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The Opera and Classical Music Blog - Fantastic Operas
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Welcome to the operas page, where we'll provide information about our favorite operas, from the most famous ones to the more unique and unknown ones. If you love opera, this page is for you; if you're new to opera, then welcome; and if you aren't really into it, you should check this section out anyway. Enjoy!

Note:Don't confuse the "Plot" sections with the "Story" sections. The "Plot" section basically summarizes what happens in the opera, and the "Story" section describes what happened while the composer was writing it.
FIDELIO

Opera submitted here by:Brunnhilde

Fidelio is an opera in two acts composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Personally it is my very favorite opera, and therefore I decided to make it the first opera listed on this page.

The Characters


Name
Role
Voice type
Leonore
Wife of Florestan, disguised as a man under the alias of "Fidelio"
Soprano
Don Florestan
Husband of Leonore, a prisoner in Pizarro's prison
Tenor
Rocco
A jailer at Pizarro's prison, father of Marzelline
Bass
Don Pizarro
Cruel governor of the prison
Bass-baritone
Marzelline
Rocco's daughter, formerly in love with Jaquino
Soprano
Jaquino
Assistant of Rocco, has a crush on Marzelline
Tenor
Don Fernando
King's minister
Bass
Two prisoners
Prisoners of Pizarro's jail, as their names suggest
Tenor and bass
Other characters/chorus
Prisoners, guards, townspeople
Multiple voice types


The Plot

Act 1:The first scene begins in Rocco's house, in 18th century Spain. Two years earlier, Florestan attempted to make some of Pizarro's crimes public. In order to keep his mouth shut, Pizarro put him in his prison in one of the deepest dungeons. Ever since, Florestan's wife, Leonore, has taken the name of "Fidelio" and disguised herself as a man in order to find and liberate her husband. Back in the present, Marzelline, who is doing some chores in the house, is being pestered by Jaquino, who tries to get her to marry him. She firmly declines all his requests. Soon Rocco and "Fidelio" (who by now has been hired by Rocco to be a new assistant) arrive after working. Rocco praises "Fidelio" and, thinking that "Fidelio" and Marzelline are in love, makes them become engaged. After "his" marriage is arranged to take place in a few days, "Fidelio" asks Rocco why "he" is not permitted to go into the deepest dungeons, and that "he" wants to help Rocco work whenever the elderly jailer goes down into those darkest dungeons. Rocco says that he cannot allow "Fidelio" to go into those dungeons, and a certain man with powerful enemies has been down in there for two years. However, Rocco adds that he might be able to get Pizarro to give him permission to let "Fidelio" help him whenever he goes down into the deeper dungeons. Everyone except Rocco then exits, and Pizarro, along with some guards, arrives. Rocco gives Pizarro a letter, which contains information that Don Fernando is going to come and inspect the prison in order to investigate the rumors that Pizarro has committed many bad crimes. Pizarro, knowing that he is doomed if Fernando discovers that Florestan is alive, decides to murder Florestan. He orders Rocco to dig Florestan's grave for him, and once the grave is finished, Rocco shall give a signal and Pizarro shall come down into the dungeon and kill Florestan. Rocco is horrified and tries to argue with Pizarro, but in the end gives in. Pizarro also gives Rocco permission to bring "Fidelio" along to help dig the grave faster. Meanwhile, Leonore has been spying on Pizarro and Rocco and, although distressed, urges on hope.
Later, at the prison, Leonore asks Rocco if she can free the prisoners and let them enjoy the sunshine in the gardens. Rocco allows her to do this, and the prisoners are overjoyed as they wander about in the beautiful gardens. Leonore tries to see if Florestan is among them, but cannot find him anywhere. Rocco soon tells Leonore about Pizarro's plans. Leonore is overjoyed that she might see Florestan again, but at the same time outraged that Pizarro intends on killing the prisoner. Meanwhile, Pizarro finds out that the prisoners have been released from their cells and, enraged, comes to Rocco and demands to know what's going on. Rocco lies and says that they are celebrating the King's naming day, and then whispers to Pizarro to save his anger for Florestan. Pizarro consents and orders Rocco and the others to lock up the prisoners again, and Leonore, Jaquino, Rocco, and Marzelline reluctantly do so.

Act 2:Deep down in the dungeons, a desperate, starving Florestan lies in his cold prison. All hope seems lost until he has a vision of Leonore, in the form of an angel, coming to save him. Florestan then collapses, unconscious. Rocco and "Fidelio" soon arrive in order to dig the grave. While doing so, however, "Fidelio" pauses "his" work and inspects Florestan, trying to see if he is really her husband. Eventually, Florestan wakes up and demands to know who Rocco and "Fidelio" are. Leonore immediately recognizes Florestan's voice and, growing overwhelmingly emotional, starts crying. Florestan, who hasn't been decently fed in years, begs for food and water, and is soon given wine and a crust of stale bread by Leonore. Florestan, who doesn't recognize his wife, blesses "Fidelio" for "his" kindness. However, Rocco realizes he has to give the signal and summon Pizarro, and does so. Pizarro, wearing a cloak to hide his identity, comes down into the dungeons and reveals who he is to Florestan. Florestan boldly opposes him, and Pizarro draws his knife, ready to strike, when Leonore throws herself in between the two, revealing her true identity. Pizarro says that he is not afraid of any woman and prepares to kill Leonore, but she draws a gun and threatens to shoot Pizarro if he makes one move. Suddenly a horn sounds, announcing Don Fernando's arrival. The foursome express their emotions-Rocco surprised but relieved, Pizarro depressed, and Florestan and his wife overjoyed. Rocco and Pizarro leave the dungeons. Husband and wife unite in bliss, and shortly afterward they follow Rocco and Pizarro.
In some versions of Fidelio, the Leonore no. 3 overture is played here.
In front of the prison, the townsfolk. Marzelline, and Jaquino celebrate the day of justice which has arrived. Don Fernando comes and reassures the people that all tyranny has ended. Suddenly, Rocco, Leonore, Florestan and Pizarro arrive. Rocco explains everything about Pizarro's plot and Leonore saving the day. Pizarro is condemned and taken away to jail, Marzelline is shocked, Leonore frees Florestan, and everyone celebrates and praises Leonore's loyalty and love to her husband, Florestan.

The Story

Like with many of his other works, Beethoven wrote his only opera on and off for a number of years-around a decade, in fact. His first version premiered in November 1805, but after revising it for a while, Beethoven had a second version premiere in 1806, which was more successful than his first. Beethoven however edited Fidelio on and off again for a number of years before releasing a third and final version in 1814, which was the most successful of all. However, I won't forget to mention that Beethoven had to revise his overture to Fidelio over and over again while he composed his only opera for about a decade. He wrote a total of three overtures to it-the Leonore no. 1 overture (better known as the Fidelio overture), the Leonore no. 2 overture, and the Leonore no. 3 overture. While Leonore no. 1/the Fidelio overture is the most well-known of the three and the Leonore no. 2 overture is a bit more obscure, my favorite is the Leonore no. 3 overture. Note that in some versions of Fidelio, you can hear the Leonore no. 3 overture, for the composer Gustav Mahler decided that the Leonore no. 3 overture was too good to be left out and he put it in between the scenes Act 2. And this is the story of what happened while Beethoven composed one of his greatest works of all time.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Opera submitted here by:Brunnhilde

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is a three-act opera composed by Wilhelm Richard Wagner. This is Wagner's only comedic and light opera, as well as his most famous one. The music in this opera is light, superb, beautiful, and at the same time so wonderful that it almost made me cry when I saw this opera for the very first time. If you see it, I'm sure it'll be so great that you may not be able to hold back tears of joy, either.

