Siegfried:

(Perfs 12th and 28th Feb)

Siegfried:  Philip Modinos
Mime:  Peter Kent
Wanderer:  Ian Wilson-Pope
Woodbird:  Emma Peaurt
Alberich:  Martin Lamb
Fafner:  Antoine Salmon
Erda:  Jemma Brown
Brunnhilde:  Zoe South

 

Running Times:

(please note these are approximate)
Curtain Up: 6pm
Interval 1: 7.10pm
Act 2:  7.30pm
Interval 2: 8.25pm
Act 3: 8.45pm
Curtain Down:  10.00pm

Synopsis

Background:  Wotan, as chief of the Gods, sought to rule the world.  He sacrificed one eye to drink from the waters of knowledge that flowed from the roots of the World Ash Tree, broke a branch from the tree to make his governing spear, and subjugated giants, dwarves and men to his will.  The spear symbolised Wotan’s power, on which contracts and treaties were sealed, but he enmeshed himself in a dilemma: having bargained the Goddess of Love Freia to the giants Fasolt and Fafner for building him Valhalla, he eventually paid them by stealing the magic gold and Ring of Power from Alberich (who had stolen the gold from the Rhinemaidens by cursing Love); Wotan’s contract with the giants meant he could not regain possession of the Ring.  If it fell back into Alberich’s hands, then all he had worked towards would be destroyed.  In order to find answers, he left the heavens to seek out Erda, the wisest earth-goddess, who warned him to flee from Alberich’s curse on the Ring, and finally overpowered her with the magic of love, and gained wisdom from her.  Her price for this wisdom was to bear him Brünnhilde, chief amongst his nine Valkyrie daughters, and Wotan’s favourite.  These Valkyries served as wish-maidens in Valhalla, and collected the dead heroes from battlefields to serve as an army against the might of Alberich’s forces of darkness.  Wotan also sought to create a free hero, one who, despite no help from him, would do his bidding and take the Ring from Fafner; (who slew his brother Fasolt over the Ring, and turned himself into a monstrous dragon, guarding the gold and the Ring deep in the forests to the East).  To this end, Wotan lay with a mortal woman, who conceived and gave birth to the Wälsung twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde; he made their lives harsh and miserable.  Sieglinde was married to the brutal Hunding, and Siegmund followed his father, under the name of Wälse, into the woods, whereby Wotan suddenly disappeared.  At Sieglinde’s wedding feast a stranger in a long cloak and large black hat arrived, and placed a magic sword into the ash tree which grew in Hunding’s home.  None could pull the sword free – for it was Wotan’s gift to Siegmund in his greatest hour of need.  Siegmund and Sieglinde eloped when Siegmund took shelter in Hunding’s home; but Wotan was forced to uphold the sanctity of marriage by Fricka, who made Wotan realise that Siegmund was not his free hero.  Having initially commanded Brünnhilde to fight for him, he rescinded his command, but she chose to disobey him: the price for her defiance was to be cast out from the Gods and left asleep on the Valkyrie Rock, surrounded by impenetrable, magic fire.  Sieglinde escaped from Wotan to the forests in the East, and gave birth to Siegfried.  Before she died, she asked Mime, Alberich’s brother, to take care of the boy and the fragments of Siegmund’s sword.  Mime did so, but not out of pity or any other such noble intent.  He wanted to use Siegfried as a way to gain the Ring and gold from Fafner, and to punish his brother Alberich for the wrongs he suffered in Nibelheim.  Siegfried, now a young man, is eager to set out in the world – all he needs is a sword, and Mime’s efforts to make a strong sword have so far proved fruitless.

 

Act One:  Mime sits at his forge in his cave in the forest, near to Fafner’s liar.  He is trying to forge yet another sword for Siegfried, but knows that the only sword really suitable for the hero is the sword bequeathed by Wotan: “Notung”, the fragments of which have come to Mime from Siegfried’s mother, Sieglinde.  But Mime cannot re-forge those fragments, so he tries in vain to make a sword for Siegfried, knowing it will not be good enough.  At that moment, Siegfried enters with a bear from the forest, scaring Mime witless.  Siegfried demands his sword – Mime hands him his efforts, which Siegfried shatters on the anvil, bemoaning the boastful dwarf’s efforts to make him a sword.  Mime tries to remind Siegfried of the good things he has done, and hands him a bowl of food, which Siegfried dismisses in a boorish fashion.  Mime reminds him of all the times he has fed him and looked after him and taught him.  Siegfried retorts that the one thing he longs for Mime to teach him is how he can endure the sight of Mime!  Siegfried asks why is it that he keeps coming back to the cave – Mime replies it is because he is close to his heart, but this serves to irritate Siegfried even more.  He knows that Mime is not like himself.  He has noticed that the birds and creatures in the forest resemble their parents, and asks Mime how Mime came to have him as a babe?  Siegfried then realises the only reason he keeps coming back is to know who his real parents are.  Mime tries to deflect this, but Siegfried angrily grabs him, demanding the truth.  Mime tells him of his mother Sieglinde, and how he found her wandering through the forest.  She died in childbirth.  Siegfried then asks why he is called Siegfried.  Mime says this was the wish of his mother, and Siegfried demands to know her name, and also asks about his father.  Mime says he does not know anything about his father, except that he was murdered.  Siegfried demands proof, and Mime shows him the fragments of Notung.  Siegfried demands that Mime forge the fragments for him, then runs out of the cave, leaving Mime fretting as to how he can do what he knows he cannot.

 

The Wanderer (Wotan in disguise) enters the cave, cheerfully greeting Mime, and asking for shelter.  Mime refuses, he has too much on his mind, but the Wanderer insists, stating that those who graciously help him get rewarded, while misfortune follows those who are false.  He offers his head for Mime’s hearth; he will tell Mime what he needs to know.  Mime finally agrees to ask three questions; the Wanderer accepts the challenge.  Mime asks three questions about the races of the Earth, to which the Wanderer answers each in turn.  The Nibelungs live under the Earth, the Giants on it, and the Gods above it.  Having answered each question correctly, the Wanderer now charges Mime that he should have asked what he needed most to know, and to sharpen his wits, for it is his turn to answer the Wanderer’s questions.  The Wanderer asks first what race is so beloved of Wotan – Mime correctly answers “the Wälsungs”, naming Siegmund and Sieglinde, and Siegfried.  The Wanderer’s next question is the name of the sword Siegfried must wield to kill Fafner – again Mime answers correctly with “Notung”.  Finally, the Wanderer asks who will re-forge the sword – Mime is thrown back into spasms of terror – he does not know who can forge the fragments of the sword.  The Wanderer tells him it will be “he who does not know fear”.  He leaves Mime’s forfeited head to Siegfried, and exits the cave.

 

Mime imagines noises from the forest and the shifting shadows as the approach of Fafner, and as his terror builds Siegfried re-enters, demanding the sword.  Mime is caught in a trap and rambles on about “he who knows no fear”; Siegfried is confused and sees this as a trick.  Mime must teach Siegfried fear or he’ll lose his head, but then another dilemma presents itself – if he teaches Siegfried fear how will he re-forge Notung?  Babbling on, Mime finally tries to explain to Siegfried what fear is.  Mime asks if Siegfried has ever felt shivers and shudders, or the furious beating of his heart while out in the forest due to some unseen danger.  Siegfried merely thinks this curious, and asks where he might learn the “skill” of fear.  He once again demands the sword – Mime replies that it is impossible for him to forge it.  Siegfried decides to do it, and sets to work at the forge, Mime tries to interfere and teach him, to be rebuffed by Siegfried.  Finally, Mime sets to making a brew that will enable him to remove Siegfried’s head once he has killed Fafner, while Siegfried forges the sword “Notung”.  Once forged, Siegfried shatters the anvil with the sword, and heads jubilantly into the forest.

 

Act Two: Just before dawn at Neidhöhle – Alberich is watching over the approach to Fafner’s lair.  In the distance he sees a light flickering through the trees – is it the hero approaching?  It vanishes, but a dark figure can be discerned in the gloom.  The Wanderer approaches and Alberich asks why he is here – has he come for the Ring again?  The Wanderer states he is here to observe, not to interfere or reclaim the Ring.  He rebuffs Alberich’s threats and protestations with the fact that it is Mime, his brother, whom Alberich will have to fight for the Ring, for he leads the hero to Neidhöhle.  The Wanderer offers to help Alberich warn Fafner of the approaching hero, and rouses the dragon, much to Alberich’s astonishment.  Fafner refuses to part with the Ring and retires into the cave, as the Wanderer leaves Alberich to learn what will happen next.

 

Mime leads Siegfried to the entrance to the cave, and tries to teach the boy fear by describing the gruesome aspects of Fafner’s appearance.  Siegfried merely retorts that he will slay the dragon, and avoid all the traps Fafner might set for him.  Mime leaves Siegfried by the entrance of the cavern to wait Fafner’s appearance.  Siegfried is lost in thoughts of his parents, and knowing that Mime is not his father makes him happy.  A bird’s singing catches his attention, and he tries to copy its song on some nearby reeds.  His attempts fail embarrassingly, so he decides to use his hunting horn, which attracts a somewhat larger prey – Fafner emerges from his cave.  After an exchange of insults, Siegfried slays Fafner, having failed to learn fear.  Fafner, dying, asks who has slain him and who led him to do it.  Siegfried replies that Fafner himself did the deed, as he urged Siegfried on to do it.  Fafner tells him who he has slain, the last of the race of giants.  He warns Siegfried to beware the one who desired the deed.  Siegfried asks Fafner who his father was, and tells Fafner his name, but as the dragon repeats it, he dies.  Pulling the sword from the dragon, he smears his fingers with blood, and at the intense burning sensation, he instinctively sucks it from his fingers.  Suddenly, the bird song becomes clear and the Woodbird tells Siegfried of the Nibelung hoard, the Tarnhelm and the Ring.  He ventures into the cavern to find the prizes.

 

Outside, Mime and Alberich confront each other; Alberich states that Siegfried now possesses the golden hoard.  As they squabble and bicker over sharing the gold, Siegfried emerges from the cave with the Ring and Tarnhelm.  Both dwarves hide in the forest as Siegfried ponders on what use the two objects might be to him.  The Woodbird now warns him to be wary of Mime, who plans to poison him – Mime’s true thoughts will be revealed as Siegfried has tasted the dragon’s blood.  Mime approaches Siegfried under the pretence of offering him refreshment (the brew he made at the end of Act I), and asks if he was taught fear.  As Mime chatters away, his true plan to put Siegfried to sleep, kill him and make off with the treasure is heard by Siegfried (and the audience).  Mime becomes irritated that Siegfried guesses his meanings, but carries on trying to charm the boy, unaware that Siegfried understands and hears all of his true intentions.  Finally, he asks Mime how he made the drink, and Mime tells him that it will plunge him into darkness, leaving him motionless and helpless.  So, to be sure, Mime tells Siegfried that he intends to cut off his head, in case he awakens.  At this, Siegfried swings out at Mime with Notung, killing the dwarf.  Alberich’s mocking laughter is heard.  Siegfried drags Mime’s lifeless body and places it on the hoard.  He then hauls the dragon’s body into the entrance of the cavern to ward off any thieves.  Siegfried is now hot from his exertions, and realises how brightly the sun is shining.  He reclines under a lime tree, and reflects on how alone he is.  The Woodbird tells him of Brünnhilde, asleep on the rock surrounded by fire, who he can win as his bride.  Only he who is without fear can wake her, and Siegfried, jubilantly realises that he is without fear, and urges the bird to show him the way.

 

Act Three:  A wild region at the foot of Brünnhilde’s Rock – The Wanderer awakens Erda, the Earth Goddess, from the fetters of sleep; having roamed the Earth he knows of no woman wiser than she.  Erda tells him to seek counsel from the Norns; he replies that they are in thrall to the world, unable to alter anything.  He would learn how he can stop “a wheel on a roll” (i.e. avert the course of destiny).  She suggests he consult Brünnhilde, their child.  He tells her how he put Brünnhilde to sleep for disobeying his orders.  Erda rebukes him, saying that the world is now spinning wildly and things are no longer clear.  Does Wotan rule by misrule?  She asks to return to her sleep.  The Wanderer says she may not until she has answered that which she once made him fear – how to avoid the end of the Gods.  She refuses to answer, claiming he is not what he thinks.  He then tells her that he no longer fears the end – and tells her that her power is also coming to an end.  Siegfried will not be subject to the curse of the Ring as he knows no fear.  He will awaken Brünnhilde, and she will redeem the world by returning the Ring to the Rhinemaidens.  He tells her to go back to endless sleep and observe his demise; the God has bequeathed his world to Siegfried and Brünnhilde.

