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DIE WALKÜRE (THE VALKYRIE)

by Wagner


[This synopsis, like my others, is very, very brief. The reason is that I find the normal programme note much too long, and needlessly detailed and complicated. What I want is more of an overview. If I’ve read an overview – a sort of synopsis of a synopsis – I find that, particularly with the help of surtitles, there is then absolutely no need for a blow-by-blow description of the plot.]


The plot revolves around the conflict that Wotan, chief of the gods, faces when confronted by the incestuous love between his son Siegmund and his daughter Sieglinde. It is not only incestuous; it is also adulterous as she is already married. Does he support his son or the law?


In Act 1 Siegmund and Sieglinde fall in love. Her husband Hunding turns up and challenges Siegmund. In preparing for the oncoming battle, Siegmund pulls a magic sword (called Nothung) out of a tree. The lovers, incidentally, discover who they are.


In Act 2 Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie daughter of Wotan, gets involved. Wotan directs her to protect Siegmund in his battle with Hunding. (He perceives Siegmund to be the hero who can get the Rheingold back from the giants – see the previous opera in the Ring cycle.) But Wotan’s wife Fricke, the goddess of family values, persuades him to go back on this.


Brünnhilde disobeys, sticking to plan A, and Siegmund is on the point of winning the battle. But then Wotan steps in and shatters the magic sword. This changes it all and Siegmund is killed. Brünnhilde rides off with Sieglinde.


Act 3 starts with the famous Ride of the Valkyries. Brünnhilde flies to the top of a mountain, bringing Sieglinde with her. She tells Sieglinde that she is pregnant with Siegmund’s child and that the child should be called Siegfried.


Wotan punishes her for her disobedience by stripping her of her immortal Valkyrie status, but Brünnhilde explains that she was only doing what she knew he really wanted. Wotan bids her a loving farewell and lays her asleep surrounded by a circle of fire, through which she can only be saved by the bravest of heroes.



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