The Characters


Name
Role
Voice Type
Walther von Stolzing
A knight in love with Eva who wants to be a meistersinger
Tenor
Eva
Daughter of Pogner, in love with Walther
Soprano
Hans Sachs
A cobbler, widower, and meistersinger
Bass-baritone
David
Hans Sachs' apprentice, in love with Magdalena
Tenor
Magdalena (AKA Lena)
Eva's nurse, in love with David
Mezzo-soprano
Sixtus Beckmesser
Town clerk, meistersinger, loves Eva and seeks her hand
Baritone
Veit Pogner
Goldsmith, meistersinger, father of Eva
Bass
The Nightwatchman
A nightwatchman, as the name suggests
Bass-baritone
Other characters/chorus
Many different citizens of Nürnberg
Multiple voice types


The Plot

Overture:Before the opera begins, a slightly long but strong, blissful, fantastic overture plays. I grew rather joyful and very emotional during this, and while listening to the overture I almost cried from its greatness.
Act 1:Walther waits impatiently for Eva, who is at the local church in Nürnberg with Magdalena. Eventually, after church, Walther manages to meet with Eva and asks if she is married, for he seeks her hand. Eva, being bashful, gets Magdalena to explain. Magdalena tells Walther that during a festival celebrating St. John's Day coming tomorrow, the meistersingers (English translation:Mastersingers) will hold a competition and nominate the best singer. The best singer will then have Pogner's right to marry Eva, but Eva can decline the singer's request and remain single. Thus, Eva is not married, but she can only marry the best meistersinger. Walther immediately decides to try to become a meistersinger. David soon arrives, and Magdalena tells Sachs' apprentice that if he is able to make Walther a meistersinger, David gets a nice meal later. David then begins telling Walther about the hundreds of different things he must learn before becoming a meistersinger, causing Walther to grow desperate. In the end, however, David adds that after learning all the rules and such, one who is able to create and sing his own perfect song is able to become a meistersinger. Walther, realizing that all he has to do is make up a great song, regains hope.
Meanwhile, the rest of the apprentices of the meistersingers have set up the church for their masters' meeting. Walther and David exit, and all the meistersingers (except one named Nicklaus Vogel, whose apprentice comes and explains that he is sick) arrive. Pogner, who had been talking with Walther after David was through with him, arrives with the brave knight as his guest. Beckmesser, the cunning "marker" (as one sings, he is assigned to mark any mistakes on his chalkboard), who expected to be the best meistersinger and win Eva's hand without anyone else competing with him, was soon upset to find out that Walther also was seeking to marry the maiden. After the meistersingers talk for a while, Walther sings to them to see if he qualifies as a meistersinger. Beckmesser makes sure that he marks his board every few seconds so that Walther doesn't stand a chance against him in the competition for Eva tomorrow. While most of the meistersingers despise Walther's bold, new song that bends most of their rules, Hans Sachs and Pogner find the song interesting and even like it a bit. The apprentices, meanwhile, love Walther's song. Walther is interrupted and an argument breaks out in the middle of the song, where Beckmesser and most of the other meistersingers say that there isn't any point in continuing such a bad song, and Hans Sachs tries to get them to accept something new for once. Midst the relentless jabbering, Walther resumes singing until the very end of the song. The meistersingers tell him he doesn't qualify as one of them, and Walther, very depressed, leaves the church. Beckmesser snickers in triumph.

Act 2:Later that evening, in a street in Nürnberg near Hans Sachs' house, David meets with Magdalena and explains how he was unable to make Walther good enough of a singer to become a meistersinger. Lena angrily refuses to give him the food she had prepared for him and leaves. Magdalena returns to the Pogner house and explains to Eva what happened to Walther. Eva, deciding to confide in Hans Sachs about what has been happening, goes to Sachs' house, where he is busy at work making some new shoes for Beckmesser. Eva tries to talk Hans Sachs into competing for her in the contest tomorrow in order to win her hand, since Eva has no more hope of marrying Walther, and although Sachs is touched, he explains that he is too old to be Eva's husband. Sachs, secretly wanting to know if Eva loves Walther, explains what happened at the church earlier that day in detail. Eva becomes angry and storms away, confirming Sachs' suspicions. Magdalena rushes to Eva as she walks away from Hans Sachs and warns her that Beckmesser is coming to serenade her. Eva, seeking to elope with Walther as soon as possible, gets Lena to disguise herself as Eva and go to her bedroom window while the real Eva sneaks off to find Walther. Eva soon encounters Walther and raises the spirits of the depressed knight, while at the same time talking him into eloping with her. They are about to leave together, Hans Sachs, having overheard them, turns on his lamp to keep the two lovers from escaping the street. Eva and Walther quickly hide in a shadow cast by the Pogner house. Walther decides to confront Sachs, but before he can do so Beckmesser arrives. Beckmesser begins the serenade, but Hans Sachs, deciding to have some fun, interrupts him by singing a cobbling song at the top of his lungs while hammering hard on the soles of Beckmesser's shoes. Beckmesser irritably pleads for Sachs to stop, but Sachs argues that if he does, then he'll never finish Beckmesser's shoes. Eventually, the two come to an agreement, where Beckmesser will sing and if he makes a mistake, Sachs will act as "marker" by hammering Beckmesser's shoes to hard that it makes a mark. Beckmesser, knowing that if he turns down Sachs' offer the cobbler will keep singing, accepts. Beckmesser starts singing to "Eva" (who is, of course, Magdalena in disguise), but Sachs whacks the soles of the shoes with his hammer so frequently that it quickly gets on Beckmesser's nerves. Meanwhile, David, who was sleeping in Sachs' house, wakes up and sees Beckmesser serenading to Lena. David, still in his pajamas, bursts out of the house and attacks Beckmesser. All the commotion wakes up many other neighboring people, and many fights begin in the street, eventually evolving into a full-out riot. Walther and Eva try to escape together during the battles in the street, but Hans Sachs spots them and pushes Eva back to the Pogner house while dragging Walther off to his own workshop. Soon the fights end and everyone returns to their houses in order to sleep. The only person left in the street in is the Nightwatchman, announcing what hour it is and blowing his horn.

