Opera Scotland

Twilight of the Gods Götterdämmerung

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

Text
The composer.

Source
Original, derived from Norse legend (text written 1848-52, music composed 1869-74).

Premieres
First performance: Bayreuth (Festspielhaus), 17 August 1876.
First UK performance: London (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket), 9 May 1882.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 5 March 1910.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 15 May 1968.

Background
Götterdämmerung is the final evening of the Ring cycle. It was after writing the text for this work that Wagner realised that preliminary explanation was required, and he gradually worked backwards through the other dramas until reaching Das Rheingold. He then started musical composition in the correct order.

Characters
Three Norns: First (contralto), Second (mezzo-soprano), Third (soprano).
Brünnhilde (soprano)
Siegfried (tenor)
Gunther, leader of the Gibichungs (baritone)
Hagen, his half-brother, son of Alberich (bass)
Gutrune, Gunther’s sister (soprano)
Waltraute (mezzo-soprano)
Alberich (baritone)
Three Rhinemaidens: Woglinde (soprano), Wellgunde (mezzo-soprano), Flosshilde (contralto)

Plot Summary
The Norns , or Fates, daughters of Erda, foretell the demise of the gods. At dawn, Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from a nearby cave. They exchange tokens – Siegfried gives her the ring, she gives him her horse. He journeys down the Rhine and reaches the castle of the Gibichungs. Gunther, a weak character, is dominated by his half-brother. Hagen is aware of the ring’s history and is determined to obtain it for himself. He has made a potion which, when given to him by Gutrune, will make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde. Under this influence, Siegfried becomes engaged to Gutrune, in return for which he will obtain Brünnhilde as a bride for Gunther. Brünnhilde is visited by her sister, Waltraute, who begs that she lift the curse by giving the ring back to the Rhinemaidens. Brünnhilde regards it as a token of love from Siegfried, and refuses. Siegfried, disguised by the helmet to appear like Gunther, then comes and seizes the ring from Brünnhilde. Hagen dreams of Alberich, who tells him to kill Siegfried and take the ring. Siegfried returns, bringing Gunther and Brünnhilde. A double wedding is arranged. Brünnhilde is horrified at Siegfried’s betrayal, especially when she sees the ring on his hand. She claims Siegfried as her husband, and swears an oath to that effect, denied by Siegfried. She joins with Hagen and Gunther in a conspiracy to kill him. On a hunting trip next day, Siegfried refuses to give the ring to the Rhinemaidens. Hagen asks him to tell his life story, and gives him a potion to restore his memory. The memories of Brünnhilde’s love come flooding back. Gunther and the huntsmen are appalled, and Hagen takes advantage of the general distraction to stab Siegfried in the back. Brünnhilde, now made aware of the facts, takes control, and has a pyre built for Siegfried’s cremation. She takes the ring and rides into the blaze. Valhalla and the gods are destroyed in the conflagration. The Rhine then floods and the Rhinemaidens recover the ring and drown Hagen. Brünnhilde’s self-sacrifice has redeemed the curse.

The Cast

Alberich
 a Nibelung
Brünnhilde
 Siegfried's lover
First Norn
 
Flosshilde
 a Rhinemaiden
Gunther
 a Gibichung
Gutrune
 a Gibichung, Gunther's sister
Hagen
 son of Alberich
Second Norn
 
Siegfried
 
Third Norn
 
Waltraute
 a Valkyrie, Brünnhilde's sister
Wellgunde
 a Rhinemaiden
Woglinde
 a Rhinemaiden

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