We reach the twilight of the gods, as Erica Challis takes us through fourth and final of the Wagner's 'Ring Cycle' operas.
Götterdämmerung opens with a prologue recalling the events shown in the previous operas. We are filled in on the state of affairs by a trio of nature spirits, the Norns, as they sit weaving their thread of fate and prophecy.
Wotan, king of the gods, has been a central character in the preceding operas and he is attempting to keep the powerful magic Ring out of the hands of the evil dwarf Alberich, who would use it to enslave the world. Wotan wants a world where power is bound by laws. Alberich opposes this.
However Wotan has broken his own contracts in the course of seizing and then losing the Ring. He needs to retrieve it without becoming directly involved. So he creates a race of heroes to regain the Ring for him: first Siegmund, who was cast aside for being merely an agent of Wotan’s will and then Siegmund’s son Siegfried, an unplanned development.
Wotan believes Siegfried may become the hero who will win back the Ring out of his own free will, unassisted by Wotan. He hopes Siegfried may found a noble race who will rule the world with justice.
Siegfried certainly has a worthy consort with whom to begin that race of heroes. He rescued Wotan’s daughter, the former Valkyrie Brunnhilde, from her enchanted sleep within a ring of magic fire.
But problems still abound. The goddess Erda has warned Wotan that the Ring must be returned to the Rhine-maidens. Siegfried, who won the Ring from the dragon Fafner, has no understanding of its power, and no intention of giving it to the Rhine-maidens. Instead he has given it to Brunnhilde as a love-token.
WAGNER: Das Rheingold - Decca 455 556
With George London, Kirsten Flagstad, other soloists, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
WAGNER: Die Walküre - Decca 455 559
With James King, Régine Crespin, Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson, other soloists, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
WAGNER: Siegfried - DG 429 407
With Reiner Goldberg, James Morris, Hildegard Behrens, other soloists, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/James Levine
WAGNER: Götterdämmerung - Opus Arte OA CD9004 D
With Stephen Gould, Linda Watson, Ralf Lukas, Edith Haller, other soloists, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus /Christian Thielemann