Major Operas | Second Day: Siegfried by Richard Wagner | High Romantic
The act opens in Mime’s smithy, in a forest near where Fafner, now a dragon thanks to the tarnhelm, lives in a cave guarding his treasure. Years before, Sieglinde sheltered there and, dying, entrusted her child and the broken sword to Mime’s care. He has raised Siegfried as his son, hoping to persuade him to kill Fafner so that he, Mime, can take the gold and the ring. Mime is forging a new sword for Siegfried, who hates him. Siegfried enters, shattering the sword with one blow, and asks Mime about his mother. Mime explains about his birth and shows him the shards of Notung. Siegfried orders him to re-forge the sword and leaves. The Wanderer (Wotan in disguise) enters, challenging Mime to a riddling contest with his life as the price of failure. The Wanderer answers Mime’s questions but Mime is unable to answer his final question – who can remake Notung? Only one who does not know fear can do it and Mime’s life is now owed to that man: Siegfried. The Wanderer leaves and Siegfried returns. He finds the sword in pieces, so re-forges it himself. He prepares to leave, but Mime persuades him that he must first know fear, by tackling Fafner.
Alberich is outside Fafner’s cave, hoping to regain the ring. The Wanderer appears and tells Alberich of Mime’s plan. They leave as Mime and Siegfried approach. Mime hides and Siegfried blows his horn to compete with a Woodbird, inadvertently rousing Fafner. Siegfried kills the dragon; his hand is splashed by its blood. As he puts his hand to his mouth and tastes the blood, he realizes he can understand the Woodbird’s song. She tells him to take the ring and tarnhelm from Fafner’s cave. When Siegfried emerges from the cave, Mime tries to make him drink a sleeping draught so that he can kill him and take the ring. However, Siegfried is able to hear the dwarf’s thoughts; he kills him with a blow from Notung. The Woodbird tells him about Brünnhilde, sleeping on a rock surrounded by fire and waiting to be awoken by a hero. He decides to make her his bride and the Woodbird leads him off.
Near Brünnhilde’s rock, the Wanderer rouses Erda and asks her if there is any way of preventing the approaching end of the gods’ supremacy. She cannot help. The Wanderer realizes his power must pass to Siegfried, and waits to greet him. Siegfried arrives but treats the old man with contempt; the Wanderer tries to bar his way. Siegfried shatters the spear, symbolic of the god’s power, with Notung; the Wanderer departs. Siegfried enters the fire and finds the sleeping Brünnhilde. He wakes her with a kiss and they sing a passionate love duet.
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