Siegfried - Synopsis

Siegfried: Lance Ryan, Statisterie der Bayerischen Staatsoper Siegfried: Lance Ryan, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke Siegfried: Lance Ryan, Catherine Naglestad


Richard Wagner
Libretto by Richrad Wagner

Past History

The giant Fafner, in the form of a dragon, guards the Ring which Alberich, the Nibelung, forged from the Rheingold and which gives the person possessing it great power. Alberich’s brother, Mime, a blacksmith, is brooding about how to re-possess the ring with the help of his foster son Siegfried. Siegfried is the son of the Wälsungs Siegmund and Sieglinde and was left in the care of Mime by his mother as she died giving birth to him, all she left him was the name Siegfried and the pieces of Siegmund’s smashed sword Nothung. Mime has a plan, of which Siegfried is ignorant, namely that Siegfried is to kill the dragon and bring him the Ring.

Wotan had smashed the sword with his spear so that Siegmund would be killed by Hunding in a fight. Because, however, his daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, wanted to protect Siegmund, Wotan punished her by condemning her to sleep. At Brünnhilde’s request the rock on which she was to lie was encircled by fire from which only a fearless hero would be able to claim her.

Act One

Mime is trying desperately to fashion a sword worthy of Siegfried. When he returns from the woods with a bear to frighten Mime, Siegfried shatters the new sword. Only when Siegfried pesters him to tell him something about his origins does Mime tell him the story of his birth and show him the fragments of his father’s sword Nothung. Siegfried challenges Mime to forge a new sword for him out of the pieces.

Wotan, disguised as a Wanderer, comes to see Mime and persuades him to take part in a wager of knowledge, the forfeit being the head of the loser. The Wanderer has no trouble answering Mime’s questions about the people who inhabit the bowels of the earth, the earth and the cloudy heights. Mime is able to answer the question about the Wälsungs and the name of the sword Nothung with which Siegfried must kill Fafner. He is, however, unable to answer the third question about who is forging the new sword and thus loses the wager. The Wanderer explains to him that only a fearless hero would be able to do this and leaves Mime’s forfeited head to this hero.

Mime is afraid and asks Siegfried if he has ever known fear, but this is something Siegfried has never experienced. Mime hopes that Siegfried will learn what fear is from Fafner. Faced with Mime’s inability to fashion a new sword, Siegfried succeeds, against all the rules of the trade, in doing it himself. Meanwhile Mime mixes a potion with which he plans to kill Siegfried once he has brought him the sword.

Act Two

Alberich is lying in wait outside Fafner’s cave in order to regain possession of the Ring once the giant is dead. He realizes the true identity of the Wanderer who comes by and who warns him about Mime and Siegfried. Alberich suggests to Fafner, who has been woken by the Wanderer, that he will thwart Siegfried’s attempt to kill him in return for the Ring, but Fafner merely yawns and declines. Mime has led Siegfried to Fafner’s cave and leaves him there with orders to kill the dragon. Left alone in the woods, Siegfried’s thought turn longingly to his unknown mother. A singing woodbird catches his attention but he fails in his attempt to copy the bird’s song with his horn. He has instead woken Fafner with the sound of his horn. Siegfried kills him with his sword. Once he has tasted the dragon’s blood on his lips he is able to understand the woodbird, who advises him to fetch the Ring and the Tarn helmet from the cave and warns him about Mime.

Alberich angrily refuses Mime’s off er to share the treasures Siegfried has acquired and hides. Wh en Siegfried returns with his booty, Mime off ers him the poisonous potion as refreshment. The dragon’s blood has, however, made Siegfried able to realize Mime’s true intentions. He kills his foster father. Once again he hears the song of the woodbird telling him the way to Brünnhilde’s rock, where he is to rouse the woman from her sleep.

Act Three

The Wanderer rouses Erda from a deep sleep; she had once warned him about his own downfall and is the woman with whom he fathered Brünnhilde. Initially remembering her knowledge about how he could prevent the end she had prophesied, he sees her wisdom fade. He tells her about his plan for Siegfried, who will soon, together with Brünnhilde, redeem the world and sends her to everlasting sleep.

Accompanied by the woodbird, Siegfried encounters the Wanderer, who does not want to allow him access to Brünnhilde’s rock. Instead he asks pertinent questions to ascertain how much Siegfried knows about his mission. Wh en he realizes that Siegfried is completely without fear he holds out his spear towards him. Siegfried recognizes his father’s murderer and shatters the spear with his sword. The Wanderer disappears, the way to Brünnhilde is now open.

Striding through the fire, Siegfried finds the sleeping Brünnhilde. When he removes Brünnhilde’s protective shield he sees a woman for the first time in his life. He thinks what he feels is fear and wakes Brünnhilde with a kiss. She sees in him the hero with whom she will realize Wotan’s plans, the twilight of the Gods. Siegfried overwhelms her with his love, to which they both abandon themselves.