Die Walküre

Richard Wagner

First day of »Der Ring des Nibelungen« Libretto by the composer

Premiere 11. November 2001

Performed in German with German and English surtitles


The second part of Richard Wagner’s »Ring of the Nibelung« cycle, »Die Walküre« takes us from the world of the gods into the world of men. Wotan, the ruler of the gods, has fathered the Völsung twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, in order that these heroes can win back the ring and secure his dominion over the Nibelung dwarf Alberich. But, having fallen in love with his sister, Siegmund frees Sieglinde from her forced marriage to Hunding and wins Wotan’s sword Nothung. Under the stern influence of his wife Fricka, the goddess of familial virtue, Wotan agrees to relinquish his protégé Siegmund. The Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favourite daughter, is so touched by the human love of the siblings that, ignoring divine instruction, she helps Siegmund and saves the pregnant Sieglinde. As punishment, Wotan imprisons Brünnhilde, asleep, within a circle of fire. In »Die Walküre«, Willy Decker continues his interpretation of the Ring cycle as (world) theatre within a theatre. 


Act I
Wotan is pursuing a great project for the world. He wants to create a new man who, free from any ties to the law and custom, can restore the world order that started to totter after the theft of the Rhine gold. For this plan, he begets the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde with a human woman. The twins grow up separately from one another. Wotan makes Siegmund go through the world as a nameless man. Pursued by enemies, he finds refuge in Hunding’s house. There, without knowing her, he meets Sieglinde, who has been forced to marry Hunding. She offers him refreshment. Hunding also grants him the right to hospitality for one night, but finds out that he is housing the enemy who is being vengefully pursued by his kin. He challenges Siegmund to a duel for the next morning. The stranger remembers that his father promised him a sword for the direst emergency. Sieglinde shows him the weapon that an unknown man plunged into the trunk of the ash tree on her wedding day. So far, no one has been able to pull the sword out of the trunk. The stranger pulls the sword Nothung out and reveals himself as Siegmund. Sieglinde recognises him as her brother. The twins become lovers.

Act II
Wotan instructs his favourite daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, to protect Siegmund when he fights Hunding. But Fricka, his wife and the guardian of marriage, shows him the impossibility of basing his project for the future on adultery and incest. She demands that Siegmund dies. Wotan’s plans collapse. He revokes his instruction to Brünnhilde and wants just one thing: the end of his world order. Brünnhilde tells Siegmund that he is going to die and promises him the glory of Valhalla. However, Siegmund renounces the honour of a hero out of love for Sieglinde. Deeply touched by this love, Brünnhilde defies the command of her father and fights at Siegmund’s side. Wotan has to destroy the sword Nothung himself and kill his beloved son. Hunding also dies at his hand. Brünnhilde rescues Sieglinde and the unborn child that the sister conceived from her brother.

The Valkyries, Wotan’s daughters, collect the heroes from the battlefields to take them to Valhalla. Brünnhilde flees to them to escape Wotan’s rage. She wants her sisters to help her to save Sieglinde. However, the Valkyries shy away from this. Brünnhilde prophesies to Sieglinde that she will bear Siegmund’s son, the hero Siegfried. She hands the broken sword Nothung over to her and urges her to flee. She intends to face Wotan alone. He punishes his disobedient daughter severely: Brünnhilde is cast out of Valhalla and banished to a rock. Deprived of her divinity, she will have to belong to the man who wakes her from her sleep. As he bids Brünnhilde farewell, Wotan also renounces his intention for future action. He surrounds the rock with a sea of flame that only a fearless hero can cross. In this way, he nourishes the hope of a free hero who, united with Brünnhilde, can succeed where the god has failed.