Major Operas | Third Day: Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner | High Romantic


Erda’s daughters, the Norns, sit on a rock spinning the rope of destiny. They recall recent events but are unable to see the future, since the rope has frayed. The rope beaks and they return under the earth. Siegfried prepares to set off. He gives Brünnhilde the ring and she gives him her horse, Grane.

Act I

Gunther, lord of the Gibichungs, sits with his sister Gutrune and half-brother Hagen in his hall near the Rhine discussing the honour of the Gibichungs. Hagen declares that they would benefit from powerful marriages. He suggests Brünnhilde as a bride for Gunther. Siegfried, who will help them to win Brünnhilde, could marry Gutrune. Siegfried’s horn sounds. Hagen tells Gutrune to prepare an amnesiac for Siegfried; he drinks it and, forgetting Brünnhilde, falls in love with Gutrune. He proposes marriage and agrees to help Gunther marry Brünnhilde. Gunther and Siegfried take an oath of brotherhood and set off to find her. Hagen reveals his intention of seizing the ring. Waltraute visits Brünnhilde and reveals that the gods are in Valhalla awaiting their doom. She begs her to return the ring to the Rhinemaidens. Brünnhilde hears Siegfried’s horn but, wearing the tarnhelm, he appears as Gunther. He claims Brünnhilde as his bride, wrenching the ring from her hand.

Act II

Hagen’s father Alberich appears and reminds him to recover the ring. When Hagen awakes, Siegfried appears, transported by the tarnhelm. He tells Hagen and Gutrune that Brünnhilde and Gunther are returning. Hagen invites the Gibichungs to celebrate the double wedding. Gunther arrives with Brünnhilde, who is bewildered to find Siegfried betrothed to Gutrune. He is wearing the ring. Siegfried, drugged by Gutrune’s potion, swears his innocence. He persuades the Gibichungs to join him at the wedding feast. Brünnhilde, Gunther and Hagen remain and agree that Siegfried will be killed the following day.


Siegfried is separated from a hunting party and meets the Rhinemaidens. They beg him to return their ring, warning him about the curse, but he refuses to be intimidated. He rejoins the others and Hagen persuades him to tell his story. Siegfried tells of his life and, as Hagen gives him a drink to undo Gutrune’s potion, of how he married Brünnhilde. Hagen claims that Siegfried has lied and plunges his spear into his back. The dying Siegfried sings of his love for Brünnhilde. Hagen demands the ring but Gunther says that it belongs to Gutrune. Hagen kills him but when he tries to take the ring, Siegfried’s hand rises, menacingly. Brünnhilde, who realizes what has happened, returns. She orders the Gibichungs to build a funeral pyre where she will join Siegfried, and takes the ring from his finger. She tells ravens to fly to Valhalla and tell Wotan that the end has come. She lights the fire and rides Grane into the flames. The Gibichungs’ hall burns and the Rhine overflows. The Rhinemaidens reclaim the ring and drag Hagen under the waves. There is a red light in the...

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