Guide to the Opera - Pacific Opera Victoria

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Music and Libretto by Richard Wagner
First Performance as a single opera
Munich, Königliches Hof und National Theater, September 22, 1869
First Performance as part of the Ring Cycle
Bayreuth, Festspielhaus, August 13, 1876
Introduction and Guide
for Pacific Opera Victoria’s Production, October, 2014
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Welcome to Pacific Opera Victoria!
This Guide to Das Rheingold has been created for anyone who would like to explore the opera in more detail. The
opera experience can be made more meaningful and enjoyable when you have the opportunity to learn about
the opera before attending the performance.
The guide may also be used to help teachers prepare students for their visit to the opera. It is our hope that
teachers will be able to use this material to expand students' understanding of opera, literature, history, and the
fine arts. These materials may be copied and distributed to students.
Please visit http://www.pov.bc.ca. to download this guide or to find more information about Das Rheingold,
including musical selections from POV's Best of YouTube and artist biographies. POV Guides for other operas are
also available for download.
Please Note: The Dress Rehearsal is the last opportunity the singers will have on stage to work with the orchestra before
Opening Night. Since vocal demands are so great on opera singers, some singers choose not to sing in full voice during
the Dress Rehearsal in order to preserve their voice for opening night.
Contents
Welcome to Pacific Opera Victoria! ......................................................................................................................1
Cast and Creative Team ........................................................................................................................................2
Introduction ..........................................................................................................................................................3
Synopsis ................................................................................................................................................................4
Creation and Sources ............................................................................................................................................9
Major Sources for the Ring Cycle ................................................................................................................9
Characters in Das Rheingold and their Sources in Myth ...........................................................................10
Stories Adapted by Wagner for Das Rheingold ........................................................................................11
The Music of Das Rheingold ...............................................................................................................................13
Bayreuth and the Première of The Ring..............................................................................................................19
Resources and Links ...........................................................................................................................................21
Student Activities ............................................................................................................................26
Richard Wagner with his friends at his villa,
Wahnfried, in Bayreuth, around the time of the
world première of the Ring Cycle.
Wagner’s wife Cosima and their young son
Siegfried are together at the far left. Wagner is left
of centre, holding a large book. At the piano is
Cosima’s father, the composer and pianist Franz
Liszt.
Lithograph from an oil painting by Georg Papperitz.
Pacific Opera Victoria
500-1815 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC V8T 5A4
Phone: 250.382.1641 Box Office: 250.385.0222
www.pov.bc.ca
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Guide written by Maureen Woodall
Page 1 of 26
Das Rheingold
Music and Libretto by Richard Wagner
First Performance as a single opera
Munich, Königliches Hof und National Theater, September 22, 1869
First Performance as part of the Ring Cycle
Bayreuth, Festspielhaus, August 13, 1876
Performances October 16, 18, 24, 2014, at 8 pm
Matinée October 26 at 2:30 pm
Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC
In German with English surtitles
Cast and Creative Team
Cast in order of Vocal Appearance
Woglinde, a Rhinemaiden ............................................Lucia Cesaroni
Wellgunde, a Rhinemaiden ..........................................Betty Waynne Allison
Flosshilde, a Rhinemaiden ...........................................Maria Soulis
Alberich, a Nibelung ....................................................Todd Thomas
Fricka, Goddess of marriage, wife of Wotan ....................Joni Henson
Wotan, Ruler of the gods .............................................John Fanning
Freia, Goddess of youth and beauty ..............................Betty Waynne Allison
Fasolt, a Giant ............................................................Uwe Dambruch
Fafner, a Giant, brother of Fasolt ...................................Jeremy Galyon
Froh, God of sun, rain, and fertility ................................Adam Luther
Donner, God of thunder ...............................................Doug MacNaughton
Loge, Demi-god of fire .................................................Gordon Gietz
Mime, Brother of Alberich ............................................Benjamin Butterfield
Erda, Earth Goddess ...................................................Susan Platts
Nibelungs
Artistic Director and Conductor .....................................Timothy Vernon
Director .....................................................................Wim Trompert
Set Designer...............................................................Hans Winkler
Costume Designer .......................................................Nancy Bryant
Lighting Designer ........................................................Kevin Lamotte
Assistant Conductor ....................................................Giuseppe Pietraroia
Répétiteur .................................................................Csinszka Rédai
Director in Residence...................................................Sarah Jane Pelzer
Designer in Residence..................................................Marshall McMahen
Stage Manager ...........................................................Sara Robb
Assistant Stage Managers .............................................Steve Barker, Christopher Sibbald
With the Victoria Symphony
Das Rheingold is a one-act opera with no intermission. Approximate running time is 150 minutes.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 2 of 26
Introduction
A very long time ago, a dwarf stole a golden treasure, and from it
he forged a ring of power. But the price of power is the renunciation
of love.
The first opera in Wagner's monumental Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold
sets in motion the conflicts that will ultimately destroy the gods.
Here is a world of giants and river nymphs, of dwarves that toil
beneath the earth and gods that rule from the mountaintop hall of
Valhalla.
Wagner reworked ancient legends to create a compelling new
myth that feels as old as time – a towering epic told in sumptuous
musical language, a profound, richly textured fusion of music and
drama.
The Ring Cycle is properly known as Der Ring des Nibelungen (The
Ring of the Nibelung). It comprises four operas:
Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
Siegfried
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
Photo of Richard Wagner taken in Munich in
1871 by painter, lithographer and photographer
Franz Hanfstaengl
The Nibelung referred to in the title of the Ring Cycle is Alberich, whom we first meet in Das Rheingold, when
he steals the Rhine gold from the Rhinemaidens and forges a ring of power. When Wotan, ruler of the gods,
steals the ring in turn, Alberich places a curse on it.
The remaining operas of the Ring Cycle deal with the consequences of the theft through to a third generation
as Wotan and Alberich both plot to get the ring back. In the end, it is returned to its original owners, the world
is destroyed by fire and flood, and everyone dies, except the Rhinemaidens and (possibly) Alberich.
It is surprising that the Ring Cycle has been staged only twice in Canada. It made its first Canadian
appearance in 1914 when the touring Quinlan Opera Company performed it in English for the bemused
citizens of Montreal. Poor attendance led the company to cut its losses and sail home to England just before
the outbreak of WWI.
It was nearly a century later that a Canadian company finally produced the Ring Cycle – in 2006, when the
Canadian Opera Company inaugurated Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre with its staging of the Ring.
What is even more surprising is that Das Rheingold, the first and shortest of the four operas, has never been
staged on its own in Canada, separate from the rest of the Ring.
Pacific Opera Victoria's staging of Das Rheingold will be the first standalone production in Canada.
One reason for the rarity of Ring operas on Canadian stages is a perception in North America that Wagner is
grandiose and expensive and can be staged only by the largest of companies. The more than 100 players
required by Wagner’s orchestral score cannot be accommodated in a theatre as small as the Royal Theatre.
However, many smaller opera houses in Europe do stage the Ring by using orchestral reductions that require
fewer musicians. That is what Pacific Opera Victoria is doing. We are using a reduction of the score, created by
Alfons Abbass (1856-1924), in order to fit the production to our intimate Royal Theatre and to bring to Victoria
this very special experience.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 3 of 26
Synopsis
Prelude and Scene 1: In the depths of the Rhine
The opera opens with a hushed low E flat on the double basses, which is
sustained for 136 bars, as the other instruments gradually join in with
arpeggios on the E flat major chord. This simplest of music quietly
grows, creating waves of arpeggios that build in pitch and volume,
gathering force and suggesting the swirling, surging waters of the
Rhine, flowing ever faster and deeper.
Now we hear the voices of the Rhinemaidens as they frolic in the water.
One of the three, Flosshilde, warns her sisters to pay attention to their
task of guarding the Rhine gold. They continue to play until they are
interrupted by Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf.
Captivated by the trio, he approaches, watches the Rhinemaidens with
naïve pleasure, and begins to flirt with them. They flatter him, lead him
on, then turn on him with insults, calling him loathsome, hideous,
toadlike. He is stunned, and then furious at their betrayal.
As the glow of the sun suddenly strikes the Rhine gold, the
Rhinemaidens praise the radiant treasure.
The Rhine Maidens teasing Alberich: one of
Arthur Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The
Ring of the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The
Valkyrie, 1910
Alberich asks what it is that shines so, and they tell him about the
treasure they are guarding. Anyone who seizes the Rhine gold and
fashions it into a
ring will attain
world domination and all the wealth that comes with it.
However, the Rhine gold can be obtained only by someone
who is willing to renounce love.
The Rhinemaidens are confident that Alberich is the last
creature on earth who would give up a chance at love.
But by now Alberich, disheartened and enraged by the
Rhinemaidens' cruelty, feels he has nothing to lose. Love
may be denied him, but pleasure, wealth, and power are
in his grasp.
Detail of a design sketch by Viennese artist Josef Hoffmann for
the 1876 première of the Ring Cycle. Shown are Alberich and
the Rhinemaidens in Scene 1 of Das Rheingold.
Declaring that he will forge the magical ring, he curses
love, and wrests the gold from the rock. The
Rhinemaidens try in vain to stop him.
Scene 2: A rocky summit high above the Rhine
Wotan, leader of the gods, has hired two giants, Fafner and Fasolt, to build him a magnificent mountaintop
fortress. It is now complete, and Wotan admires the new hall – the embodiment of his power and status:
The immortal work is finished!
The castle of the Gods on the mountain top!
