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The Ring Cycle

Love. Passion. Power. Rage. Revenge. Made from Rhine gold, coveted, fought over, cursed in anger: the Ring passes through the lives of magical beings and mortals alike, weaving together the narratives of four operas.

Delve into a universe full of passion and power. Travel back in time to when the world began.

 

Wagner's epic Ring Cycle is one of the greatest operatic works in existence.

 

Made from Rhine gold, coveted, fought over, cursed in anger: the Ring passes through the lives of magical beings and mortals alike, weaving together the narratives of four operas.

Das Rheingold

At the beginning of the world, the three Daughters of the Rhine guarded the pure gold in the river. Alberich, a dwarf-like being from the lower world called a Nibelung, managed to steal this eternal treasure, knowing that in doing so he would be foregoing love to obtain power.

While Alberich was off stealing the gold, Wotan was watching over his kingdom, the upper world. He had the giants Fasolt and Fafner build him a fortress, but then tricked them out of their payment. He had promised them Freia, his wife’s sister; now he had to depend on the fiery Loge to get him out of the worst deal he had ever made in his eternal life. Loge searched high and low to find someone who would forego love to obtain power, and the only one he found was Alberich. Wotan saw that this was a potential rival, and he knew he must confront the Nibelung.

Loge brought Wotan down into the lower world. There they found Alberich, who had enslaved his fellow Nibelungs to mine gold for him. Alberich’s brother Mime had made a ring out of the stolen Rhine gold. Alberich was using this ring to command the obedience of his followers. Mime had also made Alberich a magical helmet, and Alberich boasted that he could use the ring and helmet to conquer the world. But as he was showing off his newfound powers, Wotan captured him and took him back to his mountain top, where they fought for the all-powerful ring. Alberich cursed the ring as Wotan tore it from his finger.

Wotan has retreated with the rest of the Gods to their new stronghold of Valhalla. But he will soon grow restless in his refuge, and his enemies are waiting…

Die Walküre, Act 1

Wotan is growing restless in Valhalla. In the intervening years between Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, he fathered many children: nine Valkyries with the earth-mother Erda, and the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde with a mortal woman. These twins were separated as children, and Sieglinde has become the wife of Hunding, a descendant of the giants, trapped in a loveless marriage.

Siegmund staggers into Sieglinde and Hunding’s home to seek refuge from his enemies. Hunding discovers that he and this stranger have been fighting on opposite sides and wants to kill Siegmund, in the morning, but he will allow him to stay the night due to the law of hospitality. Sieglinde intervenes and saves Siegmund by drugging her husband. Siegmund and Sieglinde realize they are twins but still fall deeply in love. When we see them at the end of this act, they are locked in an embrace...

Die Walküre, Act 2

Wotan’s favourite daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, has given her father a warning: his wife Fricka is on the warpath. And Fricka is enraged with good reason: she has discovered his affairs, including the one that led to the birth of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. She is even more outraged to find out that these two are in an incestuous union.

Wotan defends his infidelity by saying he simply wanted to protect his and Fricka’s future by creating the independent agent Siegmund, but Fricka remains unconvinced and wants Wotan to take Hunding’s side against his son in the impending fight.

Wotan confides in Brünnhilde, feeling the world is crumbling around him and fearing that Alberich will usurp his power in the end.

Meanwhile, Siegmund and Sieglinde are fleeing, but Sieglinde can go no further. Brünnhilde appears in a vision to warn him and to take him to Valhalla, but he refuses in order to stay by Sieglinde’s side, where he is defeated and killed by Hunding.

But not all hope is lost...

Die Walküre, Act 3

Eight Valkyries ride through the skies carrying fallen warriors on their horses. Brünnhilde joins them bearing Sieglinde, who wants only to die. Brünnhilde cannot allow this: Sieglinde is pregnant with Siegfried. Her son will grow up to become a hero and save the world. Sieglinde escapes, and Brünnhilde remains behind to hold off the furious Wotan.

