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Decoding Wagner's Ring

  Who's Who
  Das Rheingold
  Die Walküre
  Die Götterdämmerung

Der Ring des Nibelungen
Patrice Chereau - Pierre Boulez, Bayreuth Festival (Complete Ring Cycle)

Art As Politics in the Third Reich

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Meet the Characters
  • Rheingold

  • Walkure

  • Siegfried

  • Twilight of the Gods
  • Erda
  • Donner

  • Froh

  • Loge

  • Siegfried

  • Sieglinde

  • Hagen

  • Fricka
  • Brünnhilde :

    She is with Wotan and Siegfried one of the three most important key figures of the Ring. As Alberich and Wotan, she appears in three dramas out of four. She closes the Ring. She is also, with Wotan and Siegfried, the most refined character, whose slightest feelings are described with accuracy, comparable by wealth and evolution potential only to those of the God.

    At first, favorite Walkyrie of her father is so attached to him that she loses her personality. To use Shinoda Bolen's terms, she is daddy's girl. She has such a gift for listening, for an empathy that Wotan imagines that by speaking to her he addresses his deep desire. And actually she compensates thanks to her intuition and humanity, for the loss of the left eye of the God, and through this fact she is at same time contrary and complementary to Fricka. It is here that the Jungian interpretation very much controversed by some scholars is enlightening.

    For Jung, the couples thought - feeling and sensation - intuition are mutually exclusive. Fricka, however, is radically rational and logical thought and sensation (she is pretty and lives in the present: she believes only what she touches). Brünnhilde on the contrary is feeling and intuition: she perceives only the past and the future, for which Siegfried blames her. She describes herself as "barely intelligent ", which is of course false, because she has the most important intelligence, that of the heart.

    Brünnhilde is the only person to release herself from the control of the God; the latter will not forgive her for that. When she wakes up two contradictory feelings tear her: the fear of rape and decay, an exacerbated sensuality that has been repressed for such a long time. If in Alberich's case denied love and sexual frustration are transformed into paranoiac ecstasy of the ego, in Brünnhilde's case she undergoes an inverse transformation by awakening.

    The loss of her power and her goddess's status, the frustration connected to what she sees as decay changes into a fervent love, changes in a wild and aggressive sexuality. The duet between the Walkyrie and the Wälsung is no less strange than the precedent one, placed under the sign of the blood. The last word of the duet is " laughing death ".

    There is a similar relationship of feminine domination, as in the duet of Siegmund and his sister. Even if it is Siegfried who brutally forces her at first and then incites Brünnhilde to mating by his animal like insistance, it is always she who thinks, who foresees and who takes the measure of events.

    By waking up she acquired both Jungian functions, which she was missing: the capacity of reasoning, sensuality. Paradoxically, it is Siegfried who is going to be in a position of inferiority: living only in the present, and incapable to understand the slightest allusion in the words of his mistress, whom he initially mistakes for his mother.

    A psychological error committed by Brünnhilde is not to understand that love should be compensated by an equal exchange, and that the risk that one loves more than the other condemns to sufferance.

    She is not only unaware of her relationship error with Siegfried, but also she does not stop playing the role of the mother. She tries to protect, to immunize, and to pass on to him her knowledge, to remind him of her self-sacrifice. She becomes humble, selfless and almost masochist. (Me, poor woman, deprived). Driven by her maternal feeling, masochism and clumsiness, she separates Siegfried from herself and sends him to the see the world. Very often the fathers proceed that way with their sons. She imagines that she is going to bind him by oaths and by reminding him ceaselessly the due allegiance.

    Brünnhilde evolves. Badly. Physical love does not succeed in her and she shows herself in a despicable way in her dialogue with her sister. It often happens that one feels full of enjoyment at the idea of seeing once again dear and powerful old friends, but the moment one learns that they are in distress and ask you for help, one finds good excuses for taking distances. Brünnhilde is enthusiastic at the idea of a Wotan powerful and forgiving, she shows pride and love to her father.

    But as soon as she learns about his depression she has a feeling that he will ask for help, she becomes cold, distant, condescending and vaguely contemptuous. When she holds between her hands the fate of the world, and the fate of this father whom just a moment ago she claimed to love, not only she refuses to abandon this Ring, which is only an allegory, but also she shamelessly chases away the unfortunate Waltraute. The severity of Brünnhilde, one understands, even without evoking the curse, gives evidence of transformation of the Ring into fatal talisman. Very soon she will provoke Siegfried by brandishing the Ring, a suicidal gesture.

    After the obnoxious scene of the fight with the false Gunther, the neurotic characteristics of the ex-Walkyrie reach a paroxysm. More than ever, she will complain, setting the radiant force of cruelty of Siegfried against the weakness of the poor woman. But this frustration and the apathy consecutive to the brutality of her husband are going to be reversed and transformed into jealousy, and into desire to murder. Irrational and impulsive desire.

    At last, but only after having assisted in the poignant death of Siegfried, Brünnhilde understands everything. She has all the cards. She knows now the full and true story of the Ring. Wotan's monologue, a kind of testament, was completed by her feminine experiment, when she lived through all passions: from love to hatred, from maternal tenderness to the vengeance of the offended mistress. Only she is capable of making the fusion between the cosmogonical and socio-political planes, the plane of Eddas and the human and individual plane, that of Nibelungen-Not; that between myth and history; that between the abstract logic of power and the carnal force of love.

    I may remind you that in Act II of "Walküre", the original stage setting by Wagner foresaw three topological levels. Top floor (heaven): the Gods are in the sky and at the top of cliffs. Middle floor: a rocky platform suspended between heaven and earth. Brünnhilde addresses Siegmund without ever touching him. Third floor: Sieglinde and Siegmund on earth of the humans. Brünnhilde establishes the connection between the poignant bittersweet adventure of the twins, harbour of tenderness and love in the aridity of the Ring, and the vast concerns of the Gods. The Walkyrie Brünnhilde is doubtless the key figure, the pivot of the Ring, the perfect intermediary.

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