Proudly rise those glittering walls which in dreams I designed,
which my will brought to life.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Wotan's wife Fricka reminds him of the price he has promised to the builders –
her sister Freia, the goddess of love, youth, and beauty. Fricka berates Wotan
for the loveless, cold-hearted folly of the agreement, which he made without
consulting her. Wotan reminds Fricka that she too wanted the castle, but she
had simply longed for a home where he would settle down quietly and be
faithful to her.
But you, when you planned it, thought of war and arms alone:
glory and might all that you cared for;
you built it for storm and adventure, constructed a fort, not a home.
Wotan counters that he needs to be free to roam and rule the world. Fricka
is not pacified:
Ruthless, heartless, scornful man! for the vain delights of ruling the world,
you'd carelessly gamble away love and woman's worth?
Franz Betz as Wotan in the 1876
première of the Ring in Bayreuth.
The New York Times said, Herr Betz ...
has a voice of rare force and a
commanding presence thoroughly in
accord with the physical attributes of the
majestic character he portrayed.
Costume design is by Carl Emil Doepler.
Albert, Joseph, 1825-1886, Portrait of Franz Betz
(1835-1900) as Wotan.
Online [email protected], accessed July 30, 2014,
http://omeka.med.yale.edu/project/items/show/8204.
Wotan assures her he has no intention of giving up Freia, who now arrives in
great distress, for the giants are on their way. Wotan tells Fricka he is relying on
Loge, the demigod of fire, to come up with a brilliant scheme to get him out of
the agreement with the giants. Fricka is skeptical. The giants are coming to
collect their pay, and the unreliable Loge is nowhere to be seen.
Fafner and Fasolt arrive and announce that while Wotan and Fricka slept, the
giants laboured to raise the walls of the fortress. Now they want their wages.
Wotan stalls, pretending to have forgotten the agreement, and then pressing
them to name a price other than Freia.
Fasolt is amazed that Wotan would break his word and reminds him that all his
power and authority are based on the treaties he has made, which are engraved on his spear. What you are, you
are only through your treaties, and all your power is based on your bonds.
Fasolt points out that he may be just a simple-minded giant, but Wotan would be wise to learn from him. Wotan
tries to laugh off the original contract as a joke and asks what earthly use Freia would be to the giants. Fasolt's
answer is simple: We blockheads toil away in order to win a lovely, gentle
woman to live with us poor creatures.
Fafner tells his brother that Friea's value lies in the fact that she grows the
golden apples that keep the gods young and strong. If she is gone, the gods
will lose their beauty and strength and will wither and die.
Donner, god of thunder and lightning, arrives with Froh, a god associated
with sunshine, gentle rain, fertility, and peace. Both are eager to rescue
their sister Freia. Donner threatens the giants with his mighty hammer, but
Wotan stops him: the agreement carved on the shaft of his spear must not
be broken through force.
Loge finally appears, and Wotan demands to know how he plans to
extricate them from the disastrous contract with the giants.
When Loge insists that he had promised only to think about how to save
Freia, the family insult him, and Froh tells him his name should be not Loge
but Lüge (Liar).
Aggrieved that his valiant efforts to help are met with neither thanks nor
praise, Loge tells the gods of his unstinting efforts to find something that
the giants would prize more than a woman's beauty and love.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Fasolt suddenly seizes Freia and drags her
to one side with Fafner: One of Arthur
Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The
Ring of the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold
and The Valkyrie, 1910.
Page 5 of 26
Wherever there's life and breath
in water, earth, and air,
I asked ... what might man deem
mightier
than woman's delights and
worth?
Only one man I saw who had
renounced love...
Loge then recounts the story he
heard from the Rhinemaidens
about Alberich and the theft of the
Rhinegold. The Rhinemaidens
have begged him to persuade
Wotan to avenge them and give
them back their gold.
This revelation allows Wotan to
strike a new bargain with the
giants, who are old enemies of Nibelheim: Photograph by Austrian photographer Viktor Angerer of Josef Hoffman's set
Alberich. Loge and Wotan will design for scene 2 of Das Rheingold for the 1876 première of the Ring Cycle. Hoffman
steal the wealth that Alberich is authorized Angerer to publish and sell copies of the photographs.
amassing through the power of
the ring, and give it to the giants who, in the meantime, will hold onto Freia as a hostage.
Loge continues to press for Wotan to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens, but Wotan already covets the ring for
himself. Fricka too wants the ring in order to charm her husband and keep him faithful; she has no sympathy for
the Rhinemaidens who have already seduced far too many men.
The giants depart with Friea, and the gods immediately begin to grow pale and weak; the hammer slips out of
Donner's hand, and Wotan seems to have grown old. Loge realizes that without Freia and her apples, the gods are
losing their youth and vigour. Her absence doesn't affect him, for he is only half a god, and Freia has never shared
the apples with him.
Wotan and Loge resolve to leave immediately for Nibelheim to win the gold from Alberich. Wotan guiltily refuses
to descend through the Rhine, and the pair slip through a crevice in the rock as the family wish them luck.
Scene 3: The Caverns of Nibelheim
Alberich has used the power of the ring to enslave the Nibelungs. He is driving them to mine gold, forge it, and pile
up ever more treasure for their master. He has also forced his brother Mime to forge him a magic helmet, the
Tarnhelm, which will give its wearer the power to become invisible or to change shape.
Mime had hoped to keep the Tarnhelm for himself, but Alberich roughly seizes it from him and puts it on. Alberich
immediately vanishes and begins striking Mime violently as the terrified dwarf howls and tries to evade the
unseen blows. Alberich then goes off to threaten his Nibelung slaves, whom he can now spy on with ease.
Loge and Wotan arrive and come across the cowering Mime, who tells them of Alberich's tyranny. Alberich
returns, driving the Nibelungs before him, browbeating them, and then sending them back to the forges and
mines for more. Tremble in terror, you wretched slaves: at once obey the lord of the ring!
Alberich is suspicious of his visitors, but cannot resist boasting of his wealth and power. The gold they see
before them is merely that day's haul. With his wealth he will emerge from Nibelheim and become master of
the whole world.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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For first your men shall yield to my might,
then your pretty women, who despise me and jeer,
the dwarf shall force to his pleasure,
though love does not smile on him. ...
Beware of the dark legion,
When the Nibelung treasure shall rise
out of the silent depths
into the light of day!
Loge voices his admiration but asks how Alberich can prevent one of
the Nibelungs from stealing the ring and with it all his power. Alberich
assures him that with the Tarnhelm he can assume any form he
wishes. Loge asks Alberich for a demonstration of this marvellous
helmet. Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm and is transformed into a
dragon.
Loge is suitably terrified, but then expresses skepticism: it would be
useful if Alberich could become tiny in order to hide from danger in
the smallest of crevices – but that surely would be too hard to do.
Unable to resist the challenge, Alberich turns himself into a toad – and
Wotan and Loge pounce on the creature, capturing it.
Scene 4: The Mountaintop Fortress of the Gods
Ohé! Ohé! Horrible dragon, O swallow me not!
Spare the life of poor Loge! Alberich has used
the Tarnhelm to turn himself into a dragon, and
Loge pretends to be terrified. One of Arthur
Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The Ring of
the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The
Valkyrie, 1910.
Wotan and Loge return to the mountaintop with Alberich and order
him to summon the Nibelungs to bring up the hoard of gold. When
Loge insists on also keeping the Tarnhelm, Alberich consoles himself
with the thought that the ring will let him force Mime to forge another magic helmet.
But Wotan demands the ring, telling Alberich he has no right to keep what he stole from the Rhinemaidens.
Alberich denounces Wotan for his hypocrisy, but Wotan tears the ring from Alberich's finger and then tells him he
is free to go.
Before he leaves, Alberich places a fatal curse on the ring, promising that all who wear it will meet their doom.
Its gold brought me unmeasured power,
now its magic shall bring but death to the one who holds it!...
While he lives, let the lord of the Ring waste away as the slave of the Ring,
Until I hold once more in my hand that which has been stolen from me!
The giants arrive with Freia. Distressed at having to give her up, Fasolt insists that they pile up the gold until her
beauty is completely hidden from his sight. The gods heap up the treasure while the giants look for chinks and
crevices.
When they have run out of gold, Fafner can still see a bit of Freia's hair, and Loge reluctantly adds the Tarnhelm to
the pile. But Fasolt still sees her beautiful eyes and cannot tear himself from her until they too are hidden from
him. All that is left is the ring, which Wotan declares he will keep for himself. Loge says the ring must be returned
to the Rhinemaidens, while the other gods press Wotan to surrender it to the giants.
Wotan refuses to give up the ring, and Fasolt and Fafner prepare to depart with Freia, this time forever.
Suddenly Erda, the primeval earth goddess, appears, warning Wotan to yield the cursed ring. She foretells that all
things will perish, and that a dark day will fall on the gods. As she disappears, Wotan tries to follow her to learn
more, but Froh and Fricka hold him back, insisting that he do as she says.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Wotan throws the ring on the pile, and
the giants release Freia. As the giants
pack up the treasure, they begin to
squabble over how to divide it. Loge
suggests that Fasolt keep the ring and
give the rest to Fafner. The brothers
battle over the ring, and Fafner kills
Fasolt, then departs with Freia's
ransom.
Horrified at the power of the curse,
Wotan determines that he must
descend to Erda to learn more. But
Fricka tells him their new home waits
to welcome its lord.
The fortress is shrouded in mist, and
Donner uses the power of his hammer
to gather the mists into a great cloud
and with thunder and lightning to
sweep the fog away and clear the air.
Once the stormclouds lift, Froh
conjures up a rainbow bridge.
Wotan, who is already quietly
devising a plan to regain the ring,
names their home Valhalla, and leads
the gods across the bridge.
Costume designs for the 1876 Ring. From left to right: Wotan, Fricka and Freia, Donner.
The costume designer for the first production of the Ring was Carl Emil Doepler, whose
winged and horned helmets have been part of Ring lore ever since – even though they
lack historical accuracy and were not what Wagner wanted.
Wagner told Doepler that he wanted costumes that evoked a timeless mythological world
– something unique and inventive, with no association with any known experience.
Neither Wagner nor his wife Cosima liked Doepler's designs. In her diaries, Cosima called
Doepler a hack and complained that the designs revealed an archeologist's fantasy, to the
detriment of the tragic and mythical elements and bore, along with their ethnographic
absurdity, all the hallmarks of provincial tastelessness.
Nevertheless, even after Wagner's death in 1883, Cosima enshrined the original designs,
insisting that all subsequent performances be copies of the original, following to the letter
Wagner's stage directions and the look of the original Cycle. Most productions elsewhere
in Europe and North America followed suit well into the middle of the 20th century.
Images from http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/DoeplerRing.html
Loge contemplates his options – he is tempted to turn himself back into fire, for he senses the gods are rushing
toward their downfall. As he goes to join the gods, the lament of the Rhinemaidens can be heard. Wotan tells Loge
to shut them up. Loge calls down sardonically, telling the maidens that since the gold no longer shines on them,
they'll have to bask in the newfound radiance of the gods.
The opera ends with the lament of the Rhinemaidens mourning their lost Rhine gold.
Walhalla: Hermann Burghart's design for the 1878 staging of Das Rheingold, showing
Valhalla and the Rainbow Bridge.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 8 of 26
Creation and Sources
Major Sources for The Ring Cycle
Wagner originally intended to write a single opera about the death of Siegfried, the hero of the 12th century
German epic, the Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs). That opera eventually became Götterdämmerung
(Twilight of the Gods), the final opera of the Ring Cycle. But when Wagner found himself needing to explain events
that had happened before the story began, he wrote three more libretti, moving back in time for each – telling of
Siegfried’s youth in Siegfried, of the events leading to his birth in Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), and finally of the
absolute beginning of the story in the Prelude to the cycle, Das Rheingold.
Wagner essentially invented the prequel trilogy a century before George Lucas came along with Star Wars.
Although he wrote the text for the cycle in reverse, Wagner composed the music in order, finally completing the
score for Götterdämmerung in 1874 – more than a quarter century after starting the poem which, as he told Liszt,
contains the beginning of the world and its destruction.
Despite the title Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), relatively little of the cycle actually comes
from the Nibelungenlied. A a portion of the final opera, Götterdämmerung, is based on the first part of the
Nibelungenlied, which tells of Siegfried's marriage and death. But the very end of the cycle – the actual
destruction of the gods – is based on Icelandic mythology.
In fact, the Ring Cycle, which we think of as the most German of operatic works, is based almost entirely on
Icelandic mythology – the same sources that J. R. R. Tolkien called on when he created The Lord of the Rings over
half a century after Wagner's death.
Tolkien bristled at suggestions that his trilogy was inspired by Wagner, testily stating, Both rings were round,
and there the resemblance ceases. An Oxford professor, Tolkien taught Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic,
read the sources in their original languages, and perhaps looked down on Wagner, who relied on translations and
interpretations by such scholars as the Brothers Grimm (better known to most of us for their fairy tale
collections). But it was Wagner who invented the concept of the cursed ring of power and the lord of the ring as
the slave of the ring (des Ringes Herr als des Ringes Knecht), which does not occur in the sources.
The major sources for The Ring are Icelandic: the 13th century Völsunga
Saga, the Poetic Edda, and the Prose Edda, the latter written by a fat, aleswilling 13th century Icelandic chieftain with the evocative name Snorri
Sturluson.
As Snorri's biographer Nancy Marie Brown observes, much that Wagner
loved about the story exists only in the Icelandic sources: the dragon, the
ring, the valkyries … Odin and the other gods, the giants, the dwarfs, Idunn's
apples, the rainbow bridge, the magical helmet, Valhalla, the Twilight of the
Gods.
Snorri, she says, may be the most influential writer you've never heard of.
His Edda may be the most important book you've never read.
Tolkien believed that Snorri's Edda and other works of Icelandic literature
were so important that when he joined the Oxford University English
Department, he suggested that the curriculum should include more
Icelandic literature and less Shakespeare.
Snorri’s Hot Tub at Reykholt. Snorri
Sturluson loved to soak for long hours in his
hot tub while sipping ale. This 4 metre wide
geothermally heated pool is fed by an
ancient stone aqueduct from a nearby hot
spring. It is one of the oldest structures in
Iceland, along with a connecting tunnel that
led to the basement of Snorri’s farmhouse,
where Snorri was assassinated in 1241 by
order of King Håkon IV of Norway.
Nancy Marie Brown summarizes Snorri’s enormous influence: Without
Snorri, we would know next to nothing about the god for whom Wednesday was named (Odin, Wagner's Wotan).
Ditto Tuesday (Tyr), Thursday (Thor [Wagner's Donner]), and Friday (Freyja or Frigg [Wagner's Fricka or Freia]) …
And from Snorri's books springs modern fantasy. All the novels, films, video games, board games, role-playing
games, and on-line multi-player games that seem to borrow their elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, and warrior
women from The Lord of the Rings have, in fact, derived them from Snorri and the Icelandic literature.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 9 of 26
Characters in Das Rheingold and their Sources in Myth
There are no human characters in Das Rheingold – although the nymphs, gods, giants, and dwarves are all flawed in
very human ways. Only in the later Ring operas do human and half-human characters appear.
The three Rhinemaidens or Rhine-daughters: Flosshilde, Wellgunde, and Woglinde are seductive nymphs living in the
Rhine River. Their sole duty is to guard the Rhine gold, but they're too flighty to do it very well. Wotan's longsuffering wife Fricka particularly disapproves of the “watery brood” who have seduced so many men. Although
they resemble nymphs in various sources, the Rhinemaidens were essentially created by Wagner.
The Nibelungs (Niblungs) are a race of skilled miners and smiths who live
underground in Nibelheim (Wagner's Germanization of the Norse
Niflheim /Mist World) – although, in the Norse sources, the dwarves (or
black elves) live, not in Niflheim, but in Nidavellir or Svartálfaheimr. The
dwarves are said to have created such wondrous treasures as Thor's
hammer, Mjöllnir, Odin's spear Gungnir, and Draupnir, a gold ring
owned by Odin.
To confuse matters more, the Nibelungs in the Nibelungenlied are the
Burgundian royal family, who possess a great treasure called the
Nibelung hoard. (Wagner calls them the Gibichungs in Twilight of the
Gods.)
Alberich is the character after whom the entire Ring Cycle is named. He is the
Nibelung who renounces love and steals the Rhine gold, from which he
forges the ring that gives its wearer world domination. It is his curse on
the ring that echoes down the years of the cycle. Wagner based him on
two characters – Alberich, a dwarf in the Nibelungenlied who guards the
Nibelung hoard and possesses a magic cloak of strength and invisibility,
and the dwarf Andvari in Snorri's Edda (this story is told in the next
section).
Mime, Alberich's maltreated brother, is a superb blacksmith, who on
Alberich's orders forges the magic Tarnhelm – a helmet that lets its
wearer change shape or become invisible. Mime tries in vain to keep it
for himself. He is known as Mimer in the Nibelungenlied. He will
reappear in Siegfried as the treacherous foster father of Siegfried.
Alberich drives in a band of Niblungs
laden with gold and silver treasure: one of
Arthur Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's
The Ring of the Nibelung. From The
Rhinegold and The Valkyrie, 1910.
Wotan (Odin in Norse mythology) is king of the Gods and protector of treaties and promises (save for his marriage
vows). Before Rheingold starts, Wotan has sacrificed one of his eyes to be able to drink from Mimir's Well of
Wisdom. In the Norse sources, his spear Gungnir was fashioned by dwarves and always hits its mark. Wagner
changes this: Wotan's spear is made from the wood of the world ash tree, Yggdrasil, and on it are engraved the
laws and contracts by which he rules (unless he can find a loophole). Wednesday is named after him.
Loge, the demigod of fire, is Wagner's amalgamation of two Norse gods, Logi (god of fire) and Loki, the trickster.
Wotan relies on Loge to extricate him from the rash promise he has made to the Giants, and it is Loge's cunning
that allows them to capture Alberich. While he is mischievous and deceitful (Froh suggests his name should
really be Lüge, meaning 'a lie'), yet he carries an odd moral voice – he is the only character who presses for the
ring to be returned to the Rhinemaidens, and it is he who sees most clearly that the gods may be heading for
disaster. Loge appears only in Rheingold, but his flickering fire music returns for the lighting of Brünnhilde's rock
in Die Walküre and the final burning of Valhalla in Götterdämmerung.
Fricka (Frigg in Norse mythology) is Wotan's wife, the goddess of marriage, home and family. She acts as Wotan's
nagging conscience, and perks up at the thought of the Rhine gold as an ornament she might wear to charm her
husband into staying at home.
Freia (Freyja in Norse) is Fricka's sister, the goddess of love, youth and beauty. She tends the golden apples that give the
gods eternal youth and immortality.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 10 of 26
Donner (Thor in Norse mythology) is the god of thunder, lightning, and storms.
A red-haired, red-bearded, Norse equivalent of Hercules, he is combative,
ready to wield his hammer and pick a fight on any pretext.