In his rage, Wotan condemns his once-favourite daughter to a magic sleep on a mountaintop, stripped of her Valkyrie status, now a human woman, prey to any man who should happen to pass by. But Brünnhilde defends herself, pointing out that protecting Siegmund and saving Sieglinde was Wotan’s true will. After her impassioned plea, Brünnhilde’s father lightens the sentence: he surrounds the mountaintop upon which Brünnhilde lies with magic fire, a fire that will only allow the bravest of heroes to pass…

Glue: 

Siegfried, Act 1

Remember Alberich the Nibelung? Mime has most definitely not forgotten his brother… nor his brother’s stolen treasure. Mime has been raising the human boy Siegfried, and he is planning revenge. He wants his adoptive son to kill the giant Fafner, who now lives in the form of a dragon and guards his stolen Rhine gold. Mime has not been able to reforge the shattered sword.

A strange Wanderer appears, in reality Wotan in disguise, and he challenges Mime to a game of knowledge. But Mime asks questions he already knows the answers to, whereas the Wanderer uses the opportunity to extract important information from Mime, most importantly, who can reforge the shattered sword Nothung. Mime cannot answer, but Wotan spares him, telling him that only he who knows no fear can reforge Nothung and kill Mime. Siegfried, despite his inexperience, is able to reforge Nothung. It dawns on Mime that his foster son Siegfried knows no fear, and he begins to prepare a poison drink...

Siegfried, Act 2

Alberich has been planning. Alberich has been plotting. The Wanderer arrives to join him and reveals himself as Wotan. Meanwhile, Siegfried and Mime arrive to slay the dragon-Fafner, which Siegfried achieves. The dragon's blood allows Siegfried to suddenly understand all the sounds of the forest! And he hears a bird, telling him secrets. Secrets such as who is untrustworthy, and what his next quest will be... Siegfried takes in this new information and realizes that he may need to be wary around Mime. Now to set off to rescue Brünnhilde...

Siegfried, Act 3

Wotan challenges Siegfried to a final battle. Siegfried must fight Wotan, climb the mountain, and reach the sleeping Brünnhilde to bring this part of the saga to a close... he manages to break Wotan's spear, and the world's ruler realizes his power has faded. Now Siegfried and Brünnhilde, deeply in love, look forward to the future...

Götterdämmerung, Act 1

Siegfried is on a journey on the Rhine to fulfill new heroic deeds. Here he is drawn ashore and meets the brother and sister Gunther and Gutrune, who live with their half-brother Hagen, who is the son of Alberich. Gunther makes a blood-brotherhood pact with Siegfried and is seduced by Gutrune, but little does he know that the siblings have given him a potion to erase memory. Siegfried, wooed by Gutrune, promises to kidnap Brünnhilde for her.

Brünnhilde is now alone on the mountain, is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute, who advises Brünnhilde to give up the ring Siegfried gave her, breaking its curse. But Brünnhilde refuses, because it was Siegfried’s gift to her. Soon a strange man appears, claiming to be Gunther , but it is actually Siegfried, disguised by the magic helmet. He takes the ring from Brünnhilde…

Götterdämmerung Act 2

Brünnhilde is now Gunther’s captive, and she is led into a hall to wed him. Here Siegfried is to marry Gutrune. Brünnhilde notices the ring onSiegfried’s finger and accuses him of betraying her. 

Brünnhilde wants revenge, and she finds an unlikely shoulder to cry on in Hagen. Even Gunther joins in on the plot, and together the three plan to punish Siegfried for his traitorous acts…

Götterdämmerung Act 3

Siegfried retells the story of his early life, and Gunther has slipped him a potion to regain his memory. But the memory he recalls is that of finding Brünnhilde on the mountaintop and kissing her, bringing her out of her magic sleep. Enraged, Gunther stabs Siegfried in the back with his spear. Gutrune is devastated when Siegfried’s body is brought back.

Hagen boasts that he has killed Siegfried. Gunther attacks him, and Hagen kills him too. But Brünnhilde commands that a funeral pyre be built for for Siegfried. She prophesies a world where the former powers will be swept away, and offers herself up as a sacrifice, riding into the flames.

The flames rise and rise, threatening Valhalla. The Rhine river overflowes and Hagen tries to grab for the Ring, but the daughters of the Rhine drag him down to his death.