Music and libretto by Richard Wagner.
First Performance: 16 August 1876, Bayreuth,
Mime’s forge in the forest
Mime tries in vain to forge a sword strong enough for Siegfried to kill the
dragon Fafner. Siegfried returns from the forest with a bear with which he
terrifies Mime. He easily breaks the latest sword on the anvil. Mime reproaches
him with ingratitude, reminding him that he has brought him up from childhood.
Refusing to believe that Mime is his father, Siegfried manages to extract from
him the information that his mother, Sieglinde, had died giving birth to him,
leaving the fragments of his father’s sword, Nothung. Siegfried demands
that Mime reforge this sword and storms out, hoping he may soon be free of the
Mime knows he cannot forge the sword, but when the Wanderer (Wotan) appears
and offers to answer any three questions on pain of forfeiting his head, Mime
asks him only useless questions (about the races of dwarf, giants and gods).
When the Wanderer demands a reciprocal question test, Mime is able to answer
the first two questions but fails on the third: who will reforge Nothung? The
Wanderer tells Mime that his head is forfeit, but he leaves it to be claimed by
one who knows no fear.
Mime realises that this is one lesson he has failed to teach Siegfried and
tries vainly to make up this omission, but Siegfried is unmoved, even by the
mention of the fearsome dragon. Mime has to admit that his skill is unequal to
the task of forging Nothung and Siegfried takes to the task himself, breaking
all the rules of smithing, but succeeding, while Mime brews a potion he plans
to administer to Siegfried when he has killed Fafner, so that he can kill him
and seize the ring.
Deep in the forest, near the entrance to Fafner’s cave
Alberich waits near the cave, hoping that someone will kill the dragon and
give him the chance to take possession once more of the ring. The Wanderer
appears and, to Alberich’s surprise, professes no interest in the ring,
but warns him that Mime is bringing Siegfried to kill the dragon. The Wanderer
summons Fafner, who rejects Alberich’s offer to protect him from
Siegfried in exchange for the ring.
Mime brings Siegfried to the spot, promising that here he will learn fear.
Siegfried wonders about his mother and listens to the murmurs of the forest, in
particular a bird, whose warbling he tries to imitate on a roughly improvised
reed pipe. He gives up and blows a call on his hunting horn, which wakens
Fafner. Siegfried kills the dragon; when he pulls out his sword, his hand is
splashed with blood. As he sucks it clean, he finds himself able to understand
the woodbird, which tells him to take the ring and Tarnhelm from the hoard.
Mime and Alberich meet and quarrel, watching with horror as Siegfried
emerges with the ring and Tarnhelm. The woodbird warns Siegfried of
Mime’s intended treachery and when Mime offers him the drugged drink, he
is able to understand Mime’s thoughts and strikes him dead. The woodbird
tells Siegfried of a bride awaiting him on a rock surrounded by fire and he
sets off, following the bird.
A wild spot at the foot of a mountain
The Wanderer summons the sleeping Erda, once more seeking the benefit of her
wisdom, but she answers that she now knows nothing, suggesting first that he
ask the Norns (fates) and then Br¸nnhilde. She is horrifed to learn about
Br¸nnhilde’s punishment. The Wanderer then says that he has no need of
her advice as he has decided to accept gladly the end of his power; he will
leave the world to Siegfried, and Br¸nnhilde will perform the redeeming
But when Siegfried appears, he is impatient to find yet another old man
standing in his path. His youthful brashness arouses the Wanderer’s anger
and as Siegfried tries to go past, he interposes his spear, pointing out that
the sword Siegfried carries has already been shattered by it. Believing that he
has found his father’s enemy, Siegfried breaks the spear with his
The Wanderer withdraws, no longer able to oppose Siegfried, who climbs the
mountain and passes through the ring of flame which surrounds Br¸nnhilde. After
some hesitation he kisses her awake and she greets him ecstatically by name. At
first, however, she shrinks from his embrace, reluctant to lose her divine
powers, but eventually responds to his passion and they triumphantly proclaim
[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]
for the complete libretto.
image_description=Siegfried by Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939)
first_audio_name=Richard Wagner: Siegfried
product_title=Richard Wagner: Siegfried
product_by=Alberich: Zolt·n KÈlÈmen; Br¸nnhilde: Nadezda Kniplova; Der Wanderer: Theo Adam; Erda: Oralia Dominguez; Fafner: Karl Ridderbusch; Mime: Erwin Wohlfahrt; Siegfried: Jean Cox; Woodbird: Ingrid Paller. Orchestra di Roma della RAI, Wolfgang Sawallish, conducting. Live performance, May 1968.