- Richard Wagner. Vorabend (Prologue) to Der Ring des Nibelungen
(The Ring of the Nibelung) in four scenes. 1854.
- Libretto by the composer.
- First performance at the Königliches und Nationaltheater, Munich, on 22nd September 1869.
|Wotan, ruler of Heaven and Earth ||bass-baritone|
|Fricka, his wife, goddess of married bliss ||mezzo-soprano|
|Freia, her sister, goddess of youth ||soprano|
|Donner, her brother, god of thunder ||bass-baritone|
|Froh, his brother ||tenor|
|Erda, goddess of fate ||contralto|
|Loge, demigod of fire ||tenor|
|Fasolt, a giant ||bass-baritone|
|Fafner, his brother ||bass|
|Alberich, a Nibelung ||bass-baritone|
|Mime, his brother ||tenor|
|Woglinde, a Rhinemaiden ||soprano|
|Wellgunde, her sister ||soprano|
|Flosshilde, her sister ||mezzo-soprano|
The Rhinemaidens, guardians of the Rhinegold, swim in the waters, teasing the Nibelung
Alberich and revealing the secret of the gold that he who forges a ring from it will rule the world, but
the one who forges the ring must abjure love. Alberich seizes the gold and makes off. Wotan and
Fricka awake from their sleep and see the new castle completed: now its builders Fasolt and Fafner
must be rewarded with Fricka's sister, Freia, who seeks escape from the bargain. Her brothers
Donner and Froh try to protect her, but the two giants insist on their reward, Fasolt hoping thus to
deprive the gods of youth, imparted by the apples that Freia has in her possession. Loge had hoped
to find fault with the castle in order to secure Freia's release. He tells the other gods of Alberich’s
forging of the ring and renunciation of love, which will bring him power over the world and suggests
that it can easily be stolen from the Nibelung. The giants decide that they would accept the ring
instead of Freia, but take her away with them as a hostage, until this can be accomplished. Wotan
decides that he will go with Loge to the home of the Nibelungs.
There is hammering in the realm of Alberich, where Mime has been made to forge a gold net, the
Tarncap, which Alberich dons, making himself thereby invisible. Wotan and Loge arrive and learn
from Mime of Alberich's cruel tyranny over the Nibelungs. When Alberich returns, Loge tricks him
into transforming himself into a toad, which they then seize, snatching the Tarncap from his head
and restoring him as a captive to his original shape. In the realm of the gods Alberich is forced to
surrender the ring, on which he puts a curse. With Alberich's gold and eventually with the ring
itself, Wotan buys back Freia's freedom. Fafner quarrels with his brother over the division of the
spoil and kills him. Wotan names his new castle Valhalla and leads the others into it, while Loge
contemplates return to his original form, as fire to consume Valhalla, as fate has decreed.
The first of the four dramas of Wagner's tetralogy sets the scene for what is to follow. The music
brings together a series of motifs that will re-appear in the later parts of the cycle in a work that
follows the principles laid down in his own writings, rules to which he does not elsewhere strictly
adhere, in view of the musical difficulties they present. Excerpts from the opera that may be heard
in concert recital include Erda's warning to Wotan, Weiche, Wotan, weiche! (Yield it, Wotan, yield
it!), as she urges him to give up the ring and the treasure he has taken from Alberich, Wotan’s
greeting to Valhalla Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge (At evening the eye of the sun shines) and the
entrance of the gods into Valhalla, this last often in an orchestral version.