Thor lives on in the English word for Thursday, (Donnerstag/Donner's Day
in German). His weapon of choice is his hammer, Mjöllnir, with which he
bashes giants and levels mountains. He is the son of Wotan/Odin in the
sources, but in Rheingold, Wagner makes him Wotan's brother-in-law, the
brother of Freia and Fricka.
Froh (Frey in Norse mythology) is the brother of Freia and Fricka, protector of
the fields, and god of springtime, fertility, good weather, and the sun and
rain. In the final scene of Rheingold, he is associated with the rainbow that
leads over to Valhalla.
The Giants Fasolt and Fafner build Valhalla for Wotan. Fasolt has a bit of a crush
on Freia. The brothers quarrel over the Ring, and Fafner kills Fasolt. He
reappears in Siegfried in the form of a dragon, obsessively guarding his
treasure. The giants are based on Fáfnir and Reginn from the Andvari tale
in Snorri's Edda.
Erda is the ancient goddess of the earth, who knows everything that was, is, or
will be. She predicts the destruction of the gods and urges Wotan to give
up the ring. After Das Rheingold ends, Wotan will seek her out to learn
more, and she will give birth to his daughter Brünnhilde (and possibly the
other eight Valkyries).
In Das Rheingold, Donner uses the
power of his hammer to gather the mists
into a great cloud and with thunder and
lightning to sweep the fog away and clear
the air so that the gods may enter
Valhalla. One of Arthur Rackham's
illustrations to Wagner's The Ring of the
Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The
Valkyrie, 1910.
Stories Adapted by Wagner for Das Rheingold
When he created Das Rheingold, Wagner wove together three separate stories from Snorri's Edda and changed
them in marvelous ways.
The Otter's Ransom and Andvari's Curse: Loki and Odin kill an otter that
turns out to be the son of a king. The king demands a ransom from them: if
they are to escape with their lives, they must cover the otter's skin, inside
and out, with gold. Odin sends Loki to the Land of the Black Elves where he
captures a dwarf named Andvari and extorts all his gold, along with a
magic ring that multiplies wealth. The dwarf curses the ring.
Loki and Odin cover the otter with gold, but one hair of its snout is still
visible. Odin places the ring on the snout. The otter's brothers, Fáfnir and
Reginn, kill their father for the gold; then Fáfnir drives his brother away,
turns into a serpent, and lies down on the gold. Fáfnir is eventually killed
by Sigurd (Siegfried).
The Builder's Tale: Loki brokers a deal with a giant, who will build a
magnificent stronghold for the gods by the first day of summer, helped
only by his horse – surely an impossible task. His payment is to be the
goddess Freyja, the sun, and the moon. But the horse proves very strong,
and the builder makes astounding progress.
The one-eyed god Odin on his 8-legged horse,
Sleipnir. From a 1760 Icelandic manuscript by
Ólafur Brynjúlfsson. Danish Royal Library,
Copenhagen
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
The gods threaten Loki with a horrible death if he doesn't prevent the
giant from fulfilling his task. Loki shape-shifts into a mare which distracts
the stallion, and the two horses race around all night. The enraged builder
cannot finish the job, and Thor kills him with his hammer.
Sometime later, Loki gives birth to a foal, the magnificent eight-legged
Sleipnir, who becomes Odin's steed, “the best of all horses”.
Page 11 of 26
The Apples of Idunn: Idunn, like Freia in Das Rheingold, is the keeper of the
apples of immortality.
When Loki and Odin are out wandering, they try to cook an ox over a
campfire, but it stays as raw as when they put it in the fire. Then an eagle
(which is really the giant Thjazi) tells them his magic has prevented their
food from cooking. He promises the ox will cook if the gods will share their
meal with him. They agree, but when the eagle helps himself to the lion’s
share of the ox, Loki is angered and attacks the eagle with a pole. The eagle
flies off, carrying the pole and Loki.
In his Edda, Snorri Sturluson describes what happens next: The eagle flew
at such a height that Loki's feet down below knocked against stones and
rock-heaps and trees, and he thought his arms would be torn from his
shoulders. He cried aloud, entreating the eagle urgently for peace; but the
eagle declared that Loki should never be loosed, unless he would give him
his oath to induce Idunn to come out of Ásgard with her apples.
Loki battles Thjazi, who has taken the form of
a great eagle. From a 1760 Icelandic manuscript
by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson. Danish Royal Library,
Copenhagen
Loki agrees and lures Idunn to a wood where Thjazi flies off with her. The
gods become hoary and old and threaten to kill Loki if he does not bring her
back. Wearing the plumage of a hawk, Loki flies to the giant's home, turns
Idunn into a nut, and flies back with her, pursued by Thjazi. The other gods
light a fire which burns the giant's feathers, and they kill him.
The shapeshifting scene in Das Rheingold – in which Alberich changes
himself into a dragon and then, goaded by Loge, transforms into a tiny
toad that is captured by Loge and Wotan – seems to have come from
Charles Perrault's famous fairy tale Puss in Boots (Le chat botté), the
story of a clever cat who schemes to gain power, wealth, and the hand
of a princess for his poor master.
At one point in the story Puss meets an ogre who can transform himself
into all kinds of creatures. The ogre changes into a lion, frightening the
cat, who then tricks the ogre into changing into a mouse. The cat then
pounces on the mouse and eats it.
Wagner did wonders with these stories, masterfully reweaving the
old myths to create something wholly new that seems to have
sprung from the dawn of time.
If you’d like to read these stories and learn about other sources for The
Ring, see the Resources and Links section at the end of this Guide.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Puss meets the ogre: Illustration for Puss in Boots by
Gustave Doré.
Page 12 of 26
The Music of Das Rheingold
My favourite way of enjoying a performance of The Ring is to sit at the back of a box, comfortable on two chairs,
feet up, and listen without looking.
So wrote George Bernard Shaw in his preface to the 1922 edition of The Perfect Wagnerite, his witty, opinionated,
commentary on the Ring Cycle. Shaw has a point, for although Wagner sought to create a Gesamtkunstwerk – a
total work of art, a fusion of music and drama to convey a complete emotional truth –the music of The Ring is its
most enduring wonder.
The opening of Das Rheingold is stunning. What Richard Lawrence calls “the mother of all pedal points” – a
hushed low E flat on the double basses – is held for 136 bars as the other instruments gradually join in. This
simplest of music quietly grows, creating waves of arpeggios that gather force and suggest first creation itself, and
then the swirling, surging waters of the Rhine.
Wagner called this the beginning of the world. Thomas Mann added that it was the beginning of music. This is
music at its most elemental, before harmonic progression, before modulation, before the birth of dissonance and
chromaticism.
Close your eyes and listen to the opening of Das Rheingold. This recording is by Georg Solti and the Vienna
Philharmonic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhgG7phYVcU
Here too is the beginning of language: after this primal musical language that expresses far more than words, the
harmony finally changes, and the Rhinemaidens break into joyous song. They sing what sounds at first like
nonsense syllables, but evolves into what M. Owen Lee called a lullaby to the newborn world.
Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle,
walle zur Wiege! wagala weia!
wallala, weiala weia!
Weia! Waga! Wandering waters,
Rocking our cradle! wagala weia!
walala, weiala weia!
The first Leitmotifs of the cycle emerge … snippets of music evoking nature, the river, the gleam of the golden
treasure, the grandeur of Valhalla, the Rhinemaidens' cry of Rheingold, now joyous, now lamenting. The
Leitmotifs will recur throughout the opera and the entire cycle – bits of tone painting that trace intricate fractal
patterns of meaning and emotion, evolving, echoing, shapeshifting, so that, as Wagner wrote to Liszt, people
shall hear what they cannot see.
Although music scholars have catalogued some 200 Leitmotifs in the Ring Cycle, there is no need to play
exhaustive games of whack-a-motif to enjoy this music. Wagner himself sought an emotional, not a critical
response to his music dramas, and even the first-time operagoer will pick up many of the themes: the giants'
stomping entrance, the manic hammering of the Nibelung hordes at their forges, the gorgeous Valhalla theme.
Shaw himself noted that Wagner's music is perfectly approachable for non musicians. In The Perfect Wagnerite,
he wrote this reassurance for modest citizens who may suppose themselves to be disqualified from enjoying The
Ring by their technical ignorance of music…
If the sound of music has any power to move them, they will find that Wagner exacts nothing further. There
is not a single bar of "classical music" in The Ring—not a note in it that has any other point than the single
direct point of giving musical expression to the drama… The unskilled, untaught musician may approach
Wagner boldly; for there is no possibility of a misunderstanding between them: The Ring music is perfectly
single and simple. It is the adept musician of the old school who has everything to unlearn: and him I leave,
unpitied, to his fate.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 13 of 26
Youtube Videos
The following musical excerpts are all available at http://www.pov.bc.ca/rheingold-music.html
Or you may watch them directly on Youtube (links below).
Scene 1: The Rhinemaidens, Lugt, Schwestern!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek398cPRBrY
In the opening scene of the opera, the three Rhinemaidens frolic in the water. Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf,
approaches, hoping to seduce one of the three sisters (he isn't particular which one). They flirt cruelly with him,
each in turn leading him on, flattering him, then insulting him and eluding his grasp until he is left furious and
exhausted.
As the video begins, the glow of the sun suddenly shines on the gold, and the Rhinemaidens praise the radiant
treasure.
Lugt, Schwestern! Die Weckerin lacht in den Grund ...
Look, sisters! The sunlight is greeting the gold ...
Rhinegold! Rhinegold!