 

Erda descends as the Wanderer sees Siegfried approaching.  The Woodbird leads the way, but is suddenly alarmed and flies off.  The Wanderer asks Siegfried where he is heading, and Siegfried tells him he seeks the fiery mountain where Brünnhilde sleeps.  The Wanderer asks who guided him here and made him yearn for the maiden.  Siegfried replies it was the Woodbird.  The Wanderer asks how he can understand a bird-song, and Siegfried tells of how he killed the dragon and drank the blood from his hand.  The Wanderer then asks how he came to kill the dragon and make the sword, and where the pieces came from.  Each question seems to antagonise Siegfried more, and when the Wanderer laughs jovially, Siegfried tells him to meddle no more, just show him the way or be off!  The Wanderer’s pride is injured and he tells Siegfried that he should respect him if he seems old.  Siegfried is put out at the fact that always an old man stands in his way – the Wanderer will meet the same fate as Mime if he doesn’t move on.  Siegfried looks at his strange appearance and asks why he is missing an eye.  The Wanderer explains Siegfried looks at him with one eye that is the mate of the eye left for him to see.  Siegfried thinks it a joke and threatens again: show him the way or feel his sword.  The Wanderer says that if Siegfried only knew who he was, he would spare him his defiance.  It would be dear for them both to rouse his anger.  Siegfried remains defiant and says that he knows this is the way to the rock, the Woodbird told him before it flew away.  The Wanderer tells him it fled when it saw the Raven Lord – he will deny Siegfried.  Asking who is it who bars his way, the Wanderer tells him he is the Guardian of the Rock, and that he who wins Brünnhilde will make the Wanderer powerless forever.  He tries to instil fear in Siegfried by describing the fire surrounding the rock, and how it will feast on his body.  Siegfried is undeterred and so the Wanderer raises his spear, telling Siegfried that it destroyed the sword once before.  Siegfried thinks the Wanderer is his father’s foe, and shatters the spear.  A sudden flash of lightning and a thunder-clap is heard in the distance, and the spear breaks in two.  Picking up the pieces, the Wanderer disappears with the words: “Go on, I cannot prevent you.”  Wotan’s power is at an end.

Siegfried passes through the fire up to Brünnhilde’s Rock during the orchestral interlude.  He sees a war horse under a tree, then shining weapons.  Then he sees what he mistakes as a man in armour.  He thinks that the armour must be hurting the man, so removes the helmet first, then the breastplate with Notung.  At this he starts, realising it is not a man.  He starts with “fear” at the sight, as strange feelings overcome him.  He calls on his mother for help.  Falling on her breast, he wonders how to awaken her, and feels a yearning to look into her eyes.  He is suddenly fearful, and finally appreciates what fear is.  Realising that he must kiss her to awaken her, he leans forward and, although fearing he might die, presses his lips to hers.  She awakens and greets the sun, sky and day.  She asks who the hero is who woke her, and Siegfried tells how he braved the flames, loosed her helm and opened her eyes.  Greeting the Gods, both bless Sieglinde for giving life to Siegfried.  Brünnhilde tells him how she always loved him, before even he was born – he asks if his mother did not die, but was merely asleep?  She tells him that he will never know his mother, but that she will teach him everything.  His passion increases, but this scares her, as the enormity of being a mortal woman now dawns upon her, and she tries to repulse him.  Eventually, Siegfried’s passionate entreaties soften her, and she gives in and passionately they sing of their blossoming love for each other: “Radiant love, laughing death!”

RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883) – Siegfried – The Abandoned Hero?

Richard Wagner’s epic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) comprises four operas: Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), and a preliminary evening Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold).  It is unlike any other operatic work seen before or since.  It stands as a testament to the genius of a man who is probably the most talked and written about composer in the world.  George Bernard Shaw once said of him:  ‘If Wagner had not existed, it would have been necessary to have invented him!’  The Ring marked a change in Wagner’s own compositional styles and to drama and music throughout the West in general.

