Music and libretto by Richard Wagner.
First Performance: Bayreuth, Festspielhaus, 17 August
The Valkyrie’s rock at night
The three norns, spinning their rope of fate, relate how the world ash
tree has withered since Wotan cut his spear from it and the spring at its
base has dried up. He had the tree chopped down and the branches piled round
Valhalla, ready for the final conflagration. The norns’ rope frays and
they cannot see the end of the story of the stolen gold and the curse. The
rope breaks and the Norns’ wisdom is at an end.
Siegfried leaves Br¸nnhilde to seek new adventures. He gives her the ring
and she gives him her horse Grane. He sets off towards the Rhine.
Scene 1. The hall of the Gibichungs on the Rhine
Hagen advises Gunther that both he and his sister Gutrune should marry. He
proposes Br¸nnhilde for Gunther and Siegfried for Gutrune, telling her that
Siegfried will be sure to fall in love with her after he has drunk a magic
potion, but not mentioning that it is a draught of forgetfulness, necessary
to make Siegfried forget Br¸nnhilde. Siegfried will help Gunther win
Br¸nnhilde, since only he can break through the wall of fire, and will
receive Gutrune as his reward.
Siegfried arrives at Gunther’s court and is welcomed warmly. Gutrune
offers him the drink and he forgets Br¸nnhilde, falls in love with Gutrune
and agrees to help Gunther win Br¸nnhilde, using the Tarnhelm to make himself
look like Gunther. Gunther and Siegfried swear blood-brotherhood but Hagen
abstains. Siegfried and Gunther set off to win Br¸nnhilde and Hagen remains
on watch, brooding over his plans to win the ring.
Scene 2. The Valkyrie’s rock
Br¸nnhilde is visited by her sister valkyrie Waltraute. She tells how she
has found love and happiness, but Waltraute sadly tells her how Wotan, his
spear shattered, has returned to Valhalla and sits there inactive. The only
thing that can free the world from Alberich’s curse is for the ring to
be returned to the Rhinemaidens, but Br¸nnhilde refuses to surrender
Siegfried’s parting gift and Waltraute leaves sorrowfully.
Siegfried’s horn seems to announce the returning hero, but the man
who bursts through the flames is a stranger. The disguised Siegfried drags
the ring from Br¸nnhilde’s finger and claims her as Gunther’s
bride. He follows her into the cave, preparing to spend the night there, with
his sword between them, to keep faith with Gunther.
In front of the Gibichung hall, near the Rhine
Alberich crouches in front of thie sleeping Hagen, urging the destruction
of Siegfried. Hagen swears that his schemes to win back the ring are working.
Siegfried suddenly materialises, telling Hagen that Gunther is returning with
Br¸nnhilde as his bride. Hagen summons the vassals and orders them to begin
preparations for the wedding feast.
Gunther arrives with Br¸nnhilde and announces the double wedding.
Br¸nnhilde is aghast to find that Siegfried does not recognise her and
astonished to see on his finger the ring she thinks Gunther took from her.
Gunther, knowing nothing about this, is puzzled also and Siegfried says he
got the ring from Fafner’s treasure. Hagen declares that Siegfried must
have taken it from Gunther by fraud.
Br¸nnhilde declares that Siegfried is her husband but he explains that he
laid the sword between them, thinking that she is accusing him of usurping
Gunther’s rights. He swears on the point of Hagen’s spear that he
did not break faith with Gunther and Br¸nnhilde swears that he is lying.
Siegfried and Gutrune go into the hall and Hagen offers to avenge
Br¸nnhilde’s wrongs. She tells him how Siegfried can be killed: when
she made him invulnerable by means of her magic arts she left his back
unprotected, knowing he would never turn his back on an enemy.
Gunther, at first objecting because he has sworn blood-brotherhood with
Siegfried, is eventually persuaded by Hagen, who adds the lure of the ring to
arguments that Gunther’s honor is at stake. They plan to kill Siegfried
on a hunt and blame a wild boar for his death. Br¸nnhilde and Gunther vow
vengeance while Hagen vows to regain the ring.
Scene 1. A valley on the Rhine
Siegfried, unsuccessful in his hunting, encounters the Rhinemaidens and
they ask him for the ring. At first he refuses, then yields; but when they
warn him that it will bring him ill luck he disdains the threat and keeps
The rest of the hunting party appears. Hagen invites Siegfried to tell his
history. With promptings from Hagen, he runs through his life story to the
point where he killed Mime, when Hagen offers him a drink which contains an
antidote to the forgetfulness potion and he goes on to relate his winning of
Br¸nnhilde, to the horror of Gunther. Hagen spears Siegfried through the
back. Siegfried addresses a last ecstatic greeting to Br¸nnhilde and dies.
His body is carried away by Gunther’s men.
Scene 2. The hall of the Gibichungs at night
Gutrune is uneasy. Siegfried’s body is brought in and Hagen tells
Gutrune he was killed by a wild boar, but she does not believe him and
accuses Gunther. He blames Hagen, who then admits to the deed. They quarrel
over the ring and Hagen kills Gunther. Siegfried’s hand rises
accusingly as Hagen tries to take the ring, and he falls back in horror.
Br¸nnhilde claims her right as Siegfried’s true wife to mourn him.
She orders a funeral pyre to be built. All that has happened is now clear to
her, and she knows what has to be done, telling the Rhinemaidens to take the
ring from the ashes after the fire has burnt down. It will then be purified
from the curse. She rides Grane into the flames. The Rhine overflows and the
Rhinemaidens take back the ring, dragging Hagen to his death as he tries to
stop them. In the distance Valhalla bursts into flames and is consumed, along
with the gods.
[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]
image_description=Br¸nnhilde into the Flames by Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939)
first_audio_name=Richard Wagner: Gˆtterd‰mmerung
product_title=Richard Wagner: Gˆtterd‰mmerung
product_by=1.Norn: Ruza Pospinov; 2.Norn: Helga Dernesch; 3.Norn: Elisabeth Schwarzenberg; Alberich: Zolt·n KÈlÈmen; Br¸nnhilde: Nadezda Kniplova; Floﬂhilde: Ilse Gramatzki; Gunther: Thomas Tipton; Gutrune: Leonore Kirschstein; Hagen: Gerd Nienstedt; Siegfried: Jean Cox; Wellgunde: Ingrit Liljeberg; Woglinde: Christa Lehnert. Coro e Orchestra di Roma della RAI, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conducting. Live performance, Rome, 1968.