Radiant joy! We laugh in your joyful shine!
Glorious beams that glitter and gleam in the waves!
Alberich asks what it is that shines so, and they begin to tell him about the treasure they are guarding. Anyone
who seizes the Rhine gold and fashions it into a ring will attain world domination and all the wealth that comes
with it. However, the Rhinegold can be obtained only by someone who is willing to renounce love.
The Rhinemaidens are confident that the lustful Alberich is the last creature on earth who would give up a chance
at love. But by now Alberich feels he has nothing to lose. Before he leaves them, he will curse love and steal the
gold.
In this production from Dalhalla in Sweden, the
Rhinemaidens actually swim, rather than standing on stage
or being suspended from wires.
The theatre is at Draggängarna, a former limestone quarry
in the county of Dalarna in central Sweden, which opened in
1994 as a summer music venue with 4,000 seats and
spectacular acoustics.
The venue was renamed Dalhalla, in reference to Wagner's
Valhalla. With its magnificent natural setting of water and
rock, Dalhalla makes a perfect stage for Das Rheingold,
which was presented there in 2013, the 200th anniversary
of Wagner's birth.
This production was directed by Marcus Jupither, with set
and costume design by Monika Frelin. Ola Eliasson is
Alberich, with Vivianne Holmberg as Woglinde, Cornelia
Beskow as Wellgunde, and Beatrice Orler as Flosshilde.
The entire Prelude and first scene of the Dalhalla
production (24 minutes) is also available on Youtube and
shows more of this extraordinary setting.
Top: aerial view of Dalhalla.
Bottom: Das Rheingold at Dalhalla, 2013
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 14 of 26
Scene 2: Entrance of the Giants
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhjuzEsgUQk#t=13
Wotan, leader of the gods, has hired two giants, Fafner and Fasolt, to build him a
magnificent mountaintop fortress and has promised them his sister-in-law Freia as
payment. However, he knows this is a very bad bargain – for Freia grows the golden
apples that keep the gods young and strong. If she is gone, Wotan and his family (his
wife Fricka and her brothers Froh and Donner) will lose their beauty and strength and
will wither and die.
The giants have now come to collect their pay.
Note the unmistakable Leitmotif of the giants: the ominous, stomping
music tells us instantly that Fafner and Fasolt are immensely strong and
not to be trifled with.
This scene is from a striking production by the Catalan theatre
company La Fura dels Baus. This was a 2007 co-production between
the Palau de les Arts de Valencia and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (an
annual arts festival in Florence, Italy). Zubin Mehta conducts the
Orquestra De La Communitat Valenciana. The stage director is Carlus
Padrissa. This production was also staged by Houston Grand Opera in
April 2014.
Scene 2: Loge, Immer ist Undank Loges lohn
The Valencia Rheingold: Top: the giants.
Bottom: the final scene. Valhalla is represented
by actor-acrobats.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNdog4u7mKc
Loge is a demi-god, who doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the gods. In creating the character of Loge, Wagner
combined two Norse gods: Logi, the fire spirit, and Loki, a wily trickster. Loge is brilliant, mercurial, and
unpredictable – as a result, he drives the gods nuts.
Wotan and his family have been holding Fafner and Fasolt at bay while waiting impatiently for Loge to show up,
for they are counting on him to come up with a scheme to get them out of the disastrous contract with the giants.
Loge finally appears, and Wotan demands to know how he plans to keep Freia at Valhalla. When Loge insists that
he had promised only to think about how to save Freia, the family insult him, and Froh tells him his name should
be not Loge but Lüge (Liar). Aggrieved that his valiant efforts to help are met with neither thanks nor praise, Loge
tells the gods of his unstinting efforts to find something that the giants would prize more than a woman's beauty
and love.
Given Loge's irreverent, mephistophelian character, it's startling to hear how lyrical this solo is. It is the closest
thing to a romantic aria in the opera.
Immer ist Undank Loges lohn
Ingratitude ever is Loge's wage!
For your sake alone, I looked all around me,
Stormily scouring the ends of the earth,
seeking a ransom for Freia that the giants might approve...
So weit Leben und Weben, in Wasser, Erd' und Luft,
Wherever there's life and breath in water, earth, and air,
I asked ... what might man deem mightier
than woman's delights and worth?
Only one man I saw who foreswore love's delights
Loge recounts the story he heard from the Rhinemaidens about Alberich and the theft of the Rhinegold. The
Rhinemaidens have begged him to persuade Wotan to avenge them and give them back their gold.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 15 of 26
This revelation will allow Wotan to strike a new bargain with the giants, who are old enemies of Alberich. Wotan
and Loge will steal the wealth that Alberich is amassing through the power of the ring, and they will give it to the
giants who, in the meantime, will hold onto Freia as a hostage. Loge will continue to press for Wotan to return the
ring to the Rhinemaidens, but Wotan already covets the ring for himself.
Peter Schreier is magnificent as Loge in this 1978 studio production with Herbert von Karajan conducting
the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Scene 3: Loge's trick to capture Alberich
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szFFxSWufFE
Wotan and Loge have descended into the deep caverns of Nibelheim, where Alberich has used the power of the
ring to enslave the Nibelungs. He is driving them to mine gold, forge it, and pile up ever more treasure for their
master. Alberich has also forced his brother Mime to forge him a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm, which gives the
wearer the power to become invisible or to change shape.
Loge asks Alberich for a demonstration of this marvellous helmet. Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm and is
transformed into a dragon. Loge is suitably terrified, but then expresses skepticism: it would be useful if Alberich
could become tiny in order to hide from danger in the smallest of crevices – but that surely would be too hard to
do. Unable to resist the challenge, Alberich turns himself into a toad – and Wotan and Loge pounce on the
creature, capturing it.
Wotan and Loge return to the mountaintop with their prisoner. They force Alberich to summon the Nibelungs to
bring up the hoard of gold. Finally, Wotan seizes the ring from Alberich's finger and then releases him. Before he
leaves, Alberich places a fatal curse on the ring, promising that all who wear it will meet their doom.
This scene is from the famous 1976 Bayreuth production marking the centennial of the Ring Cycle's première.
Directed by Patrice Chéreau and conducted by Pierre Boulez, it created a furor at the time with sets that evoke the
industrial revolution, including a hydroelectric dam in the opening scene. Chéreau's interpretation focuses on
policital and economic issues and the theme of power and its ability to corrupt – not unlike the socialist
perspective George Bernard Shaw presented in The Perfect Wagnerite, his 1898 commentary on the Ring Cycle.
In this scene, Heinz Zednik is Loge. Donald McIntyre is Wotan, and Hermann Becht is Alberich.
Scene 4: Donner, Heda! Heda! Hedo!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_3HqF8Hebc
Donner (Thor in Norse mythology) is associated with thunder, lightning, and storms. Thor is a powerful, redbearded warrier, rather like a northern version of Hercules.
His weapon of choice is his mighty hammer, Mjölnir, which was forged by dwarves and is so heavy that only Thor
can lift it. Lightning flashes whenever Thor throws his hammer, and like a boomerang, it always returns to his
hand. Thor/Donner lives on in the English word for "Thursday" (in German, his day is known as "Donnerstag" –
Donner's Day).
In Das Rheingold, Donner usually behaves as a blustering, hot-headed young thug, ready to pick a fight on any
pretext. But he has one great moment when he uses his powers to conjure up a thunderstorm.
At this point in the opera, Wotan has given the Nibelung treasure to the giants, who have also demanded the
Tarnhelm and the ring. Alberich's curse has shown its power: the giants have quarreled over the ring, and Fafner
has killed Fasolt before departing with Freia's ransom.
Now it is time for the gods to enter their new home, Valhalla, which is shrouded in mist. Donner uses the power
of his hammer to gather the mists into a great cloud and with thunder and lightning to sweep all the fog away and
clear the air.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 16 of 26
Heda! Heda! Hedo! Zu mir, du Gedüft!
Heda! Heda! Hedo! Now come to my call!
You vapours, to me!
Donner, your lord, summons you here!
As my hammer swings, sweep from the sky:
vapours and cloud, wandering fog!
Once the stormclouds lift, Froh will create a rainbow bridge to lead the
gods into Valhalla. Wotan will already be devising a plan to regain the
ring. Loge will contemplate his options – for he senses the gods are
rushing toward their downfall, and he is tempted to turn himself back
into fire and destroy them now. The opera ends with the lament of the
Rhinemaidens mourning their lost Rhine gold.
Valhalla and the rainbow bridge from Otto
Schenk's production of Das Rheingold for the
Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Ken Howard,
Metropolitan Opera.
Alan Held is Donner in this scene from a 1990 staging of Otto Schenk's
production of Das Rheingold. The Otto Schenk production of the Ring
Cycle was staged at the Metropolitan Opera from 1986 until 2009. It was inspired by drawings for an 1897 staging
at Bayreuth and followed Wagner's original stage directions very closely.
Metropolitan Opera trailer for Das Rheingold, directed by Canadian theatre artist Robert Lepage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R_kcWP0_SE
Beginning in 2010, the Metropolitan Opera replaced the classic Otto
Schenk staging with a new production by Robert Lepage, a Canadian
multimedia wizard, best known for his Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas.
The heart of the 45-ton, high-tech set was "the Machine," a rack of 24
hydraulic-powered alumininum planks that rose and fell like twisting
piano keys to evoke the rippling Rhine, the depths of Nibelheim, the
rainbow bridge, the walls of Valhalla.