When in 1848, having completed Lohengrin, Wagner began working on the text of Siegfried’s Tod, (Siegfried’s Death, which eventually became Götterdämmerung), he realised that he would need to explain many of the earlier events that lead to the destruction of the Ring and the Gods of Valhalla than could feasibly be performed in one opera.  In 1851 he started writing Der Junge Siegfried (The Young Siegfried), which we now know simply as Siegfried, but at the end of this he still felt more explanation was needed.  This led to the text of Die Walküre, also in 1851, and finally of Das Rheingold which he completed in 1852.

 

At the same time as writing the libretti for The Ring, Wagner also wrote numerous essays and books, the most important to the composition of The Ring were The Work of Art of the Future (1849), Opera and Drama (1850-1) and A Message to my Friends (1851).  Inspired by Greek tragedy, Wagner realised that opera had the potential to combine several art forms, (he used the term Gesamptkunstwerk or “total art work” to describe this combination), from poetry, drama, costume, mime, dance, song and instrumental music in the presentation of myth as subject matter.  As Wagner said ‘The unique thing about myth is that it is true for all time; and its content, no matter how terse and compact, is inexhaustible for every age.’  He applied his new theories of composition not only to The Ring, but also to Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersinger of Nuremberg) and Parsifal.  Wagner called these works ‘music drama’, where the orchestra gives the audience the emotional context of the drama unfolding on-stage – what goes on inside rather than outside people – the ‘emotionalizing of the intellect’.

 

He drew his inspirations for The Ring from Germanic and Scandinavian myths and legends, particularly the 13th Century German Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs) and in particular for the story of Die Walküre and Siegfried, the Icelandic poet Snorre Sturluson’s Edda and Saga of the Volsungs, and adapted the stories to suit his own needs.  The Volsungs in the Edda and the Saga of the Volsungs point to generations of Volsungs before we reach the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde, let alone Siegfried, but by careful analysis, Wagner freely adapted, compressed and moulded the stories to meet his requirements.  Many characters become amalgamated into one, others are simply not important enough to warrant an appearance.

 

Having started the musical composition of Das Rheingold in November 1853 and completed it in September 1854, Wagner had already begun composition on Die Walküre, but seems to have struggled with it.  It took him from June 1854 until March 1856 to complete.  This is possibly due to his own personal circumstances, for having been a leading member of the failed Dresden Revolution of 1849, he was now a fugitive, fleeing from state to state in an attempt to outrun the Dresden authorities, and others from whom he was either wanted as a political prisoner or owed substantial debts.  If Die Walküre was to have taxed Wagner, it was nothing compared to how long he took in completing the score of the next opera Siegfried – a total of 14 years!  For twelve of those years he actually stopped work on it altogether, while he set about solving musical issues and developing his truly mature style of composition, and he solved those musical issues by composing Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.  Over two thirds of Siegfried had been composed, up to the end of Act II, but Act III opens in a completely new style to anything else previously heard in The Ring before then.  But was this accidental, or a pre-meditated cessation by Wagner?  Certainly, after nearly ten years of working on The Ring, Wagner was possibly losing interest in a subject which had taxed his creative and musical powers during this time.  While working on the orchestral sketch of Act II, Scene ii, on 27th June 1857, Wagner scribbled a note: ‘When shall we see each other again?’  Just under a month later, on 13th July he resumed work on Siegfried, completing his orchestral draft of Act II on 9th August.  By 20th August he had begun the prose draft of Tristan und Isolde, and less than two years later, 6th August 1859, he had finished that opera.  It seems that Tristan had been developing as an opera in his mind even while he was working on Die Walküre, as on 21st May 1856 he jotted down a musical phrase that, although with text from Siegfried, is unmistakably that of Brangäne’s plea in Act I of Tristan.

 

Again, on 18th December 1856 he composed eighteen bars of music in piano score headed “Liebesszene T und I”, music we find in the second act of Tristan anticipated by seventeen months.  That same day, he wrote to Princess Marie Wittgenstein: ‘Today, I intended to continue working on Siegfried, but all of a sudden I found myself working on Tristan.’  Writing to Otto Wesendonck three days later on 22nd December he admitted: ‘I have lost my appetite for Siegfried, and my musical intuition tends to stray in a different direction altogether.’

