First day of the Nibelungen Ring by WAGNER.
In the first scene we are introduced into the dwelling of a mighty
warrior, Hunding, in whose house Siegmund, a son of Wotan and of a
mortal woman, has sought refuge, without knowing that it is the abode
of an enemy. Sieglinda, Hunding's wife, who, standing alone and
abandoned in the world, was forced into this union against her will,
attracts the guest's interest and wins his love.
When Hunding comes home from the fight, he learns to his disgust, that
his guest is the same warrior, who killed his kinsmen and whom they
vainly pursued. The laws of hospitality forbid him to attack Siegmund
under his own roof, but he warns him that he shall only await the
morrow to fight him.
Sieglinda, having fallen in love with her guest mixes a powder with her
husband's potion, which sends him into profound sleep. Then she
returns to Siegmund, to whom she shows the hilt of the sword, thrust
deep into the mighty ash-tree's stem, which fills the middle space of
the hut. It has been put there by an unknown one-eyed wanderer,
(Wotan, who once sacrificed one of his eyes to Erda, wishing to gain
more knowledge for the sake of mankind). No hero has succeeded
until now in loosening the wondrous steel. Siegmund reveals to
Sieglinda, that he is a son of the "Waelsung" and they recognize that
they are twin brother and sister. Then Sieglinda knows that the sword
is destined for Siegmund by his father, and Siegmund, with one mighty
effort draws it out of the ash-tree. Sieglinda elopes with him and the
early morning finds them in a rocky pass, evading Hunding's wrath.
In the second scene we see Wotan, giving directions to the Walkyrie
Bruennhilde, who is to shield Siegmund in his battle with Hunding.
Bruennhilde is Wotan's and Erda's child and her father's favorite. But
Fricka comes up, remonstrating violently against this breach of all
moral and matrimonial laws; she is the protector of marriages and most
jealous of her somewhat fickle husband, and she forces Wotan to
withdraw his protection from Siegmund and to remove the power of
Wotan recalls Bruennhilde, changing his orders with heavy heart and
sending her forth to tell Siegmund his doom. She obeys, but Siegmund
scorns all her fine promises of Walhalla. Though he is to find his
father there, and everything besides that he could wish, he prefers
foregoing all this happiness, when he hears that Sieglinda, who has
been rendered inanimate by grief and terror, cannot follow him, but
must go down to "Hel" after her death, where the shadows lead a sad and
gloomy existence.--He wins Bruennhilde by his love and noble
courage, and she for the first time resolves to disobey Wotan's orders
given so unwillingly, and to help Siegmund against his foe.
Now ensues the combat with Hunding, Bruennhilde standing on Siegmund's
side. But Wotan interferes, breaking Siegmund's sword; he falls, and
Wotan kills Hunding too by one wrathful glance.
Then he turns his anger against the Walkyrie, who dared to disobey his
commands and Bruennhilde flies before him, taking Sieglinda on her swift
horse Grane, which bears both through the clouds.
In the third scene we find the Walkyries, arriving through the clouds
on horseback one after the other. Every-one has a hero lying before
her in the saddle. It is their office to carry these into Walhalla,
while the faint-hearted, or those of mankind, not happy enough to fall
in battle, are doomed to go to "Hel" after their death.
There are eight Walkyries without Bruennhilde, who comes last with
Sieglinda in her saddle, instead of a hero. She implores her sisters
to assist her and the unhappy woman. But they refuse, fearing Wotan's
wrath. Then she resolves to save Sieglinda and to brave the results of
her rash deed alone. She first summons back to the despairing woman
courage and desire to live, by telling her, that she bears the token of
Siegmund's love; then sends her eastward to the great forest with
Grane, where Fafner the giant, changed into a dragon, guards the
Rhinegold and the ill-fated ring, a spot which Wotan avoids.
She gives to Sieglinda the broken pieces of Siegmund's sword, telling
her to keep them for her son, whom she is to call Siegfried and who
will be the greatest hero in the world.
Wotan arrives in thunder and lightning. Great is his wrath, and in
spite of the intercession of the other Walkyries, he deprives
Bruennhilde of her immortality changing her into a common mortal. He
dooms her to a long magic sleep, out of which any man, who happens to
pass that way may awaken her and claim her as his property.
Bruennhilde's entreaties, her beauty and noble bearing at last prevail
upon him, so that he encircles her with a fiery wall, through which
none but a hero may penetrate.
After a touching farewell the God, leading her to a rocky bed, closes
her eyes with a kiss, and covers her with shield, spear and helmet.
Then he calls up Loge, who at once surrounds the rock on which
Bruennhilde sleeps, with glowing flames.
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