde greets him by his true name. He draws the sword
and they embrace as brother and sister and as lovers.
A wild rocky pass
Wotan orders the valkyrie Br¸nnhilde, his favorite daughter, to give victory
in the forthcoming fight to Siegmund.
As guardian of marriage Fricka demands vengeance against Siegmund. Wotan
tries to answer that an enforced marriage is less sacred than the love felt by
Siegmund and Sieglinde; but she objects also on the grounds that they are
brother and sister, as well as the fruit of Wotan’s adulterous union with a
He tries to explain that his purpose was to create a free hero able to carry
out a task forbidden to the gods, but she points out the fallacies in his
arguments: Siegmund is not free, being protected by Wotan; even the sword has
been left for him. He agrees unwillingly to her demands and agrees not to
protect Siegmund but she demands that he also order Br¸nnhilde not to protect
him, sweeping aside his claim that Br¸nnhilde is free to act as she chooses. He
Wotan explains to Br¸nnhilde how he had committed the wrong of paying for
the building of Valhalla with Alberich’s ring, instead of returning it to the
Rhinemaidens. He sought further knowledge from Erda, after which she bore him
the eight valkyries, their task being to assemble an army of heroes to help the
gods in battle against Alberich, in case he should regain the ring, now guarded
by the dragon (ex-giant) Fafner. Wotan is powerless to take the ring because of
his treaty with Fafner, so he needs a free hero to perform the task, but he has
been forced to admit that Siegmund is not free.
He has learnt that Alberich has sired a son. In deep despair and revulsion
he gives the unborn child his blessing, bequeathes to him the vain pomp of the
gods and commands the reluctant Br¸nnhilde to award the victory to Hunding.
Br¸nnhilde watches as Sieglinde and Siegmund arrive in flight. Sieglinde is
wild with terror and faints. Br¸nnhilde tells Siegmund he must die and follow
her to Valhalla, where he will find the company of other fallen heroes, as well
as Wotan and his own father (he does not know that they are one and the same)
and be served by valkyries; but when he learns that Sieglinde may not follow
him he refuses to go. When Br¸nnhilde tells him that he has no choice, that
even his sword will fail him, he threatens to kill Sieglinde and the unborn
child Br¸nnhilde tells him she is carrying. Moved by his love and distress she
promises to protect him.
As he looks for Hunding. Sieglinde wakes up in terror. Br¸nnhilde shelters
Siegmund with her shield, but Wotan thrusts his spear in front of Siegmund,
whose sword breaks on it, leaving him to be killed by Hunding. Wotan strikes
Hunding dead with a word and prepares to pursue Br¸nnhilde.
The summit of a rocky mountain
The valkyries gather on the mountain, bearing heroes on their horses to take
to Valhalla. Br¸nnhilde appears with Sieglinde and begs their protection
against Wotan. But first she must save Sieglinde, whose wish for death changes
to joy when she learns that she is carrying Siegmund’s child, who will grow up
to be a mighty hero named Siegfried. She agrees to flee, taking the fragments
of the sword entrusted to her by Br¸nnhilde.
As Wotan appears, Br¸nnhilde tries to hide among her sisters, but steps
forward when he accuses her of cowardice. When he pronounces her banishment
from Valhalla and her doom to be locked in sleep and forced to become the wife
of the first man who finds her, the other valkyries are horrified; but when he
threatens them with a similar fate they flee in terror.
Br¸nnhilde pleads with Wotan that she had really carried out his secret
wish, knowing that he loved Siegmund, and tells how she had been moved by his
pleading and his love for Sieglinde, but Wotan reproaches her for yielding to
the claims of love while he has been forced to follow the stern path of duty.
She begs that if she must become mortal she should not be left prey to the
first comer but be given only to a hero – pointing out that Sieglinde will bear
Siegmund’s child and has the fragments of the sword.
Wotan is finally moved and agrees to surround her with a wall of fire which
only a man who knows no fear can cross. He kisses her to sleep, bids her a sad
farewell and summons Loge to create a blaze around the rock, declaring that no
one who fears his spear will be able to cross the flames.
[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]
image_description=Schott’s vocal score of Die Walkure, 1899
first_audio_name=Richard Wagner: Die Walk¸re
product_title=Richard Wagner: Die Walk¸re
product_by=Br¸nnhilde: Nadezda Kniplova; Fricka: Janis Martin; Gerhilde: Lieselotte Rebmann; Grimgerde: Cvetka Ahlin; Helmwige: Daniza Mastilovic; Hunding: Gerd Nienstedt; Orlinde: Elisabeth Schwarzenberg; Rossweisse: Raili Kostia; Schwertleite: Aili Puroner; Sieglinde: Hildegard Hillebrecht; Siegmund: Eberhard Katz; Siegrune: Jane Murray Dillard; Waltraute: Irene Dalis; Wotan: Theo Adam. Orchestra di Roma della RAI, Wolfgang Sawallish, conducting. Live performance, 1968.