This trailer shows scenes of the Rhinemaidens, the entrance of the
giants, the descent of Wotan and Loge into Nibelheim, Alberich
transformed into the dragon, Thor wielding his hammer to create the
storm, and the finale, when the gods cross the rainbow bridge to enter
Valhalla.
Entrance of the gods into Valhalla from Robert
Lepage's 2010 production of Das Rheingold for
the Metropolitan Opera. Photo Ken Howard.
The series was presented in installments during the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, with the complete Ring Cycle
premiering in April, 2012.
Introduction to Leitmotifs in Das Rheingold
http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL78TsyiiZjhFTyqX2xftsWTD7rKk1zmKz&v=CzFdrDju4Zw
This playlist of 43 very short orchestral excerpts is a perfect introduction to the major Leitmotifs in the opera.
Mouse over the video screen to see the name of each Leitmotif. As you listen, you can also follow the score. You
will already recognize some of these excerpts if you've viewed the videos from the opera. Note how well each
Leitmotif encapsulates its mood and meaning.
On Youtube, you can also read the "about" section for each Leitmotif. Here you will find an explanation of when in
the opera the theme is first heard and a discussion of the motif, including its role in the other Ring operas. As each
excerpt is very short and followed immediately by the next, you may wish to pause the video while you read the
text that accompanies each motif.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
Page 17 of 26
Anna Russell and Wagner's Ring
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv7G92F2sqs
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WduYrwAGews
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypisVrbqDqE
There is surely no more humorous introduction to Wagner's Ring
Cycle than Anna Russell's inimitable retelling of the story. The
English-Canadian comedienne plays and sings her way through the
15-hour epic in less than half an hour, introducing the story,
characters, and musical motifs.
These videos are from a PBS recording of Anna Russell's (first)
farewell tour in 1984.
Part 1 covers Das Rheingold. You'll meet the Rhinemaidens "a sort
of an aquatic Andrews Sisters", Alberich ("he's perfectly ghastly"),
Wotan, the "head god," his wife, Mrs. Fricka Wotan ("a frightful
nag"), and her "yummy" sister Freia.
Cover of The Anna Russell Album (1991), which is
still available from Amazon.
Part 2 covers the rest of Das Rheingold, as well as the next opera in
the Cycle, Die Walküre, and the first part of Siegfried. In Part 3, Anna
Russell completes the story of Siegfried ("a regular li’l Abner type") and gives us the lowdown on the final opera in
the Cycle, Götterdämmerung.
And she's not making this up, you know!
What's Opera, Doc?
https://archive.org/details/WhatsOperaDoc
This classic 1957 cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers, was the very first opera experience for
many, many children and is widely considered one of the best cartoons ever.
Another chapter in the the long-running battle between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny, it contains excerpts from a
number of Wagner's operas, notably the second and third operas of the Ring Cycle, Die Walküre and Siegfried.
The famous "Ride of the Valkyries" becomes Elmer Fudd's anthem, "Kill the Wabbit," and Fudd, playing Siegfried,
falls madly in love with Brünnhilde (Bugs Bunny in disguise). When Bugs' disguise slips, an enraged Fudd smites
the Wabbit, but then remorsefully carries Bugs up to Valhalla.
The music also quotes from The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser (the love songs ”O Bwünnhilde, you'w so
wuvwy” and “Return my love” are both from Tannhäuser).
Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny perform a pas de deux in
What’s Opera, Doc?
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
American film and television critic Matt Zoller Seitz said of
What's Opera, Doc?
It is – in my scientifically quantifiable, absolutely objective
opinion ... as perfect as a movie, any movie, can get. It's a
peerless example of what it means to make every screen
second count; pure entertainment that doubles as a
conscientious tour of Wagner's catchiest melodies ... a
compact tutorial in visionary filmmaking; a cartoon
encyclopedia of tragic-operatic cliches that confirms the
transformative potential of animation, comedy, music, theater
and mythology while showcasing what is – scientifically
quantifiable, indisputably objective fact coming at ya, folks –
Bugs' greatest drag performance ever.
Page 18 of 26
Bayreuth and the Première of The Ring
In his effort to create a Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art that
fused music, drama, stagecraft – all the arts – Wagner went all out
and built a theatre that would be a shrine for his art, a place
specifically dedicated to the performance of his operas.
This theatre, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (Bayreuth Festival
Theatre) opened in August, 1876, with the very first full production
of Wagner's four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of
the Nibelung). Das Rheingold, the Prologue to the Ring drama, had
already received its world première in 1869 at the National Theatre
in Munich. This sneak preview was on the orders of Wagner's
patron, King Ludwig II, but against Wagner's own wishes, for he had
wanted all four operas to receive their first performances together,
as a cycle, over a four-day period.
Bayreuth Festspeilhaus, c.1900. Detroit Publishing Co
Photochrom print collection, Library of Congress.
In 1876, Das Rheingold became the first opera ever performed in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Wagner's operas –
and only Wagner's operas – continue to be staged there each summer during the world famous Bayreuth Festival.
Bayreuth is, in the words of writer Finn-Olaf Jones, the Woodstock of the opera set.
The opening of the Festspielhaus was a massive event, covered by press from all over the world. It was attended
by royalty – Kaiser Wilhelm I, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Brazil's Emperor Dom Pedro II, and an assortment of Grand
Dukes and Princes – as well as by musicians and writers – Bruckner, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Liszt,
Nietzsche, and Tolstoy. Music critics from around the world attended, some reporting almost daily for a couple of
months as the Festival revved up. Critical reactions to the operas were intensely mixed, but a great deal of the
commentary focused on the theatre, the town, and the celebrities.
The Sydney Morning Herald noted:
It was a polyglot gathering indeed, and to move around amongst it gave one an idea of the confusion that
must have prevailed at the foot of Babel. German, French, English, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and
Polish we heard all at the same time ... emperors, kings, dukes, princes, and mightinesses of various orders.
This from The Guardian:
The people flocked to the theatre building early in the evening, and the whole way was double-lined by
peasants and poor townspeople, who cared more to see the celebrities and royalties drive by than for the
march of the musical gods across the rainbow bridge.
The influx of visitors into the small town of Bayreuth completely overwhelmed the local restaurants, as was
pointed out by Tchaikovsky, who wrote a series of articles on the première for the Russian Register:
Each slice of bread, each mug of beer has to be taken by force, by means of incredible exertions and tricks, all
requiring a patience of steel. And even if you are lucky ... the coveted dish that is finally brought to you by the
waiter looks as if it had been worked upon previously by several other forks and knives ... For the whole
duration of the first series of performances of Wagner's tetralogy, the predominating interest for everyone
turned exclusively upon food, by far surpassing in importance any artistic interests as such. People talked
much more about beefsteaks, cutlets, and fried potatoes than about Wagner's music.
Edvard Grieg wrote a cycle of articles for the Norwegian Bergenposten, in which he mentioned some of the
glitches that plagued the production.
In spite of much there is to criticize ... this music drama is the creation of a true giant in the history of art,
comparable in his innovation only to Michelangelo. In music there is nobody to approach Wagner...
If Wagner has been annoyed by the imperfect scene-changes and sloppy stage management then he has
every right to be, for they all left a lot to be desired. Things like the rainbow on the wrong side of the stage
and scene-changing so tardy that the orchestra had to slow down to match up with the action – these are
hardly what the Master wanted.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Little has changed in the intervening years: at the opening performance of Robert Lepage's high-tech 2010
production of Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera, a malfunctioning rainbow bridge forced the gods to take
an anticlimactic detour to Valhalla.
Wagner designed the theatre at Bayreuth specifically for the performance of his operas, and in doing so made
some revolutionary changes.It was he who first darkened the entire theatre for the performance so that the
audience could focus on the music and drama. Contemporary critic Charles Henri Tardieu of L'Indépendance
belge was particularly eloquent about the impact of this innovation:
Immediately, the gas lights are almost completely extinguished. We find ourselves plunged not only into
silence, but into darkness. The sudden darkness raises us out of ordinary life and into the domain of pure art.
The room no longer exists; our neighbors no longer matter ... even the Emperor of Germany is forgotten ...
The theatre of Bayreuth ... is the absolute affirmation of the work ... the realization, the incarnation of the
dramatic dream. We are ready for anything, even the supernatural, even the impossible.
Wagner further minimized distractions by burying the orchestra in a
sort of covered cave under the stage so that the conductor and
musicians were hidden from the audience.
This had the happy side effect of creating marvellous acoustics: the
orchestra sound is projected back toward the stage, and the singers can
easily be heard even over Wagner's massive instrumentation. Like
Wotan creating Valhalla, he was making an acoustic home fit for the
gods. (Paul Griffiths, New York Times, 2002).
Although the theatre's acoustics are legendary, the pit itself is crowded,
uncomfortable, noisy, and hot: During the 2006 Bayreuth Festival, New The Bayreuth Festspielhaus orchestra pit is
covered by a hood so that the orchestra is
York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote the following:
completely invisible to the audience.
Since there is no air-conditioning in the Festpielhaus, the
musicians playing in the pit on a humid July night must feel as if they were immolating along with Valhalla
and all the gods at the fiery climax of "Götterdämmerung" ... One tradeoff for the festival musicians ... is
that because no one sees them, every day is Casual Friday in the pit at Bayreuth.
The lack of air conditioning for the summer festival was a complaint from its very beginning, as we see in the New
York Times review of the 1876 Das Rheingold:
The heat ... was intense, for, the doors being closed and even overhung with tapestry, and there being no
windows or ventilating apparatus of any sort, the air was never renewed. The suffering of the spectators
must be accordingly in direct proportion with the greater or less length of each act of an opera.
Wagner oversaw every aspect of the 1876 festival, from the theatre design and construction to coaching and
directing the conductor and the cast. He obsessed over every part of the production. One of his biographers,
Ernest Newman, wrote,
He was a far better conductor than any of his conductors, a far better actor than any of his actors, a far
better singer than any of his singers in everything but tone. Each of his characters, each of his situations had
been created by the simultaneous functioning within him of a composer's imagination, a dramatist's, a
conductor's, a scenic designer's, a singer's, a mime's. Such a combination had never existed in a single
individual before; it has never happened since, and in all probability it will never happen again.
However, Wagner found fault after fault with the production, and his dejection was not helped by the huge
deficit incurred by the first Festival. What was at the time state-of-the-art stage technology, including magic fire
gas jets, an infamous mechanical dragon, and wheeled carts to move the Rhinemaidens around, couldn't live up
to his vision, nor could some of the performances.
As Frederic Spotts notes in Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival: He had sought perfection and fell short. He
had counted himself a King of infinite space and found that he was bounded in the nutshell of a stage.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Resources and Links
Das Rheingold
http://www.pov.bc.ca/rheingold.html Pacific Opera Victoria's web pages on Das Rheingold: for videos, artist bios,
musical selections, and more.
http://www.pov.bc.ca/pdfs/rheingold_newsletter.pdf Pacific Opera Victoria's Newsletter. More on the Ring and
Das Rheingold – storytelling at its most elemental, with music of inexhaustible beauty.
http://www.chandos.net/pdf/CHAN%203054.pdf Libretto of the Opera from the Chandos Opera in English series.
The CD booklet of the English National Opera recording uses the well-regarded translation by Andrew Porter
(begins on p.134).
http://www.murashev.com/opera/Das_Rheingold_libretto_English_German Libretto of the opera in German with
English translation.
https://archive.org/details/dasrheingold00wagn3 Piano/vocal score of the opera (German/ English)
Richard Wagner
http://www.wagneroperas.com/indexwagnerlinks.html Links to web sites about Wagner and his operas, including
comprehensive sites about Wagner, biographies, articles, and some of Wagner's books and letters.
Fun with the Ring
http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/series/opera-strip/wagner-the-ring-part-1 Comic strip synopsis of all four
operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgzZ_nLOJJE Wagner's 15-hour
Ring Cycle...in two and a half minutes. A fast-talking Aussie tells the story
of the Ring Cycle in cartoons, courtesy of the Sydney Symphony
Orchestra.
http://www.shmoop.com/mythology/#NorseGods+Figures If Wotan
were on Facebook: Here are fake online profiles for Odin (aka Wotan) and
other characters from Norse mythology, complete with walls, photos,
interviews, nicknames, gossip, police reports, and more. You can also
explore stories from Norse mythology; the site includes analysis of
characters and themes, quizzes, and links.
http://www.berfrois.com/2012/04/wabbitology/ Wabbitology: Bill
Benzon explores the cartoon What's Opera, Doc? Includes a very funny
synopsis, stills from the film, and analysis of the long-running Elmer Fudd
vs Bugs Bunny feud.
Valhalla in the classic 1957 cartoon, What's Opera,
Doc? Fudd, playing Siegfried, has fallen madly in love
with Brünnhilde (Bugs Bunny in disguise). When
Bugs' disguise slips, an enraged Fudd smites the
Wabbit, but then remorsefully carries Bugs, who is
apparently dead, up to Valhalla.
http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/2007/12/short-film-week-whats-opera-doc/ Another enjoyable discussion
of What's Opera, Doc?, this time by Matt Zoller Seitz.
http://www-acad.sheridanc.on.ca/~degazio/CULT14717folder/06.OperaMedia/GoldmarkCartoonOpera.pdf What's
Opera, Doc? and Cartoon Opera. This 14-page analysis of What's Opera, Doc? will tell you more than you ever thought
you'd want to know about the cartoon, its creation, and its operatic inspiration. By Daniel Goldmark (2005), published
in Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon, University of California Press.
Watch What's Opera, Doc? at https://archive.org/details/WhatsOperaDoc
Bayreuth
http://videoguide.bayreuther-festspiele.de/english/index.html Video Tour of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Even if
you can't see a Wagner opera at Bayreuth, you can tour the theater via this video guide, narrated in English.
http://www.nytimes.com/ref/arts/music/wagner-journal.html?8dpc Anthony Tommasini at the Bayreuth Music
Festival: New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini visited the 2006 Bayreuth Festival and wrote his impressions.
Particularly entertaining is A Peek Into the Pit, his account of Day 3 at the Festival.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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19th Century Reviews and Commentary
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/aug/16/featuresreviews.guardianreview9 The depths of the noble
Rhine. The Bayreuth festival's first opening night, reported in The Guardian, August 17, 1876.
http://www.the-wagnerian.com/2012/10/a-review-of-first-bayreuth-rheingold.html New York Times Review of Das
Rheingold at Bayreuth, August 1876.
https://archive.org/details/lettresdebayreut00tarduoft Lettres de Bayreuth: L'Anneau du Nibelung. Charles Henri
Tardieu wrote this series of letters about the August 1876 première of the Ring Cycle. They were published as articles in
L'Indépendance belge. The letters are in French, and make for fascinating reading.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13382222 Sydney Morning Herald Review of the 1876 Ring Cycle
http://wiki.tchaikovsky-research.net/wiki/The_Bayreuth_Music_Festival Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky on the 1876
opening: English translation of a series of articles written by Tchaikovsky for the Moscow journal Russian Register,
which were published in five issues between May and August of 1876.
He notes that Bayreuth was completely inundated with visitors for the Festival, resulting in a desperate, unending
search for beer and food! However, Tchaikovsky also discusses the operas in some detail, and, while his reactions are
mixed, he is clearly impressed with the greatness of Wagner's achievement.
... anyone who believes in art as a civilizing force, anyone who is devoted to art irrespective of any utilitarian
purposes it may serve, must experience a most agreeable feeling in Bayreuth at the sight of this tremendous
artistic enterprise which has ...acquired epoch-making significance in the history of art...nobody can deny the
greatness of the task [Wagner] has carried out or the strength of his spirit, which impelled him to ... realize one
of the most tremendous artistic projects ever conceived by the human mind.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1487/1487-h/1487-h.htm The Perfect Wagnerite: George Bernard Shaw is at his
witty, opinionated, curmudgeonly best in this 1898 commentary on the Ring Cycle. Enjoy one of the most entertaining
synopses of the Ring, told from Shaw's inimitable socialist perspective. Shaw opens with what he calls Preliminary
Encouragements.
The Ring, with all its gods and giants and dwarfs, its watermaidens and Valkyries, its wishing-cap, magic ring, enchanted
sword, and miraculous treasure, is a drama of today, and not of a
remote and fabulous antiquity... Everybody, too, can enjoy the love
music, the hammer and anvil music, the clumping of the giants, the
tune of the young woodsman's horn, the trilling of the bird, the
dragon music and nightmare music and thunder and lightning
music, the profusion of simple melody, the sensuous charm of the
orchestration: in short, the vast extent of common ground
between The Ring and the ordinary music we use for play and
pleasure...
It is generally understood, however, that there is an inner ring of
superior persons to whom the whole work has a most urgent and
searching philosophic and social significance. I profess to be such a
superior person; and I write this pamphlet for the assistance of
those who wish to be introduced to the work on equal terms with
that inner circle of adepts.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw c.1909
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Sources for Das Rheingold and Der Ring des Nibelungen
http://conductorscorner.com/Mythology/Mythology.html Scene-by-scene overview of each opera in Der Ring des
Nibelungen. Conductor-composer Leo Eylar of the California State University, Sacramento Department of Music
discusses the story, the sources, and the ways in which Wagner changed the stories for each opera.
http://norse-mythology.org/ Norse Mythology for Smart People. Dan McCoy has created a clearly written,
entertaining website that explores the stories and characters from Norse Mythology and provides suggestions for
further reading, including references if you happen to feel like learning the Old Norse language.
http://www.germanicmythology.com/ Germanic Mythology: Texts, Translations, Scholarship. Wander through this
treasure trove of translations, including the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, the Poetic or Elder Edda, and facsimiles of a
number of ancient manuscripts.
http://nancymariebrown.blogspot.ca/2012/04/lord-of-ring-of-nibelungs.html God of Wednesday: Wanderer and
storyteller, wise, half-blind, with a wonderful horse. This is an entertaining, wide-ranging blog by Nancy Marie Brown,
author of five books, including Song of the Viking: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myth. Ms. Brown discusses Snorri
Sturluson, the Norse gods, including Odin (God of Wednesday), Iceland, Icelandic literature, Tolkien, and much more.
Scroll down the left side to find her blog archive, topics, and a search box.
http://www.heathengods.com/library/prose_edda/BrodeurProseEdda/index.htm The Prose Edda of Snorri
Sturluson, Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur [1916]. One of the major sources for The Ring is the Prose Edda, also
known as the Younger Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda was probably written around the year 1220. It
consists of four parts:
The Prologue, an account of the origins of Norse mythology, beginning
with a Christian perspective and describing the Norse gods as being
descended from the Trojans.
Gylfaginning, "The Fooling of Gylfi", a compendium of stories of Norse
mythology.
Skáldskaparmál, “Language of Poetry,” which tells more stories in the
form of a dialogue between Ægir, the Norse god of the sea, and Bragi, the
god of poetry. The stories are interspersed with discussion on the nature
of poetry.