Act 3:Dawn has arrived, and Hans Sachs is sitting in his shop, reading a book. It is St. John's Day. David, after taking Beckmesser's new shoes to the "marker," returns but cannot get Sachs' attention. Eventually, David coaxes Sachs to speak to him, and the two talk about the festivities that are coming later when they realize that it is actually Hans Sachs' name day (back then, John=Johannes=Hans). David excitedly leaves to help prepare the festivities and Sachs thinks about the madness of the riot last night. Walther, who had been sleeping in Hans Sachs' house, wakes up and greets Sachs. Hans Sachs then gives him lessons on meistersinging, and lectures him about the certain rules meistersongs require. In the end, Walther comes up with two stanzas to what Sachs believes is a true meistersong. Hans Sachs records the words to the song on a piece of paper and tries to coax Walther into giving him one last stanza, but Walther, who is tired and not ready to produce another new, great part of a meistersong straight out of his head, decides to start dressing for the festival. Hans Sachs decides to get dressed too, and the two leave the room.
Meanwhile, Beckmesser, still sore and upset from the beating David gave him last night, stumbles into Sachs' workshop. Beckmesser finds the piece of paper with the verses of Walther's song on it and, recognizing Sachs' writing, angrily assumes that Hans Sachs was intending to enter the competition later and try to win Eva's hand. When Hans Sachs reenters the room, Beckmesser confronts him with the piece of paper and asks him if he wrote the song. Hans Sachs says that he did (although he didn't reveal whether he created the lyrics or was the scribe) and that he was not aiming to enter the competition and marry Eva. Sachs also lets Beckmesser have the paper as a present. Beckmesser eagerly takes it, but then quickly argues with Sachs about it, thinking that it is a trap. Hans Sachs, secretly being amused, assures Beckmesser that even after what happened last night they are still friends and the old "marker" has nothing to be afraid of. Beckmesser, now having the lyrics to part of Walther's song, quickly rushes out of Sachs' shop. Sachs, still amused, comments about how much of a fool Beckmesser is but adds that he might learn to become smarter and better later on.
Not long later, Eva, who wants to find Walther, arrives and pretends that one of the new shoes Hans Sachs made for her pinches. Hans Sachs, knowing the truth about Eva's intentions after finding that her shoes are perfect, pretends to work on her shoes while commenting that he heard a wonderful song this morning, and its only flaw is that it was never finished. Just then, Walther, beautifully dressed, comes in and sings the third and final stanza to a dazzled Eva. Eva and Walther then thank Sachs for all his help, and Eva also apologizes for trying to manipulate him and get him to compete for her last night. Hans Sachs replies by blowing some steam and ranting and raving about his troubles in being a widower, shoemaker, and meistersinger. In the end, however, Sachs accepts Eva's apology and blesses the two lovers. David and Lena arrive, and Sachs announces that Walther has created a new meistersong, which, according to the meistersingers' rules, must be baptized. David, being an apprentice, could not be witness to the baptism of the song, so Hans Sachs promoted him to a journeyman (as well as allowed him to be Magdalena's groom), and after slapping his former apprentice in the face he added that now David shall remember this day. Hans Sachs then names Walther's meistersong the Morning Dream Song and the five all celebrate for a little bit before going to the festival.
At the festival, the German people are celebrating the Feast of St. John. There are many processions (with the meistersingers in them, of course) and soon the meistersingers arrive, ready for the competition for Eva's hand to start. The magnitude praises Hans Sachs, their most well-known and loved meistersinger, and then the competition starts. Beckmesser is the first to sing since he is the oldest meistersinger. Before singing, Beckmesser quietly begs Hans Sachs to help him with the song, which he finds he cannot sing, but Sachs tells him that he's on his own. Feeling rather hopless and humiliated, Beckmesser steps onto a platform set up for the meistersingers to perform on only to find that one of the wooden planks on it is loose. He is mocked a little as some people fix the platform for him. Once the loose plank is repaired, Beckmesser attempts to sing Walther's song, but his pitch is way off and he can barely remember the words. He constantly twisted the once beautiful sentences into stupid, vile, but at the same time hilarious lyrics. After being laughed at and humiliated, Beckmesser gave up. Beckmesser angrily accused Sachs of giving him the "horrible" song and tricking him into singing it. The crowd, confused, wonders how Hans Sachs could ever write such a terrible song, but Sachs, defending himself, admitted that he was not the author of the song, and when sung correctly it would be beautiful. Walther then took his place on the platform and sang the meistersong perfectly. The meistersingers definitely preferred Walther's performance, and in the end nominated him as the winner of the prize. The meistersingers then accept Walther as one of them, but Walther rejects their offer of letting him become a meistersinger. Hans Sachs, however, coaxes Walther into respecting their art and taking the title as a meistersinger. Eva crowns Walther with a wreath, Walther accepts a medal from Pogner, and Hans Sachs is praised by the people of Nürnberg once more.

The Story

The composer, Wagner, first became inspired to write this opera while reading Georg Gervinus' book Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung (History of German Poetry), which included chapters about Mastersongs/meistersongs and Hans Sachs (who was actually a meistersinger and poet in real life). Upon reading this, Wagner quickly imagined the Sachs-Beckmesser comedy scene in which Hans Sachs gave Beckmesser a taste of his own medicine by damaging the soles of his shoes whenever Beckmesser got a note wrong. Wagner was also inspired by Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy on music and the arts. The composition of the opera lasted from 1845 (which is when Wagner wrote the first drafts of the story) to 1867 (which is when Wagner completed the whole opera). The opera premiered in 1868 at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, and it was sponsored by Ludwig II of Bavaria. Hans von Bülow was the conductor, and Franz Strauss, father of the composer Richard Strauss, played the french horn despite the fact that he somewhat disliked Wagner. Also, despite some other problems during the rehearsals in the past, the opera was one of Wagner's most successful ones, and this opera is still loved today.
Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Operas submitted here by:Brunnhilde

Der Ring Des Nibelungen (English: The Ring of the Nibelung), also known as the Ring Cycle or The Ring, is a series of four operas (including Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung; the English translations are The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, and Twilight of the Gods, respectively) by Wilhelm Richard Wagner. Some of the various tunes and themes in these operas are actually quite well-known (e.g. Ride of the Valkyries, the "all opera singers wear winged helmets" myth, etc.), and the operas themselves (especially the second one in the series, Die Walküre, are some of the most famous operas ever created (though Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is more popular). Based on Norse and Germanic mythology and even some of Wagner's own ideas, they tell the epic tale of a magic ring that was forged by the greedy Nibelung (dwarf-like Norse creature) Alberich that can be used to rule the world, and how the gods and demigods attempt to return the golden ring to its rightful owners-the Rhinemaidens (mermaid-like creatures that dwell in the river Rhine).

Fun fact: I (Brunnhilde) was named after the main heroine of the cycle!

