Opera Scotland

Rhinegold Das Rheingold

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 1853-4).

Premières
First performance: Munich (Court Theatre), 22 September 1869.
First UK performance: London (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket), 5 May 1882.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 28 February 1910.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 6 May 1967.

Background
The Ring of the Nibelungs is a cycle of four dramas, described as taking place over three days with a preliminary evening. Das Rheingold is that introductory evening. The four scenes are performed continuously without an interval. The characters include gods and mortals, as well as giants and dwarves.

Characters
Three Rhinemaidens: Woglinde (soprano), Wellgunde (mezzo-soprano), Flosshilde (contralto)
Two dwarves, brothers: Alberich (baritone), Mime (tenor)
Wotan, leader of the gods (bass-baritone)
Fricka, his wife, goddess of marriage (mezzo-soprano)
Freia, goddess of youth and beauty (soprano)
Two more gods, Freia’s brothers: Froh (tenor), Donner (bass-baritone)
Loge, god of fire (tenor)
Two giants: Fasolt, Fafner (basses)
Erda, the all-seeing Earth mother (contralto)

Plot Summary
In the river Rhine, the Rhinemaidens play and guard the Rhinegold. Alberich comes to swim and flirt with them, but they are repelled by his ugliness. He is offended by their laughter, and overhears their chatter to the effect that anyone who takes the gold and the power it holds must renounce love. In a fury, Alberich does this and grabs the gold. The Giants have completed the building of Valhalla for the Gods. In payment, Wotan has promised them Freia. Fricka is wary of the consequences, but Wotan explains that he has never intended to fulfil the bargain – Loge will provide a cunning plan. Freia is terrified at the prospect of being taken by the giants. Gods and giants are all aware that Freia provides golden apples which, when eaten, provide eternal youth. Loge arrives with the solution. He tells them of Alberich, the gold, and his renunciation of love, and of a magic ring he has made. Fafner decides this would be preferable to having Freia. But they take her as a hostage meantime, and the gods immediately feel older. Wotan and Loge go underground to the dwarves’ lair, Nibelheim. Mime has used some of the gold to make a magic helmet, but Alberich seizes it and using it to make himself invisible, enslaves all the terrified Nibelung workers. Wotan and Loge persuade Alberich to show off the power of the helmet, so he turns himself into something big, a dragon, then something small, a toad. Loge now grabs the helmet, and Alberich is tied up and dragged to the surface. Alberich begs for his freedom, but the price is his hoard of gold. He uses the ring to summon the Nibelungs who pile it up, and Loge adds the helmet. Wotan then demands the ring, and as it is torn from his finger, Alberich places a curse on it before going. The giants come for the gold, and when Wotan tries to keep the ring he is told by Erda to yield. Fafner now kills Fasolt to get the ring for himself – the curse is taking effect. The gods, their youth restored, now enter Valhalla, though Loge goes his own way again.

The Cast

Alberich
 a Nibelung
Donner
 god of thunder
Erda
 goddess of earth and wisdom
Fafner
 a giant
Fasolt
 a giant
Flosshilde
 a Rhinemaiden
Freia
 sister of Fricka and goddess of love and spring
Fricka
 wife of Wotan and goddess of marriage
Froh
 god of joy and youth
Loge
 god of fire and cunning
Mime
 A Nibelung, Alberich's brother
Wellgunde
 a Rhinemaiden
Woglinde
 a Rhinemaiden
Wotan
 leader of the gods

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