Háttatal, a set of songs of praise that serve as examples of the verse
forms used in Old Norse poetry. This section is not included in the online
English translation.
Wagner did wonders with this mythology and made it uniquely his own by
masterfully reweaving the old myths, inventing and adapting, creating
something wholly new that feels ancient. For Das Rheingold, Wagner wove
together three separate stories from Snorri.
The Otter's Ransom and Andvari's Curse: Loki and Odin must pay a debt
by covering an otter's skin inside and out with gold. In order to secure
enough gold, Loki steals the gold from a dwarf named Andvari, along
with a magic ring multiplies wealth. The gods must give up the ring in
order to completely cover the otter. But the dwarf has cursed the ring,
and the result is murder. (Told in Skáldskaparmál XXXIX)
Title page of a manuscript of the Prose Edda
(1666), showing Odin, Heimdallr, Sleipnir and
other figures from Norse mythology. From the
18th century Icelandic manuscript ÍB 299 4to, now
in the Icelandic National Library
The Builder's Tale: Loki brokers a deal with a giant, who will build a magnificent stronghold for the gods. His payment
is to be the goddess Freyja, the sun, and the moon. The gods must find a way to get out of this very bad bargain. (Told
in Gylfaginning XLII)
The Apples of Idunn: Idunn, like Freia in Das Rheingold, is the keeper of the apples of immortality. When she is
kidnapped, the gods are desperate to get her back. (Told in Skáldskaparmál I)
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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http://myndir.uvic.ca/page.htm?page=home Norse Digital Images. A
beautiful collection of images from old Norse manuscripts, with
explanations of each scene and story and links to the original online
manuscripts. The collection is a project called MyNDIR, (My Norse Digital
Image Repository), created by Trish Baer as part of her Interdisciplinary
PhD in English and History in Art at the University of Victoria. You can
browse the repository by clicking on any thumbnail in the scrollable banner
of cropped images, or by clicking on any letter in the alphabet menu at the
top of the page.
http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Wagner.pdf Wagner and the
Volsungs: Icelandic Sources of Der Ring des Nibelungen. This book by
Icelandic scholar Arni Björnsson explores the Icelandic literature that
forms a major source for the Ring Cycle and discusses Wagner and the
writing of The Ring. The book includes a detailed, scene-by-scene analysis
of The Ring. Björnsson concludes that 80 percent of Wagner's motifs are
drawn exclusively from Icelandic literature, about five percent exclusively
from German literature, and about 15 percent are common to both
Icelandic and German sources.
1760 Icelandic
http://www.kb.dk/permalink/2006/manus/738/dan/
manuscript by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson, known as NKS 1867 4to. This
manuscript contains material from both Snorri's Edda, (also known as the
Prose Edda and the Younger Edda) and from the Elder Edda (also known as
the Poetic Edda), as well as wonderful illustrations from Norse mythology.
The site is in Danish, but you can find your way around fairly easily. On the
left-side menu, clicking on “Illustrations til Edda-myter” will take you
directly to the pictures; click on “Stor” below any picture to enlarge the
view. Danish Royal Library, Copenhagen.
Odin's goat Heiðrún (Heidrun) grazes on the
roof of Valhalla. Like Wotan in Das Rheingold,
Odin had a splendid fortress called Valhalla –
the hall of dead heroes – where warriors who
have died in battle fight all day and feast all
night to prepare for the final battle before
Ragnarök (Götterdämmerung / Twilight of the
Gods), the end of the world of gods and men .
Instead of milk, the wondrous goat Heiðrún
produces mead for all those thirsty warriors.
This illustration is from the 1760 Ólafur
Brynjúlfsson manuscript at the Danish Royal
Library, Copenhagen.
http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Volsunga%20saga.pdf The Volsunga
Saga (The Saga of the Volsungs), a major Icelandic source for the Ring Cycle. This pdf book has the Old Icelandic text and
an English translation on alternate pages (beginning on page 44 of the pdf, after a detailed introduction. The Volsunga
Saga dates from roughly 1270, about the same time as the Eddas and the Nibelungenlied.
http://omacl.org/Nibelungenlied/ Song of the Nibelungs (Das Nibelungenlied). English
translation by Daniel Bussier Shumway, 1909. This German epic poem was written about
1200 by an unknown Austrian and was one of the main sources for the final opera in
Wagner's Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
http://www.blb-karlsruhe.de/blb/blbhtml/nib/uebersicht.html Facsimile of Manuscript
C of the Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs). There are 35 known manuscripts of the
work, most of them incomplete. In 2009, the three main manuscripts (which have been
labelled A, B, and C) were inscribed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in
recognition of their historical significance. The web page is in German; clicking on the links
that start below the subtitle Handschrift digital will allow you to see the pages of this very
beautiful manuscript.
http://www.alyon.org/litterature/livres/XVIII/esprit_salon/perrault/le_chat_botte.html
Charles Perrault's famous fairy tale Puss in Boots (Le chat botté), in French. This is
believed to be the inspiration for the shapeshifting scene in Das Rheingold – in which
Alberich changes himself into a dragon and then, goaded by Loge, transforms into a tiny
toad that is captured by Loge and Wotan.
The Nibelungenlied: Detail
from a page of Manuscript C.
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/perrault04.html Puss in Boots in English translation.
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Commentary on Das Rheingold and Der Ring des Nibelungen
http://www.the-wagnerian.com/2012/10/a-history-of-ring-cycle-productions-or.html Whatever Became of the
Breastplates? Chapter 11 from The Ultimate Art: Essays Around and About Opera by David Littlejohn. This brief history
of Ring Cycle productions looks at the evolution in visual and dramatic interpretations of Der Ring des Nibelungen since
its première in 1876. Images and videos have been added to the essay by The Wagnerian, an online collection of news
and articles about Richard Wagner, his works, life, performances and influences.
http://www.melbourneringcycle.com.au/ring_cycle/behind_the_scenes/news/the_impossible_dream
The Impossible Dream? Wagner's Vision for The Ring. Dr. Robert Mitchell discusses the staging and stagecraft used at
the 1876 première of Der Ring des Nibelungen, including the special effects Wagner tried to achieve with new
technology.
When Wagner premiered Der Ring des Nibelungen, his achievement redefined the way future audiences would
experience opera. He was breaking new ground on all fronts to achieve his vision of ... the 'total work of art'. Having
conceived and developed the libretto from 1848 and composed and orchestrated the score between 1853 and 1874,
Wagner managed, with royal patronage and a hand-picked cast and group of assistants, to present the 'cycle' under his
own stage direction in a purpose-built theatre. Wagner's 28-year-long dream was finally realized. Or was it?
http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/past_issues/4-2%202011/NVS%204-2-5%20C-Raz.pdf
Wagnerpunk: A Steampunk Reading of Patrice Chéreau's Staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876) by Carmel Raz,
Yale University. Published in Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies, 4:2 (2011), 91-107.
Here's an interesting take on a fascinating production of The Ring. Director
Patrice Chéreau's 1976 Ring Cycle in Bayreuth, the "Centennial Ring," is
considered perhaps the most influential Ring Cycle of all time.
It evokes a 19th-century dreamscape: gods, giants, dwarves and mermaids
in dinner jackets and petticoats scheme against the backdrop of steel dams
and massive cogwheels. Traditionally, critics have seen this production as a
continuation of the Marxist legacy of George Bernard Shaw's The Perfect
Wagnerite.
Carmel Raz explores the production as an early representative of
steampunk. It combines social critique, environmental concerns, and retrofuturistic ideas, portrayed in the context of an epic fantasy world.
Scene from Patrice Chéreau’s staging of Das
Rheingold at the 1976 Bayreuth Festival.
Introduction to Opera Voices
http://www.theopera101.com/operaabc/voices/
of roles they sing, along with audio examples.
An explanation of the various types of opera voices and the kind
Written and edited by Maureen Woodall
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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Student Activities
Exploring Plot and Character
Create a character sketch for one of the characters (for example, Alberich, one of the Rhinemaidens, Wotan,
Freia).
Questions you might ask about the character include:
What are we told about this character? (read the synopsis and libretto for clues)
What else do we know about this character? (Do any of the ancient myths tell us something about the
character?)
What is the character's relationship with the other characters?
Why does the character make the choices he or she does?
Include evidence from the opera to support your claim. Keep in mind the music sung by your character. Do
the emotions conveyed through the music fit the character sketches?
Create a journal or a Facebook page for your character. Write about the events of the opera from that
character's point of view. Write in the first person, and include only information that the character would
know.
If your character is one of the Norse gods in the opera (Wotan/Odin, Froh/Frey, Fricka/Frigg, Freia/Freyja,
Loge/Loki, or Donner/Thor), you can discover much more about your character at:
http://www.shmoop.com/mythology/#NorseGods+Figures
Here you can find photos of your character, read his or her profile, see what’s posted on his or her wall, find
out who are his/her friends and enemies, and even read police reports that involve your character!
Create an opera design.
Design and draw a stage set for a scene in Das Rheingold.
Design and draw costumes for the characters in the scene.
After the Opera
Draw a picture of your favourite scene in the opera.
What is happening in this scene?
What characters are depicted?
Scene from What’s Opera, Doc?
Write a review of the opera.
What did you think about the sets, props and costumes?
Would you have done something differently? Why?
What were you expecting? Did it live up to your expectations?
Talk about the singers. Describe their characters. Describe their voices.
Who was your favourite character? Why?
What was your favourite visual moment in the opera? Why?
What was your favourite musical moment in the opera? Why?
Pacific Opera Victoria Study Guide: Das Rheingold
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