The Characters


Name
Role
Voice Type
Wotan
King of the Gods, god of light and air, has only one eye, also known as Odin
Bass-baritone
Brünnhilde
Valkyrie, Wotan's favorite daughter, also known as Brynhildr
Soprano
Siegfried
Walsung, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, also known as Sigurd
Tenor
Alberich
Nibelung, one who stole the Rhinegold, forger of the ring
Bass-baritone
Mime
Nibelung, brother of Alberich, one who raised Siegfried
Tenor
Fricka
Wife of Wotan, goddess of marriage, also known as Frigg
Mezzo-soprano
Erda
Goddess of fate, wisdom, and the Earth, mother of Brünnhilde and the Norns, also known as Uror
Contralto
Loge
Demigod of fire, tamed by Wotan, also known as Loki
Tenor
Siegmund
Walsung, twin brother and husband of Sieglinde, also known as Sigmund
Tenor
Sieglinde
Walsung, twin sister and wife of Siegmund, also known as Signy
Soprano
Fafner
Formerly a giant (he becomes a dragon later), brother of Fasolt, also known as Fafnir
Bass
Fasolt
Giant, brother of Fafner, also known as Regin
High bass
Woglinde
Rhinemaiden, sister of Wellgunde and Flosshilde
Soprano
Wellgunde
Rhinemaiden, sister of Woglinde and Flosshilde
Soprano
Flosshilde
Rhinemaiden, sister of Woglinde and Wellgunde
Mezzo-soprano
Hunding
Neiding, former husband of Sieglinde, chief of the Neidings, Siegmind's enemy
Bass
Hagen
Gibichung, son of Alberich, half-brother of Gunther and Gertrune, chief minister of the Gibichungs
Bass
Donner
God of thunder, brother of Fricka, also known as Thor
Baritone
Freia
Goddess of love, beauty, and youth, Fricka's sister, also known as Freyja
Soprano
Froh
God of happiness and spring, Fricka's brother, also known as Freyr
Tenor
Gunther
King of the Gibichungs, Hagen's half-brother, Gertrune's brother
Baritone
Gertrune
Gibichung, sister of Gunther, also known as Gertrude or Gudrun
Soprano
Waltraute
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Mezzo-soprano
Helmwige
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Soprano
Grimgerde
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Mezzo-soprano
Rossweisse
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Mezzo-soprano
Gerhilde
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Soprano
Schwertleite
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Mezzo-soprano
Ortlinde
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Soprano
Siegrune
Valkyrie, daughter of Wotan, sister of Brünnhilde
Mezzo-soprano
The Norns
Erda's daughters, weavers of the rope of Destiny
Soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto
The Woodbird
A woodbird who temporarily is Siegfried's guide
Soprano
Chorus
Gibichung vassals
Many voice types


The Plot

Das Rheingold


Note: Das Rheingold, unlike the other three operas, is split up into four scenes (instead of acts) with no breaks in between them.

Overture: It all begins with a single note-a low E flat, to be more specific. Then, gradually, the orchestra begins to come to life, forming a tune that may remind you of flowing water. After a little bit, the overture ends, but it doesn't just stop-the Rhinemaidens begin singing, and Act 1 begins, the music being continuous.

Scene 1: At the bottom of the Rhine, Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde are singing and playing. Alberich, seeking a woman to love, creeps into the bottom of the river and courts the Rhinemaidens. The Rhinemaidens, seeing how repulsive Alberich is in appearance, make fun of him by at first pretending to like him and then rejecting him, calling him mean things. A frustrated and angered Alberich attempts to catch one of the Rhinemaidens, but they are too fast and the rocks around him are too slippery to climb on. The Rhinemaidens are laughing at Alberich again when suddenly sunrise comes, and they begin to hail a strange golden glow coming from the highest rock. Curious, Alberich asks them what the glow is, and they explain that it is the magical Rhinegold that their father ordered them to guard, and only someone who renounced love could take the gold and forge it into a ring with the power to rule the world; since Alberich loved the Rhinemaidens, they, of course, were fearless when they told him this. However, Alberich, filled with hate from being mocked by the Rhinemaidens, rejects love and proceeds to steal the gold. The Rhinemaidens try to stop him, but their attempts are in vain.

Scene 2: Wotan is sleeping high in the mountainous Nordic heavens when Fricka wakes him up, telling him that the giants, Fasolt and Fafner, have finished building a castle for them and are coming to take away Freia, who is to be used as payment for constructing the gods' new home. Fricka insists that Wotan does something to stop the giants from getting her sister, but Wotan doesn't seem worried, for he sent Loge into the world to find something else to use as payment. Freia arrives, pursued by the giants, begging Wotan and Fricka for help; the giants too come over and insist that Freia is handed over to them. Donner and Froh rush over and try to defend Freia and use brute force to save her, but Wotan stops them, reminding them that the contracts and treaties he makes with others-including the giants-are carved on his spear and he cannot break them. However, Wotan attempts to buy Loge time by preventing the giants to take Freia just yet. Finally, Loge returns was bad news: No man would ever trade a woman's love for something else. But, Loge adds that Alberich alone swapped love for the Rhinegold and successfully forged a magic ring. After a brief discussion about the gold, everyone finds that they want it, so the giants make a new offer: If they are given the gold, they would give the gods Freia. The giants proceed to drag Freia away as hostage. Only a few seconds pass before the gods start to become weak, for Freia's golden apples had kept them young forever and she alone could grow and tend to them. Wotan, determined to get Freia back, heads down to Earth to find the stolen Rhinegold. As they descend to Alberich's home, Nibelheim, a choir of anvils-the anvils of the Nibelungs, who have been enslaved by Alberich-are heard.

Scene 3: Down in Nibelheim, Alberich is beating his own brother Mime, who he has forced to create a magic helmet out of the Rhinegold-the Tarnhelm, which allows its wearer to turn into anything he/she wants as well as teleport him/her to faraway places. Mime attempts to keep the Tarnhelm for himself but finally gives in, handing the Tarnhelm over to Alberich. Alberich uses the Tarnhelm to turn invisible and laughs as he beats a helpless Mime, who cannot escape because he cannot see Alberich. Alberich warns the rest of the Nibelungs, reminding them of his newfound power and urging them to continue working for him. Shortly after Alberich leaves Mime, Wotan and Loge arrive and hear Mime moaning. Loge, being his friend, asks him what happened, and Mime tells Loge and Wotan how Alberich has enslaved everyone and forced him to create the Tarnhelm. Alberich returns, ordering many Nibelungs to create a huge pile of gold. Once they are done, Alberich dismisses them and turns to Wotan and Loge, boasting about his power and how he will eventually conquer the world. Loge asks Alberich what he would do if a thief tried to steal the ring while he sleeps; in response, Alberich tells him about how the Tarnhelm allows him to turn invisible, shapeshift, and teleport, and Loge, forming a plan on how to trick Alberich, says that he doesn't believe this and tells Alberich to prove it to him. Alberich does so by turning into a dragon and terrifying Loge; surprisingly, Wotan isn't scared at all, and is in fact rather amused. After Alberich turns back into his normal self, Loge pretends to be impressed and asks him if he can use the Tarnhelm to become small so he can hide. Alberich proceeds to turn into a little toad, and the two gods pounce. Alberich is caught, tied up, and dragged up into the mountaintops by Wotan and Loge.

