Second day of

Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876)

Text and music by

Richard Wagner

Siegfried, the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, is young and dynamic an. Raised by the devious Nibelung dwarf, Mime, he does not know his parents. All that remains of his father are fragments of a sword. Siegfried forges its steel into a new, powerful weapon with which he slays the dragon Fafner. Fafner had been guarding the ring that Siegfried now takes for himself. And he wins over Brünnhilde, whom he awakens from sleep.

In the third part of his »Ring« tetralogy, Wagner incorporates fairy-tale motifs into his epic mythological story. The well-known tale of »The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn Fear« is echoed in »Siegfried« as well as episodes from the medieval »Nibelungenlied«. Natural imagery such as the famous »Waldweben« testify to Wagner’s special skill at painting pictures with music; fire and thunderstorms, smelting, forging and other activities, are vividly evoked. The gods appear one last time: Wotan, once so powerful, has disguised himself as a wanderer and hardly intervenes in the action anymore. Omniscient Erda, who hauntingly prophesied the demise of the gods in »Rheingold«, no longer knows anything about the course of world events. The future seems to belong to Siegfried and Brünnhilde, whose joy knows no bounds. And yet a tragic finale seems inevitable.




Many years after the events described in “The Valkyrie”

Siegfried, the son of Sieglinde und Siegmund, was raised by Mime.

Mime calls him his son, but Siegfried doesn’t believe him and is annoyed with himself that he always returns to his constantly nagging guardian. Siegfried is furious that Mime remains silent about the secret of his birth. Finally, Mime is forced to tell him: one day he found an exhausted woman named Sieglinde and brought her to his home, where she gave birth to a son and died soon thereafter. Before dying, the mother named the child and left him his inheritance: his father’s broken sword, Nothung. Before Siegfried leaves, he demands that Mime repair Nothung for him. But Mime knows he is unable to fulfill this task.

Wotan appears to Mime, calling himself the Wanderer. He asks for shelter, but Mime refuses, startled. The Wanderer suggests that Mime pose him three riddles, as a wager he offers his own head. Mime agrees. But the guest answers the three questions with ease, so now it the Wanderer’s turn to ask the questions, and the wager is Mime’s head. Mime answers the first two questions but does not know the answer to the third. Who will forge Nothung anew? The Wanderer supplies the answer himself: the sword will be repaired by the one who knows no fear, and he will receive the wager of this dare, Mime’s head. With these words, the Wanderer disappears, and Mime is left behind, terror-struck.

When Siegfried returns, Mime explains to him that his mother asked him before dying to not let her son out into the world before he has learned to fear. Siegfried consents to learn more about this feeling, but Mime’s stories of the dragon into which Fafner transformed himself leave no impression upon him. Siegfried demands of his guardian the result of the task he has assigned him, the repaired sword Nothung. When he realizes that nothing can be expected of Mime, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Alberich still dreams of power over the world and his revenge against Wotan. He is sure that the Ring and Tarnhelm are in Fafner’s possession, and stalks him secretly to once again get hold of the treasure.

He discovers the elderly Wotan and accuses him once again of stealing his ring. Wotan denies this, and explains that he doesn’t need an accursed ring, but that Alberich should watch out for Mime.

Mime poses a test to Siegfried, asking him to kill the dragon Fafner. Courageously and cleverly, he masters the task and kills the dragon. Before dying, Fafner warns the victor: the one who has led him to commit this deed wants to kill Siegfried himself.

A forest bird tells Siegfried that the dragon has kept the ring and helmet that will play an important role in Siegfried’s fate. Siegfried decides to take both with him. He also learns from the forest bird that Mime plans to kill him.

On the way back, he meets Mime, who offers him something to drink. Siegfried, startled, kills Mime.

The forest bird tells Siegfried of the beautiful Brünnhilde, who is sleeping an enchanted sleep and waits for a fearless hero to wake her. The forest bird shows Siegfried the way to her.

Wotan wants to meet Erda to once again learn what the future holds and to ask her how the wheel can be kept from turning, for he doesn’t know how to go on. But Erda answers, she can no longer help him, her wisdom has been handed down to their joint daughter Brünnhilde, to whom Wotan has severed all ties. Erda accuses Wotan, saying that his rash deeds have led to the threatening situation. Wotan admits that he no longer fears for his life and his power, for soon a new hero will appear, Siegfried. Wotan’s hope rests on Siegfried and Sieglinde, who will soon find one another.

Wotan encounters Siegfried on his way to Brünnhilde and poses him questions. Siegfried is angry about the delay and the inappropriate curiosity of the stranger, so he insolently mocks Wotan, making him furious. An argument results, Wotan refuses to let Siegfried to Brünnhilde, and blocks his way with his sword. To hold back the determined Siegfried, he claims that Nothung, the sword of Siegfried’s father, once broke under this sword. Siegfried destroys the shaft of Wotan’s sword. Wotan backs down.

Siegfried reaches the sleeping Brünnhilde. He wakes her with a kiss ...

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