 

It is easy to assume that Wagner set aside Siegfried simply to compose Tristan.  Certainly, the evidence points to this in his letters and diary entries that he was putting aside Siegfried for one year to concentrate on the composition of Tristan, which he hoped to see performed in Strasbourg the following summer.  It is true that Tristan und Isolde was a better saleable product than The Ring, but Wagner didn’t have the luxury of such single-minded planning.  His affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, which had provided the emotional turmoil in Die Walküre, also led to studies for Tristan, but his mood while composing Siegfried was at odds with the jubilant heroics of that opera.  He had also received an offer from Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil to perform his works in Rio de Janiero, translated into Italian.  Wagner declined to do this to The Ring, regretfully stating that, to be fully understood, it could only be performed on the soil from which it had sprung, and only in its original language.  To avoid any offence, he sent Dom Pedro a magnificently bound triptych containing the piano scores of Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, and offered to dedicate to the Emperor a new work, as yet unwritten – Tristan und Isolde!  Here the trail goes cold, and we do not know what circumstances kept Dom Pedro from Tristan.

 

It is safe to say that Wagner seems to have been steered, or managed to steer himself, towards the task he was next ready for.  When at the height of his creative powers, and when he was mentally attuned to its material, he composed Tristan und Isolde.  On 24th October 1867, with the wisdom he had gained with age, he completed the score for Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.  The emotional turmoil engendered by Wotan’s annihilation, and the ecstatic union of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, had to wait until he was mature enough to enable him to cope with those demands.  Perhaps twelve years earlier, those demands may have destroyed Wagner.  He resumed work on Siegfried Act III on 1st March 1869, and completed the whole opera on 5th February 1871.  Within four years, by 21st November 1874, he had finished Götterdämmerung, and with it came the completion of the whole Ring cycle.

 

Siegfried is a much simpler story than Die Walküre; and we are back in the realm of myth and magic, of fairy-tale even.  Fafner, having killed his brother Fasolt, and with the aid of the Tarnhelm taken the gold to a cavern, (Neidhöhle, or Cavern of Greed), far off to the east, now guards the hoard as a terrible dragon.  Mime, Alberich’s brother, found Sieglinde in the forest, and helped her to give birth to Siegfried before she died, whom he has brought up with the intention of using him to slay Fafner and gain the gold, and more importantly, the Ring.  Siegfried may seem to appear as a brute and a bully to Mime, but this was Wagner’s intention.  Mime is totally sinister and his motives are purely selfish, driven only to gain the gold and the Ring.  There is no love lost between Siegfried and Mime, and each cannot wait to be free of the other.  Siegfried knows little of his birth, or parents, but has wit enough to know that he is not like Mime.  Mime suffers the taunts and brutality that Siegfried inflicts on him in the hope that he can repay him with death once he has killed Fafner.  Wagner, however comical Mime might seem, was at pains to make sure that the audience are under no illusions of his sinister and selfish intentions.  He writes music that broods, that is filled with fake emotion (the “crocodile” motive when Mime talks of how he “loves” Siegfried, which could not be further from the truth), and which shows us how crafty he is.

 

