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Music: DIE WALKÜRE by Richard Wagner performed by the New York Opera Forum

March 29, 2014

Program Locations:

Bronx Library Center, Auditorium

 

Walküre, Die, (The Valkyrie), the second music drama of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (text by the composer), first performed at the Court and National Theater, Munich, June 26, 1870. (See Nibelungen, The Ring of the.) Between the close of Das Rheingold, the first music drama in the cycle, and the opening of Die Walküre, Wotan (baritone) has realized that the evil resulting from the theft of the Rhine gold can be ended only if the Ring is returned to the Rhine. Needing an innocent hero who will shoulder the gods' guilt, retake the Ring, and restore it to the Rhine maidens, Wotan, disguised as Wälse, a hero, has fathered the twins Siegmund (tenor) and Sieglinde (soprano) by a mortal woman.

Act I

Into the forest home of the Neiding warrior Hunding (bass)—a huge room built around the trunk of an ash tree—Siegmund staggers in exhaustion. Hunding's wife Sieglinde (soprano) tenderly takes care of Siegmund. Hunding, who has recognized the intruder as an enemy, nevertheless respects the duty of giving him refuge for one night. Sieglinde, attracted by Siegmund, and half aware that he is her brother, puts Hunding into a drugged sleep and shows Siegmund the sword embedded in the ash tree by a one-eyed wanderer (Wotan) at her wedding feast. It is to belong to him who can extract it from the tree trunk. When the infatuated Siegmund easily withdraws the sword, Sieglinde recognizes him as her hero brother. Leaving Hunding asleep, the two acknowledge their love and disappear into the surrounding forest.

Act II

In a wild forest place Wotan tells Brünnhilde (soprano)—his favorite among the Valkyrie daughters he has had by Erda—to protect Siegmund in the coming fight between him and Hunding. Fricka (mezzo-soprano), Wotan's wife and the protectress of marriage, demands that Siegmund be punished for having stolen Hunding's wife, his own twin sister. Reluctantly, Wotan orders Brünnhilde to drain the strength from Siegmund's sword. The Valkyrie informs Siegmund of his coming death, but disobeys Wotan during the actual fight, attempting to save Siegmund. Wotan places his spear between Hunding and Siegmund, and Siegmund's sword shatters against it; Hunding kills him. In a mixture of rage, remorse, and disappointment, Wotan in turn kills Hunding. But Brünnhilde succeeds in saving Sieglinde, who will bear Siegmund's child.

Act III

Brünnhilde brings Sieglinde to her eight Valkyrie sisters, who have assembled on their rock with the bodies of heroes which they are carrying to Walhalla. She begs them to protect her from Wotan's wrath over her disobedience. Knowing that Wotan cannot be appeased, Brünnhilde gives Sieglinde the pieces of Siegmund's sword and sends her down into the forest to bear her child there. She then faces Wotan, who, rejecting her pleas and those of her sisters, deprives her of her godly attributes. He rules that Brünnhilde must be put into a magic sleep on the summit of the rock; he promises only that whatever hero shall reach her and awaken her will be allowed to lead her into a new life. He then calls upon Loge, god of fire, to surround the Valkyries' rock with a ring of flame that can be penetrated only by a hero who has never discovered fear. Wotan knows, as Brünnhilde half knew before falling asleep, that this hero will be Siegfried, the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde.

Weinstock, Herbert. "Walküre, Die." Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2014. Web. 9 Mar. 2014