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Götterdämmerung

Richard Wagner

Synopsis

Prologue

On the Valkyries’ rock.

As they wind the skein of the universe, the three Norns re-live the event that followed the theft of the Rhinegold. But the skein snaps and the end of the gods is at hand. Siegfried the hero has given the Nibelung ring to his beloved Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie daughter of the god Wotan. But a curse was cast upon the ring by Alberich, endowing it with the power to rule the world. The two lovers, however, are unaware of this, and Siegfried sets out on new adventures.

Act I

The Gibichungs’ hall on the banks of the Rhine.

Hagen, the illegitimate son of Alberich and of queen Grimhilde, is anxious to gain possession of the ring that belonged to his father and is now in the hands of Siegfried. He therefore exhorts Gunther, his half-brother and lord of the Gibichungs, to win the heart of the beautiful Brünnhilde.At the same time he invites Gutrune, his half-sister, to marry the invincible Siegfried.When the wedding is celebrated, he will thus easily be able to recapture the Nibelung ring. To carry out his scheme, Hagen – who knows how much the hero loves the Valkyrie – advises Gutrune to offer Siegfried a potion that will cause him to fall in love and erase all memory of the past. And sure enough, Siegfried falls in lave with Gutrune, asks for her hand in marriage and offers to help Gunther win the affections of Brünnhilde. He suggests he put on the Nibelungs’ magic helmet, assume the guise of Gunther and abduct on his behalf the Valkyrie from her fire-encircled abode. Siegfried and Gunther seal a pact of fraternal alliance.

A rocky height.

The Valkyrie Waltraute entreats her sister Brünnhilde to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens, as the only possible way of eliminating the curse that hangs over the gods and the world. But Brünnhilde chases her off and refuses to relinquish her lover’s pledge.After using the magic helmet to assume the likeness of Gunther, Siegfried orders the Valkyrie to follow him. Brünnhilde tries to resist, but the hero throws her to the ground and pulls the ring off her finger. Being obliged to spend the night with her, Siegfried places his sword between himself and the woman, in token of loyalty to Gunther.

Act II

The river banks in front of the Gibichungs’ hall.

While waiting far Siegfried to return, Hagen listens to his father Alberich, who urges him to procure the ring without further delay. Having delivered Brünnhilde to Gunther, Siegfried meets his beloved Gutrune. In the meantime, Hagen summons his vassals to attend the double marriage: that of their lord, Gunther, to Brünnhilde, and that of Gutrune to Siegfried. But when the Walkyrie – who believes her heart has been won by Gunther – sees on Siegfried’s finger the ring snatched from her, she has no hesitation in publicly declaring herself to be the hero’s bride. Having no memory of the past, Siegfried swears to Gunther that he has always been a loyal friend. But Brünnhilde accuses her beloved of betrayal. When they all go off, Hagen incites Gunther and the Valkyrie to avenge themselves by slaying Siegfried.

Act III

A wooded and rocky valley next to the Rhine.

In vain the Rhine-maidens implore Siegfried to give back their ring. Preceded by their vassals, Gunther and Hagen enter.After offering Siegfried a potion to restore his memory, Hagen invites him to narrate his heroic exploits. Before the dismayed Gunther, his friend tells the story of his life and of his love for Brünnhilde. On the pretext of revenging the betrayal inflicted on Gunther, Hagen slays Siegfried. Mournfully the vassals lift the hero’s corpse and bear it away in solemn procession.

The Gibichung’s hall.

Gutrune has been waiting for her beloved, but can now only watch the struggle that breaks out next to his dead body. Hagen kills Gunther and approaches Siegfried’s corpse to seize the ring. But the dead hero’s hand rises ominously. Aware by now of Hagen’s deception, Brünnhilde removes the ring from the hand of her dead lover and orders that his corpse be placed on a pyre. Whereupon she flings herself into the flames. To get possession of the ring, Hagen in his turn does not hesitate to leap into the waters of the Rhine, which in the meantime has burst its banks and washed over the funeral pyre. But the Rhine-maidens drag Hagen to the bottom of the river. The ring is now once again in their hands. The flames of the pyre rise into the sky to envelop even the Walhalla.
 

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