Opera Scotland

Siegfried

Music
Richard Wagner (born Leipzig, 2 March 1813; died Venice, 13 February 1883)

Text
The composer.

Source
Original, derived from Norse legend (text written 1851-2, music composed 1856-7 and 1869-71).

Premieres
First performance: Bayreuth (Festspielhaus), 16 August 1876.
First UK performance: London (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket), 8 May 1882.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 16 October 1901.
Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 8 May 1971.

Background
The Ring of the Nibelungs is a cycle of four dramas, described as taking place over three days with a preliminary evening. Siegfried is the third drama, i.e. the second of the three days. Having composed the first two acts, Wagner broke off to produce Tristan and Die Meistersinger. The twelve-year gap means inevitably that his compositional style developed significantly by the time he started the third act.

Characters
Siegfried (tenor)
Mime, a dwarf (tenor)
Wotan, disguised as the Wanderer (bass-baritone)
Alberich, a dwarf, Mime’s brother (baritone)
Fafner, a giant, now disguised as a dragon (bass)
A Woodbird (soprano)
Erda (mezzo-soprano)
Brünnhilde (sopranos)

Plot Summary
Deep in the forest, Siegfried has been brought up by Mime, a smith. The dwarf had found Sieglinde in labour, and after giving birth to a boy she had called Siegfried, she died, leaving the remains of a broken sword. In spite of his skill, Mime has not been able to repair the sword parts. Wotan’s plan for recovering the ring failed with the death of Siegmund, but he still has hopes for Siegfried, and has been monitoring his upbringing on a regular basis. Mime is amazed when Siegfried, a hero, with little training, succeeds in forging the old sword, known as “Nothung”, when Mime himself had failed.

Fafner, a giant in Das Rheingold, has used the magic helmet to convert himself into a dragon, to safeguard his hoard of gold, including the ring. Siegfried, guided by Mime, finds the dragon’s lair, and kills Fafner. Mime has plans to kill Siegfried at this point in order to seize the ring and the gold, but being burnt by spilt dragon’s blood allows Siegfried to understand a Woodbird warning him of Mime’s treachery. Siegfried kills Mime and is then guided by the bird in the direction of Brünnhilde’s mountain.

Wotan has a meeting with Erda, who finds she is out of touch, but she foretells the demise of the gods. He then tries one last time to bar Siegfried’s journey to Brünnhilde’s rock, but his spear, which had previously shattered Nothung, is no match for the sword now it is in Siegfried’s hands. Siegfried climbs the mountain, the flames die down before him, and he wakes Brünnhilde, who knows that she has indeed been woken by the desired hero. The fact that she is his aunt does not seem to occur to her.

The Cast

Alberich
 a Nibelung
Brünnhilde
 now a mortal
Erda
 mother of the Norns and Valkyries
Fafner
 disguised as a dragon
Mime
 a Nibelung, Siegfried's fosterer
Siegfried
 son of Siegmund and Sieglinde
Wanderer
 Wotan in disguise
Woodbird
 

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha