Major Operas | First Day: Die Walküre by Richard Wagner | High Romantic

Act I

A storm rages. Siegmund enters a forest cottage and collapses. Sieglinde offers him refreshment. She persuades him to stay and meet her husband Hunding, who arrives and is suspicious. Siegmund reveals that his mother and sister were abducted and that he and his father were separated. Earlier that day he fought to rescue a girl from a forced marriage, but he was forced to flee. Hunding reveals that he is related to the groom and challenges Siegmund to a fight the next day.

The couple retire to bed. Siegmund recalls his father’s promise to provide him with a sword when most needed. Sieglinde enters; she has drugged Hunding. She tells Siegmund how a stranger came to her wedding and plunged a sword into the tree at the centre of the cottage. She is convinced he is the man to claim it. As they sing of their past and their love for each other, they realise they are brother and sister. Siegmund pulls the sword, which he names Notung, from the tree and they flee into the forest.

Act II

Fricka tells Wotan that Hunding must win the fight, as Siegmund has broken the laws of hospitality, marriage and incest. Wotan pleads for Siegmund and Sieglinde, who are his children, but eventually agrees. He summons his daughter Brünnhilde – a Valkyrie, who brings fallen heroes to Valhalla – and recalls recent events, including Alberich’s curse. Everything must end unless a hero appears and alters the course of destiny. He tells Brünnhilde that Siegmund must die in the fight.

The lovers arrive. Brünnhilde tells Siegmund that he must follow her to Valhalla. As Sieglinde cannot accompany him, he refuses. Brünnhilde is won over by the power of his love for Sieglinde. This, and knowing Wotan’s true feelings, persuade her to allow Siegmund to win. Hunding arrives and the fight begins. Wotan returns and breaks Siegmund’s sword against his spear, allowing Hunding to win. Brünnhilde escapes with Sieglinde; Wotan kills Hunding, vowing to punish Brünnhilde.


Brünnhilde and Sieglinde approach the Valkyries and beg for protection, but they dare not defy Wotan. Sieglinde wishes to die and rejoin Siegmund; Brünnhilde reveals that she is carrying his son and must escape with the broken sword and bear the child, naming him Siegfried. Wotan arrives and banishes Brünnhilde; she is no longer a Valkyrie, and must sleep on the mountain until the first man to find her makes her his wife. The Valkyries depart and Brünnhilde defends herself; by ignoring his orders, imposed by Fricka, she obeyed his true will. She adds that Sieglinde will have Siegmund’s child. Wotan is moved. She must be punished, but will be protected by a magic fire that only a hero will brave. He removes her godhead and calls Loge to surround her with fire.

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