Das Rheingold Events
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Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold) is the first opera of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), popularly known as the Ring Cycle. It is a prelude to the action of the subsequent operas: Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods). Interestingly, though its events occur before those of the other works, Wagner conceived of it last, feeling the need to give "historical" context to the series. It tells the story of the forging of the powerful and dangerous ring and its changing of hands from the dwarf Alberich to the god Wotan to the giant Fafner. Order Das Rheingold tickets right away to experience this epic tale!
Wagner's Ring Cycle is famous for its thick, rich musical textures, which grow more and more complex over time. Each opera in the Ring Cycle is through-composed; that is, each act is a continuous piece of music with no interruptions for spoken dialogue or recitative. Wagner strove to create unity in each opera and across the series. Accordingly, Das Rheingold introduces many musical themes that reoccur in the subsequent installments of the cycle, including those related to certain characters, objects, and feelings. Das Rheingold premiered in Munich on September 22, 1869, and was performed in conjunction with the entire cycle for the first time on August 13, 1876. It, along with the other segments of the cycle, remains a staple of the operatic repertoire.
Act I: In the depths of the Rhine River, the three Rhinemaidens, Wellgunde, Woglinde, and Flosshilde, are playing when Alberich, a dwarf of the Nibelung clan, emerges from a deep chasm and attempts to seduce them. Appalled at Alberich's hideous appearance, the maidens laugh and mock him until he becomes infuriated. When the sun starts to rise, the maidens remark on the beauty of the golden brilliance at the top of a rock outcropping, which piques Alberich's curiosity. They explain to him that the source of the shine is the Rhine gold, a substance that they are charged with protecting because of its great value; it can be forged into a magic ring that would give its wielder control of the world, once that person has renounced love. Alberich, still insulted and enraged by their ridicule, takes the gold and steals away back through the chasm to his underworld home, leaving the maidens shouting in despair.
Act II: On a high mountaintop, Wotan and Fricka, king and queen of the gods, awake to see that construction of their new castle has been completed by the giants Fasolt and Fafner. In return, the giants have demanded Freia, Fricka's sister and the goddess of youth, beauty, and feminine love. Fricka is worried about her sister, by Wotan assures her that his resourceful servant, Loge, will be able to find something else the giants will accept as payment instead. When Fasolt and Fafner arrive seeking payment, Fricka's other siblings, Donner, god of thunder, and Froh, god of spring, try to protect Freia, but Wotan stops them from trying the break the contract. Loge enters bringing bad news: he has found that men will not accept anything in the place of feminine love. He has found only one instance where someone sacrificed love; Alberich the dwarf, he says, renounced love for the Rhine gold, and has forged an all-powerful ring from it. Fafner announces that they will accept the ring and the gold of the Nibelungs in exchange for Freia, who they take away as a hostage until their payment is delivered. Once gone, the gods remember that Freia's golden apples had been keeping them all young, and without her, they begin to wither and weaken. Wotan follows Loge down to the earth in pursuit of the ring and the gold.
Act III: In Nibelheim, the realm of the dwarves, Alberich has enslaved the rest of his people and has become drunk with power. He has made his brother, the skilled smith Mime, forge the magical Tarnhelm, which allows him to become invisible, change form, and teleport. When Wotan and Loge arrive, Mime cries to them of the torment of the dwarves under Alberich's rule. Alberich arrives shortly thereafter, driving a band of slaves to amass a huge pile of gold. He boasts to his visitors about his plans for world domination and exercises his power by transforming into a huge serpent. Loge falsely doubts his power and tricks him into turning into a small toad. When he does, the gods apprehend him and bring him back to the mountaintop with them.
Act IV: Once on the mountain, Wotan forces Alberich to trade his riches for his release. They untie his right hand, and he uses his ring to summon his slaves to deliver the gold. He requests to keep the Tarnhelm but Loge seizes it. Despite his struggles, Wotan seizes the ring from Alberich's finger and puts it on his own. Embittered, Alberich curses the ring, declaring that until it returns to him, everyone will desperately seek its power, and its holder will be crushed with pressure and anxiety until he is killed and robbed of it by its next holder. The gods convene and invite Fasolt and Fafner to claim their payment. Wotan hands over the gold, and reluctantly gives up the Tarnhelm. When they demand the ring, Wotan exclaims that it truly belongs to the Rhinemaidens and angrily declares that he will keep it. The giants begin to leave with Freia when Erda, the ancient earth goddess, appears and warns Wotan of looming danger if he does not give up the ring. He finally calls back the giants and gives them the ring and they release Freia. As they begin dividing their treasure, they argue over the ring until Fafner kills Fasolt for it. Wotan now sees the insidious power that the ring holds. As the gods prepare to enter their new home, Wotan explains that his choice for its name, Valhalla, will become clear in time. Loge, who senses the end of the gods, does not follow; he explains that he is tempted to obliterate the gods and all that they have acquired through their tricks and deceit. On Earth, the Rhinemaidens lament the loss of their gold and declare that the gods' majesty is but a sham.
|Music and Libretto by||Richard Wagner|
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