Die Walküre (2003) - Synopsis

Richard Wagner: Die Walküre Richard Wagner: Die Walküre Richard Wagner: Die Walküre

Die Walküre (2003)

Richard Wagner


Act One

A stranger seeks shelter in Hunding's hut. Hunding's wife offers the fugitive something to drink. Hunding notices a resemblance between his wife and this stranger. He offers the stranger his hospitality. When Hunding's wife asks the stranger who he is, he says that his name is Wehwalt and tells her about how he lost his mother at an early age, that his twin sister was abducted by strangers and that he himself was subsequently separated from his father. He is now fleeing from the members of the family of a woman whom he helped when she was to be married against her will. Hunding, who is himself a member of this family, recognizes Wehwalt as the enemy of his family, whom he has been pursuing with no success. He will respect the laws of hospitality for this one night but challenges Wehwalt to a fight next morning and then retires with his wife.

Wehwalt, who has lost all his weapons in the course of his fight with Hunding's relations, remembers that his father once promised that he would provide him with a sword when his need was greatest. Hunding's wife, who has drugged her husband with a sleeping draught, now returns. She shows Wehwalt a sword which nobody has yet been able to draw and gradually the two of them feel themselves becoming increasingly attracted to each other. When Wehwalt mentions that his father is called Wälse, the woman addresses him as Siegmund. Siegmund now takes possession of the promised sword, which he calls Nothung. The woman informs him that she is his twin sister, Sieglinde, and the two of them embrace passionately.


Act Two

Wotan instructs one of the Valkyries, Brünnhilde, to help Siegmund win his impending fight against Hunding. Hunding, on the other hand, has asked Fricka, who strongly upholds  the vows of marriage, for help. Fricka now denounces the incestuous twins to her husband, saying that Sieglinde has broken her marriage vows and stressing that Wotan himself is guilty of having cast aside all honour by having fathered the twins as well as the Valkyries outside of marriage. Wotan's attempts to wriggle out of the situation and rescue Siegmund are in vain,
Fricka argues that he must not ignore the laws of morality; he is the one who must uphold law and order. Wotan is forced to give in and swears an oath that he will withdraw his help and forbid Brünnhilde to come to Siegmund's aid.

Wotan, angry and in despair, confides in Brünnhilde. He tells her how the Nibelung, Alberich, once forged a ring, as a symbol of power, from the stolen Rhine gold and later laid a curse on the ring, when Wotan had blackmailed him into relinquishing it to him. Wotan then had to give the ring to Fafner, the giant who, in the form of a dragon, had been protecting it ever since. But both Wotan and Alberich hoped to win back the ring and Wotan had fathered nine daughters, among them Brünnhilde, the daughter of Erda, to provide himself with support in any clash with Alberich. These daughters, the Valkyries, carry dead heroes to Valhalla, where they then form an army with the Valkyries. Meanwhile his son Siegmund, a free hero who is not subject to the laws of the gods, was to snatch the ring off Fafner. This plan had obviously now failed. Wotan orders Brünnhilde to abandon Siegmund and help Hunding to victory.

Siegmund and Sieglinde are fleeing from Hunding and Sieglinde collapses from exhaustion.
Brünnhilde appears to Siegmund and tells him that he will die and join the army of heroes in the castle of the gods. Because Sieglinde will not be allowed to accompany him there, however, Siegmund rejects the honours of Valhalla. In order not to have to leave Sieglinde alone when he dies, he decides to kill her. Brünnhilde is moved by the depth of the love the twins have for each other. She promises to help Siegmund, against Wotan's orders.

Wotan himself now intervenes. When Siegmund, protected by Brünnhilde, faces Hunding ready to fight, his sword Nothung breaks against Wotan's spear. Hunding kills Siegmund.
Brünnhilde gathers up the pieces of the splintered sword and flees with Sieglinde. Before Wotan sets off in pursuit of them he also kills Hunding.


Act Three

The Valkyries are gathering on their way to Valhalla when they are joined by Brünnhilde.
She pleads with her sisters to help her hide Sieglinde from Wotan. Sieglinde herself does not want their help; she wants no future without Siegmund and wishes only to die. Only when Brünnhilde tells her that she is expecting Siegmund's child is her will to live aroused. Brünnhilde announces that the unborn child will be called Siegfried and begs Sieglinde to keep the pieces of Nothung safe for him. Sieglinde escapes into the wood where Fafner is guarding the ring.

Brünnhilde faces her father to await his sentence. He expels her from the group of the Valkyries and from the world of the gods. She is to sink into a deep sleep and can be claimed by the first man to find her and wake her. The other Valkyries are deeply shocked at the savagery of Brünnhilde's sentence and flee.

Brünnhilde tries in vain to explain her disobedience towards Wotan by claiming that she had actually only intended to carry out his will. Even when she indicates that Wotan's plan has not really failed, as Sieglinde is carrying Siegmund's child, Wotan cannot find it in his heart to reverse his decision. The only thing he is prepared to grant her is a slight mitigation of her sentence: only the bravest of heroes may one day wake her. Brünnhilde is enveloped in a deep sleep and Wotan invokes Loge to girdle the place where she is sleeping with a circle of fire which is meant to keep away everyone who is afraid of Wotan's spear.

Translation: Susan Bollinger
© Bayerische Staatsoper