Scene 4: Wotan and Loge, now having Alberich as their prisoner, force him to give them his gold. They untie one of his hands, allowing him to raise the ring and have the enslaved Nibelungs carry the hoard of gold up onto the mountaintop. After this is done, Alberich asks Loge to give him the Tarnhelm back, but Loge refuses, stating that it is part of the gods' loot. Wotan then demands that Alberich gives him the ring; when Alberich refuses, Wotan cuts Alberich's hand with his spear and forces the ring off of his finger. After Wotan puts the ring on his own finger, a spiritually crushed Alberich is freed. Before leaving, Alberich curses the ring, stating that until it is returned to him, whoever doesn't have it will want it, and whoever does have it will live in fear of losing it and is destined to be killed by the ring's next owner. This is the first of many scenes where the Death Curse leitmotif is played.
Wotan and Loge return to the heavens and the gods reunite. Fasolt and Fafner arrive with Freia. Fasolt, not wanting to let go of Freia, insists that the gold that is to be given to them has to be heaped around her in order to hide her. The wall of gold around Freia is constructed; during the process Wotan is forced to give up the Tarnhelm and add it to the heap in order to help cover her. Suddenly, Fasolt notices a crack in the pile of gold and he sees the twinkle of one of Freia's beautiful eyes; he insists that until the eye is hidden he cannot return Freia, and adds that Wotan must hide Freia's eye with the ring. Wotan is determined to keep the ring for himself, but Loge also tries to intervene, reminding everyone that the ring's rightful owners are the Rhinemaidens. The frustrated giants grab Freia and are about to leave for good when Erda rises from the ground, warning Wotan about the doom the ring will bring to the gods if he does not give it up and flee from its deadly curse. Wotan, becoming intimidated, calls the giants back and adds the ring to the pile of gold, filling up the crack. The giants, content, begin to split the gold between them; however, they argue over who gets the ring, and, as the Death Curse leitmotif plays again, Fafner beats Fasolt to death. A horrified Wotan suddenly realizes the power of Alberich's curse. Loge can't help but say that Wotan is lucky, for his own foes are destroying each other. Fafner leaves with the gold.
The time has finally arrived for the gods to enter the castle, which Wotan names Valhalla. To help clear the air around them and make the path to their home clearer, Donner creates a thunderstorm, the music playing just as magnificient as Donner's power itself. Loge, sensing that the end of the gods is near, refuses to enter Valhalla-in fact, he says that he wants to reduce the gods and Valhalla, which they obtained through trickery. The Rhinemaidens are suddenly heard mourning their loss from the Rhine; Wotan gets Loge to urge them to be quiet and instead bask in the glory of Valhalla, but they ignore Loge's orders. As the Rhinemaidens continue to sing about the missing Rhinegold, all of the gods except Loge enter their new home.

Die Walküre

Overture:
Unlike Das Rheingold, which starts out quietly and eventually forms a graceful, "watery" tune, Die Walküre starts fast and loud, having a quick tune that will perhaps make you think of racing through the woods during a wild storm-which is, in fact, what Siegmund is doing right now. However, like in Das Rheingold, the overture does not have a break in between it and act 1. The overture ends when Siegmund stumbles into the house of Hunding and collapses, exhausted.

Act 1: Siegmund, having escaped his enemies, is now laying in Hunding's house. Sieglinde finds Siegmund, who weakly demands that she gives him something to drink and that he is running away from his enemies. Sieglinde gives him mead; after drinking, Siegmund warns her that he is full of bad luck and he must leave immediately. Sieglinde stops him, saying that he cannot bring ill luck to a place where ill luck already lives. Hunding soon arrives and gives Siegmund his hospitality. A curious Sieglinde asks Siegmund to tell her about himself and his history. Siegmund tells his tale: His father was named Wolfe, and he once had a mother and a sister-until he and Wolfe came home one day to find their home destroyed, his mother dead, and his sister missing. He wandered with his father, battling enemies, until finally his father went missing too; Siegmund searched and searched for Wolfe, but all he found was an empty wolfskin in the woods. Siegmund wandered again, trying to make friends in villages everywhere; however, he was liked by no one, for what he thought was right everyone thought was wrong, and vice versa. Eventually he stumbled across a wedding, in which the bride was being forced to marry someone she did not love. Siegmund attempted to save her and killed her relatives. Unfortunately, his weapons were soon broken, and the bride died. More people came after him, forcing him to flee to Hunding's house. Siegmund is then asked what his name is, and he says that he is called Wehwalt/Woeful.
Once Siegmund finishes telling his tale, Hunding states that he is one of Siegmund's enemies who was pursuing him through the woods. He allows Siegmund to stay in his home for one night, but in the morning they will have to fight. Hunding orders Sieglinde to make his drink and then heads to his room to get some sleep. Sieglinde secretly drugs his drink so that he will sleep for a long time and gives it to him. After Hunding goes to sleep, Sieglinde returns to Siegmund and tells him her story: After being abducted, she was forced to marry Hunding. During the marriage and the celebrations, a strange, elderly man appeared, the brim of his hat hiding one of his eyes. He looked at Sieglinde with deep sadness before thrusting his sword into a big ash tree that grew in Hunding's house and leaving. Over time, Hunding, his companions, and even the strongest men were unable to pull the sword out of the tree. Sieglinde tells Siegmund how she has always wanted a hero to come, remove the sword, and take her away; Siegmund informs her that he loves her, and she tells him that she loves him too and wonders how she recognizes him. Siegmund calls on his father, whose real name is actually Wälse (note that this is actually one of Wotan's many aliases), and mentions how he was promised that in his time of need he would be provided a weapon that would make him invincible; Siegmund then proceeds to pull the sword out of the tree and names it "Nothung." Sieglinde, remembering the name Wälse and noticing how she and Siegmund are similar, finally remembers who Siegmund is: He is her long lost twin brother. Siegmund asks Sieglinde what her name is and tells her to give him a name; Sieglinde names "Wehwalt" Siegmund and tells him what her own name is. Siegmund claims Sieglinde as sister and wife and runs off into the forest with her.

Act 2: In the mountains that make up the Nordic heavens, Wotan instructs Brünnhilde to aid Siegmund in his upcoming fight with Hunding. Brünnhilde eagerly agrees to do this and runs off. Fricka confronts Wotan, informs him that she heard Hunding's prayers, and insists that he punishes Siegmund and Sieglinde, for their love is sinful. She adds that she knows that Wotan is actually their father. Wotan, who loves the twins, argues with Fricka, saying that he needs a hero that is free of him (in other words, does not believe in the Nordic gods) to help him in his plans; however, he eventually gives in to Fricka. He promises to remove the magic from Nothung and have Siegmund killed. He goes to Brünnhilde and tells her about what happened in the previous opera (Das Rheingold). He explains that shortly after what happened at the very end of Das Rheingold, he went down to Erda and asked her to teach him more about the prophesied destruction of the gods. She gave him much of her wisdom in exchange for having a child with him-and that child was Brünnhilde herself. He reminded Brünnhilde how he trained her and her other Valkyrie sisters to go to battles and collect the souls of the best fallen warriors and bring them to Valhalla to form an army to help fight against Alberich, but, of course, he added that if Alberich ever obtained the ring again that army would fall. Wotan continued, telling Brünnhilde about how Fafner, who still had the ring, had turned into a dragon and was guarding the Nibelung gold deep in the forest, and how he needed a "free" hero to take down Fafner and get the ring, for Wotan himself was unable to do so because he was bound by his own contracts and promises. However, so far Wotan wasn't able to create a free hero-every son or daughter he had ended up being his servant. He had hoped that Siegmund would be the free hero he wanted since he raised Siegmund to despise and thus be free of the gods, but because of what he and Sieglinde have done he will have to die. Once he is done explaining all this, Wotan orders Brünnhilde to go to the Siegmund vs. Hunding battle later and make sure the son he loves so much, Siegmund, dies; when Brünnhilde is reluctant to do this, Wotan becomes angry and bitterly warns her not to ever provoke his anger, or he will unleash his great wrath on her. Wotan departs, leaving Brünnhilde sad and even a little scared.
Meanwhile, Siegmund and Sieglinde have fled Hunding's house and arrive at the mountains. Sieglinde is growing more and more guilty about what she has done, despite the fact that she was extremely unhappy when she was with Hunding. Siegmund states that they must stop and rest, but a scared Sieglinde attempts to keep going. Finally, Sieglinde blacks out, too exhausted to go any further. Siegmund guards Sieglinde, and Brünnhilde arrives. Brünnhilde explains that only warriors who are going to die see her, and thus he will lose the battle against Hunding. She implores him to follow her to Valhalla after the battle, but he refuses after learning that Sieglinde will have to live longer and will not be with him. Siegmund tells Brünnhilde that he cannot die-he has his father's magic sword. However, Brünnhilde replies by saying that the sword's power has been taken away. A frustrated Siegmund draws his sword and says that he will kill Sieglinde and himself and go to Hella (Norse Hell) with her; Brünnhilde intervenes, but at the same time is impressed at how bold and passionate he is. Brünnhilde vows to defend Siegmund, tells him he'll see her on the battlefield, and runs off.
As the morning arrives, Sieglinde wakes up to hear Hunding calling "Wehwalt," warning him that if he doesn't reveal himself Hunding's dogs will find him. Siegmund and Hunding confront each other and do battle; Brünnhilde comes and urges Siegmund on, her divine power allowing him to begin to defeat Hunding. However, without warning, Wotan appears and uses his spear to shatter Nothung, and is forced to watch as Hunding kills a helpless Siegmund with his own spear. As Wotan looks at his son's lifeless body sadly, Brünnhilde recues Sieglinde, pulling her up onto her (Brünnhilde's) horse Grane and riding away with the Walsung. Wotan turns to Hunding and turns him into Fricka's servant by ordering him to go to her and tell her what has happened and then by gesturing with his hand, promptly killing Hunding. Suddenly filled with rage, Wotan remembers how Brünnhilde disobeyed him and sets out to catch and punish his daughter. The music becomes just as full of wrath and anger as Wotan himself.

