“I have been caught in my own trap. I am the least free of all men!”
Wotan’s desperate outcry shows the change in his position since “Das Rheingold”: powerless instead of powerful, gridlocked instead of free, a slave to his own treaties. His unlawful seizure of the great world-dominating ring has only given more power to Alberich and effectively crippled the ruler of the gods. All hopes of world domination now rests on the shoulders of a free-spirited joker-turned-hero, someone quite unaffected by the powerful grip of the gods. In turn, Siegmund and Sieglinde’s free love is to reawaken a counterforce which will revive and invigorate the threatened world. But Fricka, Wotan’s wife and the guardian of wedlock, exposes Wotan’s self-deception: as Wotan’s flesh and blood, Siegmund must be sacrificed to serve his proper purpose in the struggle for power. Forced to act against his own interests, Wotan sends his Valkyries to destroy Siegmund. Brünnhilde rebels against her father’s wrongdoings; her insubordination brings a crucial turnaround. The punishment which Wotan unleashes on his daughter is dreadful, yet it sows the seeds for the salvation of his goal and – eventually – his own downfall. Brünnhilde’s punishment becomes an act of emancipation: the stripping of her Valkyrie status to become a mortal woman, held in a magic sleep on the mountain, encircled by a protective ring of fire – these elements set the scene for the long-awaited arrival of a true free-born hero, who is now to save the world. His name is Siegfried.
First performance: 1869 in Munich
First performance: 1870 in Munich
First performance: 1876 in Munich
First performance: 1876 in Bayreuth
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
Libretto: by the composer
The 2017 International May Festival offers two complete cycles of Wagner’s “Ring”, each spread over the course of six days. On the “rest days” during the first cycle, we offer the Wagner Gala Concert
, a lecture matinee and a reading from Thomas Mann’s “Wälsungenblut
”, while the second cycle offers the operas “Le nozze di Figaro
” and “Die Zauberflöte
“The incomparable thing about myth,” wrote Wagner in 1851, “is that it is true for all time.” His “Ring” is a drama about the genesis and demise of a mythical world which is, despite everything, more current than ever before. With human co-existence at its core, Wagner’s mammoth four-part work is filled with symbols such as ring, speer, gold, helmet and sword, as well as countless musically and textually interwoven elements. Figures, ideas, thoughts, feelings and naturalistic references blend with words and music to form images in which endless associative properties are hidden and expressed. In the end, what ultimately remains after all the violence and death, is hope for a new beginning – an unredeemed wish not only for the 19th, but also for the 20th and 21st centuries.