in the Rhine, three of the river's daughters, custodians
of a golden treasure, laugh while they play, scarcely noticing
when Alberich emerges from a crevice. Seized by desire,
the gnome tries to catch the Rhinemaidens as they dart through
the waters, but his clumsy attempts lead to frustration.
from his quarry merely quicken the Nibelung's lust and anger.
Suddenly sunlight illuminates the summit of a rock - the
the precious hoard, the nymphs are astonished that Alberich does
not know what it represents. The Rhinegold is all-powerful, they
explain to him, and were it fashioned into a Ring, the wearer would
rule the world. But the gold is safe, they continue confidently,
for whoever would steal the treasure must renounce love.
Nibelung vows to seize the gold. Scrambling up the rock, Alberich
forswears love, wrests the prize free and escapes. The waters
are plunged into darkness as the Rhinemaidens lament their
the sun rises over a mountainous plateau, Fricka and Wotan
slumber on a bank of flowers. A fortress, their new home,
gleams in the distance. When the two gods awaken, Wotan hails
the building as a fulfillment of his dreams.
ZINOVIEV Since by curse it came to me, accursed be this ring!
reproaches her husband for having promised her sister Freia to the
giants Fafner and Fasolt as payment for constructing the castle.
Your name is Loge, but I call you liar!
replies that he never meant to keep the bargain. As the
terrified Freia runs in, pursued by Fafner and Fasolt, Wotan
says Loge (fire) will help the gods out of their dilemma.
giants advance to claim their reward. When Wotan protests
he made the pact in jest, that they must settle for another
fee, Fasolt, smitten with Freia, balks.
intrigued that the loss of Freia's golden apples would cost
the gods their eternal youth and therefore their power,
decides the goddess must be abducted.
the giants drag her away, Froh (spring) and Donner (thunder)
bar their path, Donner brandishing his hammer. Wotan intervenes,
saying all treaties are guaranteed on his spear. Denied
Freia's golden apples, the gods begin to age.
Let her be carried far from here…!
who originated the contract with the giants, and who at Wotan's
command has been trying to find a suitable payment in lieu of Freia,
materializes in a puff of smoke. The crafty god suggests that perhaps
the Rhinegold might be an acceptable substitute.
Giant snake, curl and coil!
then relates how Alberich stole the hoard, forging it into
a Ring through which he can gain world dominance. Wotan
is enthralled by the absolute power the Ring imparts, and
when Fricka learns a wife could use the Ring to keep a philandering
husband faithful, she urges Wotan to obtain it.
Since the Rhinemaidens want Wotan to restore the gold to
them, proposes Loge, why not steal it, as Alberich did?
Fafner, who wants the gold, advises Wotan to use his wits
to gain the treasure.
taking Freia hostage until evening, when the Nibelung's hoard must
be delivered as ransom, the giants leave. No sooner does Freia disappear
than the gods begin to weaken and age. Wotan, forced to make a decision,
bids Loge accompany him to the nether world to seek Alberich's treasure.
clang of anvils pervades the dark caverns of Nibelheim, Alberich's
domain, where he drives his slaves to mine gold to swell his hoard.
the all-powerful Ring, the gnome torments Mime for the Tarnhelm
he is fashioning. Mime, who covets this latest marvel for
himself, must submit, and Alberich tries on the helmet,
which transforms the wearer into any size or shape.
Tarnhelm also enables Alberich to become invisible, and
he thrashes his defenseless brother, then vanishes to terrorize
Come here, crafty dwarf!
The Lord of the Nibelungs
Wotan and Loge descend through a shaft before the cowering
Mime, who complains of Alberich's tyranny, saying he had
hoped to outwit his brother by means of the Tarnhelm, regaining
the Ring he forged.
Unrecognized and amused by the complaining gnome, the gods
offer to help the Nibelungs free themselves. Now Alberich
returns, driving slaves who bear mounds of gold.
knows Wotan and Loge and suspiciously questions their trip to Nibelheim,
arrogantly warning of his plan to overthrow the gods and rule the
world. Loge asks the Nibelung what would happen if someone stole
the Ring while he slept. How could they, the gnome asks, extolling
the powers of the Tarnhelm. When Loge, feigning disbelief, asks
for a demonstration, Alberich transforms himself into a large serpent,
then back again. Loge asks whether the Tarnhelm can turn him into
something small - a toad, for instance - so he can hide.
Alberich becomes a toad, whereupon Wotan traps him under his
foot and Loge seizes the Tarnhelm.
As Alberich resumes his accustomed shape, he is tied and dragged
by his captors to the surface of the earth.
ZINOVIEV Curse it! I am captured!
more on the plateau, Loge and Wotan inform their prisoner he cannot
go free without forfeiting his hoard as ransom. Though outraged,
he acquiesces, certain that through the Ring he can replenish his
fortune. Loge unties his right hand, enabling Alberich to kiss the
Ring to summon his slaves, who haul up the gold.
gods' command obeyed, he asks for the return of the Tarnhelm,
but Loge says the gods will keep it. Wotan adds that the Ring
also must be part of the booty, reminding the gnome that it
was not rightfully his.
Alberich retorts that Wotan is as much a thief as he, but
this does not prevent the god from tearing the Ring from Alberich's
unfastens the Nibelung's bonds, the embittered gnome hurls forth
a curse on the Ring: until it returns to his hand, may care, envy
and death befall all who possess it.
disappears as the other gods approach, followed by the giants
with their hostage, Freia. Saddened at losing the goddess,
Fasolt agrees to accept the Nibelung hoard only if it hides
her from his view.
brothers thrust their clubs into the ground to support the
treasure, which Loge and Froh heap up in front of Freia.
complains that the gold is not quite enough - he can still see Freia's
hair through a crack - forcing Loge to add the Tarnhelm to the hoard.
Then Fasolt complains he can see the gleam of Freia's eye through
a chink. At this Fafner demands the Ring, now on Wotan's finger.
When Wotan refuses, the giants pull Freia from behind the hoard
to abduct her. But darkness covers the mountaintop as a cleft in
the ground opens and Erda materializes, roused from perpetual sleep
by the conflict. The earth goddess warns Wotan to yield the Ring,
which spells doom for the gods. Persuaded, Wotan tosses the Ring
onto the hoard, whereupon Freia is released. At once Alberich's
curse takes effect: the brothers quarrel over the spoils. Fafner
kills Fasolt, claiming Ring, Tarnhelm and hoard for himself.
She still belongs to us
he has gone, Fricka bids Wotan turn his thoughts to their
new home. Donner summons lightning and thunder to dispel thick
mists that have enveloped the mountaintop.
the heavens clear, a rainbow forms a bridge to the fortress.
Noting how the setting sun gilds the noble structure, Wotan
tells Fricka their abode is called Valhalla.
Wotan leads the other gods across the rainbow - all except Loge,
who mutters that they are going to their doom - the Rhinemaidens
are heard from the valley below, grieving for their lost treasure.