Major Operas | Preliminary Evening: Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner | High Romantic

The Rhinemaidens, who guard the magic gold hidden beneath the waters of the Rhine, are approached by Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf. They tease him mercilessly and, unwisely, reveal that if someone were prepared to renounce love and fashion a ring from the gold, he would acquire the power to dominate the world. Failing to woo the maidens, Alberich curses love and steals the gold.

Wotan, the ruler of the gods, is sleeping near Valhalla, the gods’ new home. His wife Fricka wakes him and rebukes him for agreeing to give Valhalla’s builders, the giants Fafner and Fasolt, her sister Freia in return for their work. Wotan explains that he has no intention of paying and that Loge, the god of fire, will help him evade the agreement. Freia enters, followed by the giants demanding payment. Wotan says that they must accept an alternative but the giants insist on Freia. Loge appears and admits that he has found no solution, as a beautiful woman is valued above all. However, he has found one exception in Alberich, who has forsworn love to possess the Rhinemaidens’ gold. The giants agree to accept the gold instead of Freia, but keep her as a hostage. Wotan and Loge descend to Nibelheim, the home of the Nibelungs.

The Nibelungs, slaves to the magic ring, work ceaselessly mining gold for Alberich. His brother Mime has made a magic cap, the tarnhelm, which allows its wearer to take on any form or to become invisible. Alberich siezes it and leaves. Wotan and Loge arrive and Mime tells of the Nibelungs’ plight and the tarnhelm. When Alberich returns, Loge asks him to demonstrate its power. He transforms himself into a dragon and then a toad, which the gods catch. They take Alberich away as a prisoner.

The gods tell Alberich that the price of his freedom is his gold. He agrees, knowing that the ring will maintain his power, and orders the Nibelungs to bring the gold. The tarnhelm is added and Wotan demands the ring as well. Alberich curses the ring. The giants return with Freia and demand that the pile of gold be big enough to conceal her. To achieve this, the tarnhelm is added but there is still a gap, which the giants insist must be plugged with Wotan’s ring. He resists but the Earth goddess Erda appears, warning him to relinquish it. The giants quarrel over the treasure. Fafner kills Fasolt and departs with the gold. As the gods enter Valhalla, the Rhinemaidens are heard lamenting the loss of their gold.

Personalities | Richard Wagner | High Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner | High Romantic
Major Operas | First Day: Die Walküre by Richard Wagner | High Romantic
Major Operas | Second Day: Siegfried by Richard Wagner | High Romantic
Major Operas | Third Day: Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner | High Romantic


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