The Nibelungen Ring

A Festival-Play in three days and a fore-evening by RICHARD WAGNER.


The grand dramatic work, which cannot any longer with justice be called

an opera, differing as it does so considerably from the ordinary style

of these, is the result of many years of study and hard work.

Wagner took the subject from the German mythology, the oldest

representative of which is found in the Edda.

We have first to do with the fore-evening, called the "Rhinegold."

The first scene is laid in the very depths of the Rhine, where we see

three nymphs, frolicking in the water. They are the guardians of the

Rhinegold which glimmers on a rock.

Alberich, a Nibelung, highly charmed by their grace and beauty, tries

to make love to each one of them alternately. As he is an ugly dwarf,

they at first allure and then deride him, gliding away as soon as he

comes near and laughing at him.--Discovering their mockery at last, he

swears vengeance. He sees the Rhinegold shining brightly, and asks the

nymphs what it means. They tell him of its wonderful qualities, which

would render the owner all-powerful, if he should form it into a ring

and forswear love.

Alberich, listening attentively, all at once climbs the rock, and

before the frightened nymphs can cry for help, has grasped the treasure

and disappeared. Darkness comes on; the scene changes into an open

district on mountain-heights. In the back-ground we see a grand

castle, which the rising sun illumines. Wotan, the father of the gods,

and Fricka, his wife, are slumbering on the ground. Awakening, their

eyes fall on the castle for the first time. It is the "Walhalla", the

palace, which the giants have built for them at Wotan's bidding. As a

reward for their services they are to obtain Freia, the goddess of

youth; but already Wotan repents of his promise and forms plans with

his wife, to save her lovely sister. The giants Fafner and Fasold

enter to claim their reward. While they negociate, Loge, the god of

fire, comes up, relates the history of Alberich's theft of the

Rhinegold and tells Wotan of the gold's power. Wotan decides to rob

the dwarf, promising the treasure to the giants, who consent to accept

it in Freia's stead. But they distrust the gods and take Freia with

them as a pledge. As soon as she disappears, the beautiful gods seem

old and grey and wrinkled, for the golden apples to which Freia attends

and of which the gods partake daily to be forever youthful, wither as

soon as she is gone. Then Wotan without any further delay starts for

Nibelheim with Loge, justifying his intention by saying that the gold

is stolen property. They disappear in a cleft and we find ourselves in

a subterranean cavern, the abode of the Nibelungs.

Alberich has forced his brother Mime to forge a "Tarnhelm" for him,

which renders its wearer invisible. Mime vainly tries to keep it for

himself; Alberich, the possessor of the all-powerful ring, which he

himself formed, takes it by force and making himself invisible, strikes

Mime with a whip, until the latter is half dead. Wotan and Loge,

hearing his complaints, promise to help him. Alberich, coming forth

again, is greatly flattered by Wotan and dexterously led on to show his

might. He first changes himself into an enormous snake and then into a

toad. Wotan quickly puts his foot on it, while Loge seizes the

Tarnhelm. Alberich becoming suddenly visible in his real shape, is

bound and led away captive. The gods return to the mountain-heights of

the second scene, where Alberich is compelled to part with all his

treasures, which are brought by the dwarfs. He is even obliged to

leave the ring, which Wotan intends to keep for himself. With a

dreadful curse upon the possessor of the ring Alberich flies.

When the giants reappear with Freia, the treasures are heaped before

her; they are to cover her entirely, so it is decided, and not before,

will she be free. When all the gold has been piled up, and even the

Tarnhelm thrown on the hoard, Fasold still sees Freia's eye shine

through it and at last Wotan, who is most unwilling to part with the

ring, is induced to do so by Erda, goddess of the earth, who appears to

him and warns him. Now the pledge is kept and Freia is released. The

giants quarrel over the possession of the ring and Fafner kills

Fasold, thereby fulfilling Alberich's curse. With lightened hearts the

gods cross the rainbow-bridge and enter Walhalla, while the songs and

wailings of the Rhine-nymphs are heard, imploring the restitution of

their lost treasure.

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