The Dusk Of The Gods
Third day of the Nibelungen Ring by WAGNER.
This is the end of the great and beautiful tragedy and really it may be
called both a sublime and grand conclusion, which unites once again all
the dramatic and musical elements of the whole and presents to us a
picture the more interesting and touching, as it is now purely human.
The Gods who, though filled with passions and faults like mortals,
never can be for us living persons, fall into the background, and human
beings, full of high aspirations, take their places. The long and
terrible conflict between the power of gold and that of love is at last
fought out and love conquers.
In the Dusk of the Gods we see again the curse, which lies on gold, and
the sacred benediction of true love. Can there be anything more noble,
more touching, than Bruennhilde's mourning for Siegfried and the grand
sacrifice of herself in expiation of her error?
The third day opens with a prelude, in which we see three Norns,
weaving world's fate. When the cord breaks, they fly; the dawn of
another world is upon them.
In the first act Siegfried bids Bruennhilde fare well. His active soul
thirsts for deeds, and Bruennhilde having taught him all she knows does
not detain him. He gives her the fatal ring in token of remembrance,
confiding her to the care of Loge. Then we are transported to the
Gibichung's hall on the Rhine. Gunther and his sister Gutrune sit
there, together with their gloomy half-brother Hagen. The latter
advises his brother to marry, telling him of the beautiful woman,
guarded by the flames. When he has sufficiently excited Gunther's
longing, he suggests that, as Siegfried is the only one able to gain
Bruennhilde, Gunther should attach him to his person by giving him
Gutrune as wife. This is to be achieved by a draught, which has the
power of causing oblivion. Whoever drinks it forgets that ever a woman
has existed beside the one, who has tended the potion. Hagen well
knows of Siegfried's union with Bruennhilde, but Gunther and Gutrune are
both ignorant of it.
Siegfried arrives and is heartily welcomed. All turns out as Hagen has
foretold. By the fatal potion Siegfried falls passionately in love
with Gutrune, so that he completely forgets Bruennhilde. He swears
blood-brothership to Gunther, and promises to win Bruennhilde for him.
Then the two depart on their errand.
Meanwhile the Walkyrie Waltraute comes to Bruennhilde and beseeches her
to render Siegfried's ring to the Rhine-daughters, in order to save the
Gods from destruction. Bruennhilde refuses to part with the token
of her husband's love, and hardly has Waltraute departed, than fate
overtakes her in the person of Siegfried, who ventures through the
flames in Gunther's shape. She vainly struggles against him, he
snatches the ring from her, and so she is conquered. Siegfried holds
vigil through the night, his sword separating him and the woman he
wooed, and in the early dawn he leads her away to her bridegroom, who
takes Siegfried's place unawares.
In the second act Alberich appears to Hagen. He tells his son of the
story of the ring and bids him kill Siegfried and recover the stolen
treasure for its owner.--Siegfried appears, announcing Gunther's and
Bruennhilde's arrival. The bridal pair is received by all their men,
but the joy is soon damped by Bruennhilde recognizing in the bridegroom
of Gutrune her own husband. Siegfried does not know her, but she
discovers her ring on his hand, and asserting that Gunther won it from
her, this hero is obliged to acknowledge the shameful role he
played.--Though Siegfried swears that his sword Nothung guarded him
from any contact with Gunther's bride, Bruennhilde responds in a most
startling manner, and both swear on Hagen's spear that it may pierce
them, should their words prove false. All this makes a dreadful
impression on the weak mind of Gunther.
When Siegfried has withdrawn in high spirits with his bride Gutrune,
Hagen hoping to gain the ring offers to avenge Bruennhilde on the
faithless Siegfried. Bruennhilde in her deadly wrath betrays to
him the only vulnerable spot beneath Siegfried's shoulder. Gunther
consents reluctantly to their schemes.
The third act opens with a scene on the Rhine. The Rhine-daughters try
to persuade Siegfried to render them the ring. He is about to throw it
into the water, when they warn him of the evil which will befall him,
should he refuse their request. This awakens his pride, and laughing
he turns from them, he, the fearless hero. His fellow-hunters overtake
him, and while he relates to them the story of his life, Hagen mixes a
herb with his wine, which enables him to remember all he has forgotten.
Hagen then treacherously drives his spear into Siegfried's back,
killing him. He dies with Bruennhilde's praise on his lips. The
funeral-march which here follows is one of the most beautiful ever
written. When the dead hero is brought to the Giebichung's hall,
Gutrune bewails him loudly. A dispute arises between Hagen and Gunther
about the ring, which ends by Hagen slaying Gunther. But lo, when
Hagen tries to strip the ring off the dead hand, the fingers close
themselves, and the hand raises itself, bearing testimony against the
murderer. Bruennhilde appears, to mourn for the dead; she drives away
Gutrune, who sees too late that under the influence of the fatal
draught, Siegfried forgot his lawful wife, whom she now recognizes in
Bruennhilde. The latter, taking a long farewell of her dead husband,
orders a funeral pile to be erected. As soon as Siegfried's body
is placed on it, she lights it with a firebrand, and when it is in full
blaze, she mounts her faithful steed, leaping with it into the flames.
When the fire sinks, the Rhine-daughters are seen to snatch the ring,
which is now purified from its curse by Bruennhilde's death.
Hagen, trying to wrench it from them, is drawn into the waves and so
A dusky light, like that of a new dawn spreads over heaven, and through
a mist, Walhalla, with all the Gods sleeping peacefully, may be
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