Act 3: All of the Valkyries except Brünnhilde come together on the top of a mountain that is going to be known as Brünnhilde's Rock soon, each one with a fallen hero who just died in battle on their horses; during this phase, the most famous leitmotif in the cycle, Ride of the Valkyries, plays. They begin to joke around when they finally notice that Brünnhilde is late; soon they spot her riding Grane as fast as she can. Grane soon collapses from exhaustion and Brünnhilde rushes to her sisters with Sieglinde at her side, urging her sisters to help her and telling them what happened. Her sisters, however, refuse to help her, not wanting to defy Wotan. Brünnhilde bravely decides to stay and face Wotan, allowing Sieglinde to flee; Sieglinde, crushed by Siegmund's death, is reluctant to leave and wants to die, but Brünnhilde urges her on by revealing that she is going to give birth to Siegmund's baby, whom she (Brünnhilde) names Siegfried. Sieglinde, now filled with hope, runs away. Brünnhilde's sisters decide to help Brünnhilde, so they conceal her by grouping together and making her stand in the middle of the crowd. Wotan arrives and insists that they give Brünnhilde to him; they begin to cry and plead for her mercy, but Wotan warns them that if they do not do as he says they too will share her fate. Reluctantly the rest of the Valkyries depart, leaving Brünnhilde alone with Wotan. Wotan condemns her for disobeying him and states her punishment: That she is to be made a mortal, put in a magic sleep, and made the wife of any man who finds her and wakes her up. Brünnhilde argues with Wotan, revealing that Wotan's actual will was that Siegmund would live and be the hero who would take the ring away from Fafner, and how she actually attempted to carry out what Wotan wanted, despite what Wotan told her to do after his argument with Fricka. As a last request, Brünnhilde asks Wotan to surround her in a ring of magic fire that only a heroic man who knows no fear (in other words, a man who has never felt fearful) can pass through and claim her as his bride. Wotan's anger ebbs away and instead he becomes extremely sad and loving. He grants Brünnhilde's request and spends a few last moments talking to her, and then finally kisses her eyes, trapping her in a magic sleep, lays her down on the rock, and puts her helmet on her head and her shield and spear next to her. During this phase, beautiful, sweet music plays, and if the story isn't making you cry the music definitely will. However, the music then explodes into a louder, exciting tune-the Magic Fire leitmotif-as Wotan turns and summons Loge. Loge arrives in the form of fire and creates a ring of flame around Brünnhilde's Rock. Wotan says "Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire." before sadly departing from the mountain, leaving the sleeping Brünnhilde surrounded by the magical flames.

NOTE: I have split this into two frames since if I were to put info about the whole The Ring together, this cell would be too long and the blog website wouldn't submit it. Please scroll down for info about the last two operas and how Wagner composed the Ring Cycle.
Siegfried

Overture:
The overture starts out quiet, with a lot of tunes played in a staccato-like fashion, and includes themes from Das Rheingold-specifically tunes from the scenes in which Wotan and Loge are with Alberich. Gradually it becomes louder, and, like in the other operas, the music is continuous and goes into act 1 without pausing.

Act 1: Mime is forging a sword in his home-a cave in the forest-and is planning to obtain the ring by using his foster child, Siegfried, to kill its current owner, Fafner. He had already made many swords for Siegfried, but the young man had shattered them all. Siegfried himself comes with a wild boar, which he had killed, and as soon as Mime gives him the sword he easily and contemptuously breaks it. Mime complains about how disrespectful Siegfried is and how he has constantly treated his foster father (Mime) badly, and then tells Siegfried how he raised Siegfried when he was nothing but a little baby. Siegfried soon realizes that, despite the fact that he dislikes Mime, he keeps coming back to him because he wants to know about his real family; so, Siegfried asks Mime about his parentage. Mime explains how his mother, Sieglinde, came running through the forest and was taken in by Mime. Sieglinde gave Mime the pieces of Siegfried's father's sword, Nothung. Sieglinde finally died while giving birth to Siegfried. Siegfried orders Mime to forge Nothung, and Mime tries to, but fails. An angered Siegfried leaves, and a distraught Mime stays in the cave.
An elderly man suddenly enters the cave and tells Mime that he is the Wanderer (but, actually, this is yet another one of Wotan's aliases). In exchange for Mime's hospitality, the Wanderer makes a deal with Mime: If he does not answer three questions Mime gives him correctly, Mime has the right to kill him (specifically through decapitation, since, to be more specific, the Wanderer wagered his own head). Mime asks the Wanderer what three races dwell underground, on the land, and in the heavens; the Wanderer answers the three questions correctly, stating that the Nibelungs live underground, the Giants live on the earth, and the gods live in the skies. Then Wotan and Mime reverse roles: Mime is to answer three questions, and if he fails on any of them, the Wanderer is allowed to take his life. The Wanderer asks him what race is the dearest to Wotan but has been treated the worst, what sword can kill Fafner, and what person can forge the sword. Mime easily answers the first two questions, saying that the Wälsungs are the dearest to the King of the Gods but are badly treated and Nothung can destroy Fafner, but he is unable to answer the third question. Mime prepares for the worst, but the Wanderer spares him, hinting that "he who does not know fear" can repair Nothung. The Wanderer departs, leaving Mime's head at the mercy of that fearless person. Soon, as Mime ponders about Fafner and becomes fearful as he thinks about the dragon's viciousness, Siegfried arrives and is irritated to find that Mime has made almost no progress at all in fixing the sword. Mime suddenly realizes that Siegfried is the one who does not know fear, and that unless Siegfried does feel fear he will probably kill Mime. Mime tells Siegfried that knowing fear is necessary in life, and Siegfried yearns to learn about it. Mime promises Siegfried that the ferocious dragon Fafner will fill Siegfried with fear, but the sword must be forged before he can take Siegfried to the dragon. Siegfried, becoming impatient, fixes the sword himself, while a plotting Mime makes a deadly concoction-a poisoned drink that he plans to give to Siegfried after he kills Fafner so he can take the treasure for himself. Siegfried succeeds in forging the sword and shows its power by using it to cut the anvil he used in half.

