Der Ring Des Niebelungen
Richard Wagner's most famous opera, The Ring of the Niebelung, is an epic in four parts. It took a staggering 26 years to complete, from its initial conception in 1848 to the final version of 1874. The first performance was given at Wagner's own Festspielhaus in Bayreuth in August of 1876. The opera was originally intended to be peformed as a whole - Die Walkure, Sigfried, and Gotterdammerung, with a prologue, Das Rheingold. They are so demanding upon the performers, however, that they are often done as one section a season; for festivals, one section an evening.
A major component of the opera is the leitmotif. This is a unique piece of music associated with a major character or event. These leitmotifs add another layer to the drama, reappearing, intercalating, and evolving.
The librettos were written in inverse order. Gotterdammerung, originally Siegfrieds Tod, was written first, with Siegfried the tragic hero and focus of the opera. However, Wagner felt that the libretto as it stood required excessive narration of earlier events. He therefore wrote Der Junge Siegfried, later Siegfried, and Die Walkure as a prologue to Siegfried. Das Rhinegold was then written as a prologue to the cycle, and the rest extensively revised. Much narration of earlier events was cut from the later operas, and Wotan, not Siegfried, was now the focus.
Wagner drew from many mythical sources for this work. His primary sources were the Elder (or poetic) Edda, the Volsunga Saga, the Prose Edda, the Niebelungenlied, and Thidreks Saga of Bern. He freely adapted the names and conceptions of the Norse gods to his opera, and incorporated many elements of Greek myth, such as Oresteia and Prometheus. The result is a unique epic, a story of love, power, and betrayal.
|Das Rheingold||Die Walkure||Siegfried||Gotterdammerung|
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