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Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) is the second of the four operas that comprise The Ring of the Nibelung, by Richard Wagner. It premiered at the Munich Court Theatre on June 26, 1870, with August Kindermann as Wotan, Heinrich Vogl as Siegmund, Therese Vogl as Sieglinde, and Sophie Stehle as Brünnhilde.

Das Rheingold - Die Walküre - Siegfried - Götterdämmerung

Table of contents

Plot Synopsis

Act I

During a raging storm, Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. Hunding is not present, and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde, Hunding's unhappy wife. Siegmund tells her that he is fleeing from enemies. After taking a drink of mead, he moves to leave, claiming to be cursed by misfortune. However, Sieglinde bids him to stay, saying that he can bring no misfortune to the "house where ill-luck lives."

Returning, Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund his hospitality. Sieglinde, who is increasingly fascinated with the visitor, urges him to tell his tale. Siegmund describes returning home with his father one day, to find his his mother dead and his twin sister abducted. He then wandered with his father, until parted from him as well. One day, he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl's relatives. However, his weapons were broken, and he was forced to flee to Hunding's home.

When Siegmund finishes, Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund's pursuers. He grants Siegmund a night's stay, but they are to do battle in the morning. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde, ignoring his wife's distress. Siegmund laments his misfortune, recalling his father's promise that he would find a sword in direst need. Sieglinde returns, having drugged Hunding's drink to send him into a deep sleep. She reveals that she is Siegmund's twin sister, abducted by Hunding's clan and forced into marriage with Hunding. During their wedding feast, an old Wanderer - whom only Sieglinde recognized as her father Wälse - had appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room. Whereas Hunding and his companions had all failed to remove the sword, Siegmund now easily draws it out. He names the blade Nothung. Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have fallen in love, flee together from Hunding's house.

Act II

Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhile, his Valkyrie daughter. He instructs Brünnhile to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Fricka, Wotan's wife and the guardian of wedlock, arrives demanding punishment against Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have committed adultery and incest. She knows that Wotan, disguised as the mortal man Wälse, had fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero to aid his plans, but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero, but an unwitting pawn of Wotan. Backed into a corner, Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund is to die.

Fricka leaves, leaving Brünnhile with a despairing Wotan. Wotan explains his problems: troubled by the warning delivered by Erda (at the end of Das Rheingold), he had seduced the earth-goddess to learn more of the prophesied doom; Brünnhile was born to him by Erda. He had raised Brünnhile and eight other daughters as the Valkyries, warrior maidens who gather the souls of fallen heroes to form an army against Alberich. Valhalla's army will fail if Alberich wielded the Ring, which is in Fafnir's possession. Using the Tarnhelm, the giant has transformed into a dragon, lurking in a forest with the Nibelung treasure. Wotan cannot wrest the Ring from Fafnir, who is bound to him by contract; he needs a free hero to defeat Fafnir in his stead. However, as Fricka pointed out, he can only create thralls to himself. Bitterly, Wotan orders Brünnhile to obey Fricka and ensure the death of his beloved child Siegmund.

Siegmund and Sieglinde enter the mountain pass, where Sieglinde faints in guilt and exhaustion. Brünnhile approaches Siegmund, telling him of his impending death. Siegmund refuses to follow Brünnhile to Valhalla when he finds out that Sieglinde cannot come along. Impressed by his courage, Brünnhile relents and agrees to protect Siegmund instead.

Hunding arrives and attacks Siegmund. Blessed by Brünnhile, Siegmund begins to overpower Hunding, but Wotan appears and shatters Nothung with his spear. Disarmed, Siegmund is slain by Hunding. Brünnhilde seizes Sieglinde and the shards of Nothung, and flees on horseback. Wotan looks down on Siegmund's body, grieving. He kills Hunding with a contemptuous gesture, and sets out in pursuit of Brünnhile.

Act III

The other Valkyries assemble on the summit of a mountain, each with a dead hero in her saddlebag. They are astonished when Brünnhilde arrives with a living woman. She begs them to help, but they dare not defy Wotan. Brünnhilde decides to delay Wotan as Sieglinde flees. She also reveals that Sieglinde is pregnant by Siegmund, and names the unborn son Siegfried ("joyous in victory").

Wotan arrives in wrath and passes judgement on Brünnhilde: she is to be stripped of her godhood and held in a magic sleep on the mountain, prey to any man who happens by. Dismayed, the other Valkyries flee. Brünnhilde begs mercy of Wotan for his favorite child. She recounts the courage of Siegmund and her decision to protect him, knowing that was Wotan's true desire. Wotan consents to her last request: to encircle the mountaintop with magic flame, which will deter all but the bravest of heroes. Wotan lays Brünnhilde down on a rock and sends her into an enchanted sleep. He summons Loge to create the magic fire to protect Brünnhilde, and departs in sorrow.



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