Act 2: In the forest, at Fafner's cave, the Wanderer arrives to see Alberich, who is waiting outside the cave. Alberich brags to the Wanderer about his plans to get back the ring and use it to conquer the Earth; Wotan promises not to do anything to stop Alberich, for all he wants to do is watch Siegfried battle the dragon. The Wanderer wakes up Fafner and informs him on Siegfried's plan to come and kill him, but Fafner does not think much of it and simply goes back to sleep. The Wanderer departs while Alberich hides near the cave.
Later, early in the morning, Siegfried and Mime head to Fafner's cave. Mime hides while Siegfried goes into the cave and waits for Fafner to wake up and confront him. While waiting, he hears the Woodbird singing and tries to echo the bird by playing the bird's tune on his reed pipe, but fails; he tries again using his horn, which awakens Fafner. Fafner and Siegfried have a brief conversation before they do battle. In the end, Siegfried plunges his sword into Fafner's heart. A dying Fafner asks Siegfried what his name is, and Siegfried answers. Just before he dies, Fafner warns Siegfried, telling him to beware of treachery. Siegfried pulls his sword out of Fafner but his hands are burned when the dragon's blood spills on his hands; he sucks the blood off of his skin. After he tastes the blood, he realizes that he can understand what the Woodbird is saying. Following the bird's instructions, he takes the ring and the Tarnhelm from the pile of gold.
Meanwhile, outside the cave, Alberich and Mime have bumped into each other and are arguing over the hoard of gold. Alberich is quick to hide again when Siegfried exits the cave and comes over to Mime. Siegfried informs Mime that the dragon was unable to teach him about fear. Mime tries to coax Siegfried into taking the poisoned drink, but, because he tasted the dragon's blood, Siegfried is able to read Mime's mind and realize that the drink will kill him. Siegfried quickly kills Mime with Nothung and then listens to the Woodbird again, who sings about a woman trapped in a deep sleep on top of a rock that is surrounded by magical flames. Siegfried wonders if this woman can teach him fear and follows the Woodbird towards Brünnhilde's Rock.

Act 3: At the foot of the mountain named Brünnhilde's Rock, the Wanderer calls Erda, who rises from the earth, is a bit bewildered and confused, and cannot give Wotan any advice regarding what is to happen. The Wanderer tells her that he doesn't fear the destruction of the gods, but in fact wants it, for it shall end his suffering. He adds that he will leave Brünnhilde and Siegfried the task of doing "the deed that redeems the World." Erda sinks back into the ground, and, shortly afterwards, Siegfried comes to Brünnhilde's Rock. The Wanderer asks Siegfried some questions; Siegfried does not realize that Wotan is his grandfather and answers his questions disrespectfully. Siegfried tries to climb up the mountain, but the Wanderer bars his path. Siegfried makes fun of him for having such a big hat and having only one eye, and then uses Nothung to break Wotan's spear (which is the symbol of Wotan's divine power). The Wanderer emotionlessly collects what is left of his spear and disappears; Siegfried continues his journey. Siegfried climbs up the mountain and fearlessly walks through the ring of fire. Siegfried finds the sleeping Brünnhilde, but thinks that she is a dead warrior because of her armor. He begins to remove the armor, taking it for himself, but when he finds that the person underneath the armor is a woman he jumps back, becoming afraid upon seeing a female person for the very first time. Finding that he cannot arouse Brünnhilde, he kisses her out of desperation, finally waking her up. Brünnhilde is reluctant to finally accept that she is a mortal and has been forever separated from the immortals, but she eventually accepts Siegfried's love for her. Siegfried claims her as his bride, and they praise love and death.

Götterdämmerung

Note: In this opera, there is a prologue instead of an overture.

Prologue: The three Norns are busy weaving the rope of Destiny by Brünnhilde's Rock, discussing the upcoming events while reading the rope and learning what is to happen in the future. One Norn asks one of the other two what is to happen to Alberich; that other Norn attempts to read the rope and see what his fate is, but the rope is too tangled. Upon reading another section of the rope, they discover that Valhalla will be burned down soon, signaling the end of the gods. Without warning, the rope breaks, and the Norns slink away, devastated, for their and Erda's wisdom has ended.
Meanwhile, Siegfried and Brünnhilde are still on Brünnhilde's rock, guarded by the magic fire. Brünnhilde allows Siegfried to leave and go on new quests, but reminds him to remember their love and make sure to come back soon. To promise that he will always love her and be faithful to her, Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the ring. Siegfried then rides Brünnhilde's horse, Grane, away towards the Rhine, beginning a new adventure.

Act 1: Gunther, Gertrune, and Hagen are in the Hall of the Gibichungs. Hagen, who has a plan to steal the ring from Siegfried and Brünnhilde, tells Gunther and Gertrune about the story of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, and suggests that Gunther should try to make Brünnhilde as his wife and Gertrune should try to marry Siegfried. Hagen tells Gertrune to use a love potion he gave her once to make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde and love Gertrune instead, as well as fetch Brünnhilde for Gunther. Gunther and Gertrune eagerly agree on taking part in the plan.
Later, Siegfried arrives at the Hall of the Gibichungs, wanting to meet King Gunther. He does indeed meet Gunther, but also meets Gertrune, who gives him the love potion. Siegfried, unaware that this is no ordinary drink, toasts his and Brünnhilde's love and drinks the potion; it quickly works, for he forgets about Brünnhilde and finds that he loves Gertrune. Gunther tells Siegfried about how a woman named Brünnhilde is stranded on the top of a mountain surrounded by magic fire that only a fearless person can go through, and Siegfried enthusiastically volunteers to go up and win Brünnhilde for Gunther. Siegfried and Gunther swear blood-brotherhood before Siegfried heads out to get Brünnhilde. Hagen stays behind, guarding the Hall, bragging to himself about how Gunther and Gertrune are unknowingly bringing Alberich's magic ring right to him.
On Brünnhilde's Rock, Waltraute the Valkyrie comes to Brünnhilde and tells her how Wotan's spear has been mysteriously broken, as well as how Wotan, who has lost the spear with all his treaties, contracts, and oaths carved onto it, has had the branches of the great tree Yggdrasil piled around Valhalla, has sent his magical ravens to fly about and tell him what is happening in the world of mortals, and is simply waiting for the end of the gods to come. Waltraute begs for Brünnhilde to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens and let them wash away the Death Curse, which is affecting Wotan, but Brünnhilde refuses, for she does not want to give up Siegfried's pledge of love (the ring itself). A dismayed Waltraute rides away back to Valhalla. Soon, using the Tarnhelm to disguise himself as Gunther, Siegfried passes through the magic fire and claims Brünnhilde. Brünnhilde resists Siegfried, but he manages to snatch the ring from her, put it on one of his own fingers, and take her away.

