Opera Scotland

Walküre Die Walküre; The Valkyrie

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 1854-6).

 

Premières
First performance: Munich (Court Theatre), 26 June 1870.
First UK performance: London (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket), 6 May 1882.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 12 November 1896.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King’s Theatre), 13 May 1966.

 

Background
The Ring of the Nibelungs is a cycle of four dramas, described as taking place over three days with a preliminary evening. Die Walküre is the second drama, i.e. the first of the three days.

 

Characters
Siegmund (tenor)
Sieglinde, his sister, wife of Hunding (soprano)
Hunding (bass)
Wotan, leader of the gods (bass-baritone)
Fricka, his wife (mezzo-soprano)
Nine Valkyries, Wotan’s daughters by Erda:
Brünnhilde (soprano)
Gerhilde, Ortlinde, Helmwige (sopranos)
Waltraute, Schwertleite, Siegrune, Rossweisse, Grimgerde (mezzo-sopranos)

 

Plot Summary
The first act occurs in the forest home of Hunding and his wife Sieglinde. The hut is built round a huge ash tree. Siegmund, who believes he was orphaned as a child, and only knows his name to be Wälse (Woeful), rushes in to the deserted hut. He is fleeing from men he has been fighting. He and Sieglinde feel attracted to one another, but when Hunding arrives it is evident he is one of the men pursuing Siegmund. Rules of hospitality grant Siegmund shelter, but the pursuit will resume in the morning. Sieglinde drugs her husband, and she and Siegmund discover childhood memories in common – they are brother and sister. Sieglinde shows her brother a sword embedded in the tree, which Siegmund then draws. They run off into the forest.

Wotan argues with his wife Fricka. She, as goddess of marriage, is contemptuous of her husband’s persistent philandering. She reserves particular hatred for Brünnhilde, but the immediate object of her wrath is the incestuous relationship between Siegmund and Sieglinde, children of Wotan by a mortal woman. She demands that Hunding be permitted to kill Siegmund. Wotan eventually gives in. Brünnhilde tells Siegmund of his impending demise and is moved by his acceptance of the situation. She resolves to disobey Wotan and protect him, but Wotan intervenes in the fight, the sword is shattered and Siegmund killed, though the god immediately eliminates Hunding as well. Brünnhilde guides Sieglinde away from the site of this disaster.

The Valkyries assemble and Brünnhilde asks her sisters to help Sieglinde, who is pregnant. But when a furious Wotan arrives they abandon her. She sends Sieglinde away, telling her that she will have a son called Siegfried. Wotan condemns Brünnhilde to sleep on a rock until a man wakes her. She persuades him to make that man a fearless hero, and Wotan leaves her sleeping, surrounded by a ring of fire.

The Cast

Brünnhilde
 a Valkyrie
Fricka
 Wotan's estranged wife
Gerhilde
 a Valkyrie
Grimgerde
 a Valkyrie
Helmwige
 a Valkyrie
Hunding
 husband of Sieglinde
Ortlinde
 a Valkyrie
Rossweisse
 a Valkyrie
Schwertleite
 a Valkyrie
Sieglinde
 a Volsung, sister of Siegmund
Siegmund
 a Volsung
Siegrune
 a Valkyrie
Waltraute
 a Valkyrie
Wotan
 father of the Valkyries and Volsungs

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