What of Wotan?  Since he put Brünnhilde to sleep on the Valkyrie Rock, he has taken to wandering the Earth, calling himself The Wanderer.  In this guise he helps men in exchange for hospitality, or brings disaster to those who will not freely offer him shelter.  It seems that he has changed from the controlling, raging, unrestrained god of both Rheingold and Walküre, into a calm observer.  This is how we first see him in Act I, Scene ii, as he tries to seek shelter in Mime’s cave.  (Of course, this is also his way of checking up on the progress of his grandson Siegfried, who he knows will perform the deed of killing Fafner.)  We next see him, also as an observer in Act II, Scene i, with Alberich.  This scene is almost comic, as Alberich rages at Wotan’s impertinence at showing up at Neidhöhle.  Wotan assures Alberich he has just come to see what will happen, then offers to speak to Fafner so Alberich can warn the dragon of the approach of Siegfried, perhaps in exchange for the Ring?  Fafner chooses not to heed the warnings, and Wotan tells Alberich that what will happen later cannot be altered.  He then leaves.  The next time we see Wotan he is conjuring Erda from her sleep in an effort to find a way out of the inevitable – his own demise.  But here, although on the surface Wotan seems to be back “in character”, as the prelude of Act III describes Wotan’s emotional turmoil, he ends the scene telling Erda what will happen – that Siegfried and Brünnhilde will inherit the earth and wash away the curse of the Ring.  He tells her to witness his own demise and to sleep forever, as the power of the gods draws to a close.  Only his following scene with Siegfried makes him revert back to the raging, angry, powerful god we knew in the previous two operas, as Siegfried’s taunts and challenges anger him to make a stand.  The outcome cannot be changed, though, as Siegfried does not fear Wotan’s spear, but sees in him his father’s foe.  Wotan’s spear (and therefore his power), is shattered by the newly forged Notung, and so Wotan returns to Valhalla to simply await his end.  He can now play no further role in the story.  It is Brünnhilde, finally awakened by Siegfried who must now fulfil Wotan’s wish and return the Ring to the Rhinemaidens.

 

As to Alberich, he appears the same as we last saw him in Rheingold.  Embittered at losing the Ring, all he has done has been to father a son with a mortal he seduced with gold, (Hagen, who we will meet in Götterdämmerung), and wait for the eventual demise of Fafner, through the curse of the Ring.  On learning from Wotan that it is with Mime he will have to contend for the spoils once Fafner is dead, Alberich returns to brooding on bringing down the Gods, safe in the knowledge that he will surely outwit Mime and regain his precious Ring.  He is there to witness Siegfried slaying Fafner and Mime.  (Siegfried has heard Mime’s lies due to having tasted the dragon’s blood.)  But Alberich has no plan for dealing with Siegfried, which is why he fails to gain the Ring.

 

What of Siegfried himself?  He seeks answers from all he meets as to who he is; he has no fear, but lacks self-knowledge.  These traits are precisely what drew Wagner to him as a hero.  He remains unaware of who he is and his own importance, but he nevertheless fulfils his destiny by slaying Fafner, taking the Ring and the gold, and winning Brünnhilde from the rock.  She is the one who will finally answer all his questions, and for that he loves her deeply.  Of course, if that were the end of it, there would be no need for the final opera in the cycle, Götterdämmerung, but for the moment, Siegfried and Brünnhilde are united in love’s joyous bliss.  Brünnhilde plays little part in the drama until Siegfried awakens her; but, we must remember that because Siegfried shattered Wotan’s spear the future now belongs to Wotan’s two offspring.  With her awakening, Brünnhilde realises that she is now a mortal woman, and at Siegfried’s emerging sexuality realises the true impact of what it is to be cast out of the immortal clan.  This frightens her, and for a time, she cannot bear to be near Siegfried, fearful of what he may do to her.  Gradually, the power of love takes over, and the opera ends with the two celebrating their mutual love for each other.

 

Although he completely abandoned Siegfried for twelve years, for whatever reasons, Wagner’s completion of the opera (and Act III in particular) leads us firmly into his most mature and accomplished musical style.  His ability to mix the leitmotives into a web of complex musical structures, sometimes using as many as nine at a time, allowed for the completion of the Ring and the eventual composition of his other, final work, Parsifal.

 

In keeping with the first two operas of the Fulham Opera Ring cycle, director Max Pappenheim links into the updated scenario created in Das Rheingold and Die WalküreSiegfried is set in an isolated US community, far from the Texan oil-fields and glittering Hollywood backdrop of the first two operas.  And on the edge of this isolated community, even further removed from it are Mime, Siegfried and Fafner.  At least 18 years have elapsed since the action of Die Walküre, for Siegfried has reached manhood.  Wotan has left the glittering lights of Hollywood and Valhalla behind him after his disastrous attempt at making the movie on Siegmund; he now travels under the guise of The Wanderer, but he’s been checking in on Mime and Siegfried from time to time.  Meanwhile, Alberich keeps watch over Fafner’s cave, keeping a diary and the last remaining copy of the abandoned film on Siegmund.