Act 2: By the Rhine, a half-asleep Hagen is visited by Alberich, who tells him to kill Siegfried and steal the ring. Hagen promises to do so, and Alberich leaves as morning arrives. Siegfried, who has used the Tarnhelm to teleport Brünnhilde onto a boat with Gunther, comes to Hagen via teleportation. Hagen summons the vassals by sounding the war-alarm; when they arrive, he tells them about Gunther's upcoming wedding, leaving them somewhat surprised since they originally thought they were going to battle when they heard the alarm.
The wedding arrives, and Gunther leads a dispairing Brünnhilde along. She spots Siegfried in the crowd of spectators, as well as the ring on his finger, and realizes that he captured her, not Gunther. She accuses him of making her fall on love with him and then betraying her. Siegfried promises on Hagen's spear that he never did such a thing (which means that if his pledge is false, then Hagen is allowed to kill him with the spear). Brünnhilde takes the same risk of death by swearing on the spear that what she said is true. More oaths are made on Hagen's spear, but he says nothing. Siegfried, Gertrune, and the vassals depart, leaving Brünnhilde, Gunther, and Hagen by the Rhine. Gunther has been filled with shame due to Brünnhilde's accusations; Hagen suggests that Siegfried must be killed to help regain Gunther's honor, and Brünnhilde and Gunther join in on the plot. The two men decide to have Siegfried killed during a hunting trip, and, while Brünnhilde and Gunther vow to have Siegfried killed for the sake of the "guardian of oaths" (Wotan), Hagen pledges to fulfill Alberich's requests.

Act 3: The hunting trip has begun, and Siegfried is walking by the Rhine when he encounters the Rhinemaidens, who are still saddened by the loss of the Rhinegold. The Rhinemaidens urge Siegfried to give them the ring, for it has a deadly curse, but he just laughs and says he'd rather die than make a bargain to save his life. The Rhinemaidens swim away, knowing that Siegfried's death is near and hoping that the next owner of the ring-a woman-will treat them better. Meanwhile, Siegfried meets with the other hunters, including Hagen and Gunther, and all of them begin to rest. While relaxing, Siegfried tells the others tales of his adventures. Hagen gives Siegfried a potion that reverses the effects of the love potion. Siegfried begins to tell of how he found Brünnhilde and woke her up, which reveals that the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was false. Hagen stabbed Siegfried in the back, and Siegfried dies just as he remembers Brünnhilde waking up and talking to him for the first time. Siegfried's corpse is carried away; as the scene is changed, the famous "Siegfried's Funeral March" interlude plays.
Hagen and the funeral party arrive in Gibichung Hall to find Gertrune waiting for Siegfried. When she learns of his death, she becomes devastated. Gunther and Hagen argue on whether or not Hagen had the right to kill him, with Gunther saying that the hero's death was Hagen's fault while Hagen claims that he did it to himself by breaking the oath. Hagen adds that he has the right to take Siegfried's ring, too, and, when Gunther argues again, saying that he doesn't, the two start to fight. Hagen easily kills Gunther and proceeds to attempt to take the ring, but without warning one of Siegfried's hands rises as if to warn Hagen to stay back. Hagen does stay back, filled with terror. Gertrune finally just dies from grief. Brünnhilde arrives and learns about what has happened; she proceeds to take charge, making the vassals create Siegfried's funeral pyre by the Rhine. Brünnhilde tells Wotan's magic ravens that "anxiously longed-for tidings" have come, and the ravens fly back to Valhalla with the news. The pyre is lit, and Brünnhilde makes one final speech-this time talking directly to Siegfried-before riding Grane into the fire. Note that this final scene with Brünnhilde in it is known as the Immolation Scene.
The fire goes out of control and consumes the Hall of the Gibichungs. The Rhine river overflows, putting the fire out, and Hagen tries to take the ring as the place is flooded. However, the Rhinemaidens come up, take the ring for themselves, and drown Hagen. The Rhinemaidens proceed to celebrate regaining their gold as the Rhine washes away the curse, but, high in the sky, the glow of fire is seen, for Valhalla is finally seen-but it is in flames. As the gods and heroes are consumed by the fire, Alberich, far below in the Rhine, warns everyone to beware of the ring...

The Story

How Wagner first came up with the concept of the Ring Cycle is unclear; it is known that he was planning on writing a five-act play/drama about the life of Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, he saw Barbarossa as a reborn Siegfried, and in one of his essays he discussed some (actually fake) historical connections between the Hohenstaufens and the Nibelungs. His autobiography, Mein Leben, claims that he came up with the idea after the February Revolution (sometime in 1848), but other sources show that he got the idea sixteen months before that. However, no matter what the truth is, it is known that because of this idea Wagner also got an idea on writing an opera about Siegfried. It is also known that he was probably inspired (as were many other composers at the time) to write an opera based on the 12th-century German epic Nibelungenleid.
Wagner's plans began like this: He would simply write an opera about Siegfried's death (he originally named this opera Siegfrieds Tod; eventually it was renamed Götterdämmerung). But then he decided he needed to write an opera about when Siegfried was young, and he initially named it Der junge Siegfried (it was renamed Siegfried) later. Next, Wagner thought he needed an opera about Siegfried's parents and Brünnhilde's punishment (Die Walküre), and finally Wagner decided that the trilogy needed a great prelude that told the tale of how the Rhinegold was stolen-Das Rheingold.
Unlike most composers, Wagner wrote his own libretto (which are the lyrics that the opera singers sing). Though this may sound simple at first, this involves being a good poet/writer, and writing lyrics that also describe what is happening and go along well with the plot. Does it still seem simple? Now imagine writing the librettos for four operas, each one perhaps about 3 to 5 hours long. This is, of course, what Wagner did before he wrote the music. It took him four years (from 1848 to late 1852) to write the libretto. He had it published in early 1853.
In 1853, Wagner began writing the first draft for the music of Das Rheingold (note that he actually wrote the libretto backwards, from Götterdämmerung to Das Rheingold, because back then, as described two paragraphs above this, he was still coming up with the concepts for the operas and first came up with the idea for Siegfrieds Tod and came up with the idea for Das Rheingold last). It was hard work, and sometimes Wagner thought he could never finish it, but by 1857 everything up to the end of act 2 of Siegfried was complete. Wagner then paused working on the Ring Cycle for twelve years and wrote Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In 1869, Wagner was sponsored by Ludwig II of Bavaria and was living in Tribschen. He miraculously continued writing Siegfried, and changed the name of Siegfrieds Tod to Götterdämmerung; originally he planned for the gods to be redeemed at the end, but he changed it too, making it so that they were destroyed. The first two operas of the cycle were originally going to be back-narration, but he made one last change, allowing them to be shown onstage. Das Rheingold premiered in 1869, Die Walküre in 1870; both premiered in Munich. In 1876, all four operas were premiered as a cycle in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.



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