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RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)

Excerpts from Der Ring des Nibelungen (1848-1874)

Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai

Wotan's Farewell (Die Walküre)

Forest Murmurs (Siegfried)

Siegfried's Rhine Journey (Götterdämmerung)

Composed between 1848 and 1874, the fifteen hours of music that complete Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) Der Ring des Nibelungen is a dramatic magnum opus of four interconnected operas. Inspired by the epic poem Nibelungenlied, Germanic legends, and Norse mythology, the magic ring is a precious world-ruling band forged by a Nibelung dwarf from stolen Rhine gold. Its theft and eventual return to the Rhinemaidens bookend the Ring Cycle. With a cast of gods, mortals, and mythological beings, possessing the ring brings generations of betrayal and heartache.

In Das Rheingold, Wotan (king of gods) steals the ring, but it falls from his possession. The dwarf curses all who possess it. A scheme to regain it in Die Walküre backfires when Wotan's daughter Brünnhilde betrays him. Stripped of her immortality and status, she is banished to a deep forever-sleep. "Wotan's Farewell" ends the opera, as he encircles his most beloved daughter in a shield of magic fire, passable only by one who is fearless.

Generations later, Wotan attempts to possess the ring through his fearless and mortal grandson Siegfried. Awaiting the dragon ring-bearer in the "Forest Murmurs," Siegfried slays the serpent. With the ring and his fearlessness, he awakens Brünnhilde finding true love. Sent off to proclaim heroic deeds, "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" closes the prologue of Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), a journey that will break the ring's curse but lead to his murder, Brünnhilde's suicide, and the annihilation of Valhalla and the gods.

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