figure of the Ring, she appears only twice on stage, but like
Freia and Loge, she plays an essential role by interposed
music. The first scene where she appears to Wotan to warn
him is one of the starting musical points of the Ring.
knows that she inspired the rhythm of the future, which forms
the main part of the prelude.
sees in Erda a woman covered with hoarfrost, buried to the waist.
She is a figure of nightmare, a spectre of eternal dismay. Like
her daughters the Norns, she appears in the storm and the darkness.
As if numbed, lost in an indecisive dream, she is essentially negative.
Like Loge and the Rhine maidens, she represents the nature prior
to the Lance, the Nature in its original state. Wotan, who enslaved
Loge, seized the Gold, paid Walhalla and soiled the Source, attacks
Erda and forces her to bear him a daughter. Erda is a typical figure:
the Sybille, the sacred clairvoyant. Chéreau represents her
as a Kabyl fortune-teller, clad as a moving clod of mud.
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Characters of the "Walküre"
is the favourite of contemporary directors, although formerly
he appeared as an eternal " looser ", someone feeling
sorry for himself, lamenting and immature. This sympathy is
credibly due to the repelling effect of Siegfried compared
to him the "wolf cub" seems more human. And then...
The adventure of the twins is designed to inspire sympathy.
us try to understand better this charming character, albeit
somewhat a little bit annoying by his systematic vocation
for misfortune. First of all what is obvious is his total
ignorance of the manipulation of which he is the subject.
He takes everything to the first degree, as later his son
Siegfried will do.
will be necessary that Sieglinde explain their gemellarity to him,
so that he understands it. Siegmund like Siegfried love freedom
and reject the laws. Alive in the present moment, he is incapable
of establishing the slightest link of cause and effect. He merely
notices that his values are opposite to those of society, without
trying neither to adapt himself to them nor to wonder about their
validity. He is an epic character by his long story of pursuing.
He likes story telling.
second trait of the man (one supposes him a young person,
strong, brave and doubtless beautiful), is his true capacity
to fall in love. Love that comes as lightning bolt is the
sign of longing and has nothing sexual. The character dreams
to escape the double nightmare into which Wolfe plunged him
without asking: excommunication and pursuit. He strives for
friendship and love but also for the conquest of the virility
promised by his father. He conceals treasures of tenderness
but also drives for death, which will turn against him and
the pregnant Sieglinde when he will be forced into a dead
end. The young man prefers to kill himself and his twin bride
than to surrender to the mercy of his enemies. One can interpret
this suicidal decision in a number of ways. One can suppose
that he expects from his enemies a massacre preceded by humiliation:
rape and torture.
He is well placed to know the fate reserved for him; the girl he
defended was killed. We can imagine the punishment reserved by the
servants of Fricka - Neidingen for incest and adultery! It is the
most plausible version.
exists a second one, contradictory to the first. He cannot
stand the idea of separation. He dies, thus his twin bride
should also disappear. At first he prefers go down to hell
(at Hella) rather than to lead a life of enjoyment without
is not forbidden to see a certain male chauvinism in this
affection. Sieglinde is his property and he cannot stand to
see it falling in foreign hands. After all, as long as there
is life there is hope, a hope that he denies to his wife and
third characteristic of Siegmund is his unmistakable humanity. For
the first time in the Ring, appears a being inspired by Freia. Siegmund
is sensitive to the beauty of Nature (the song of the Spring) and
the beauty of a woman. This feeling inspires him one of the rare
poetic passages of all the tetralogy. He gives a wholesome lesson
to the Walkyrie, which is surprised to see to prefer a poor sick
woman to the bliss of Wotan's wishmaidens. For the first time also,
appears love, tenderness, and the feelings of Siegmund are contagious.
They are passed on to the Walkyrie, who, upset, will find the stamina
to oppose to the Iron Law of Power.
Siegmund is brave. Not in the style of the young unconscious who
plays his life at the roulette because he believes he is immortal.
But as any conscious being who knows suffering and fear, and who
being true to himself carries the burden of life, which he hates.
This courage takes several forms: heroic when he tears away Nothung
from its sheath and when he faces Hunding in fight, quiet and noble
when he resists the Walkyrie and accepts death.
is these qualities of authenticity, courage and tenderness
that moved the public and the directors. Some saw in Siegmund
the only one being really free in the Ring and all prefer
him to his son.
does the music tell us about his character? The theme, which
is connected with him officially, is depressive and grave;
it arises from the first notes of the theme of the Lance.
The one that describes the fate of wolves, the Wälsungen, consists
of three successive sections: a sort of heroic and funeral march,
which accelerated turns into aggressive fanfare, this march is followed
by a plaintive theme evoking an unfortunate fate, finally a third
very sweet and almost comforting, major section resulting in a desperate
conclusion.But when Siegmund evokes women in one way or another,
the vocal line takes on extreme inflections of sweetness and longing
joined to a delicacy of nuances which contrasts strongly with the
heroic and aggressive breaks of the stories. What else can one add?
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person is extremely complex and evolving throughout the opera.
Several directors show her old, grey, as if worn out by suffering
and tarnished by the conjugal life without love. But this
is contradicted by music. The first theme is interlaced with
that of Siegmund and results in that of Freia.
it is curiously close to that of the Ring and the curse: two
progressive successions of rising tierces falling slowly.
One also names it the theme of condolence.
theme is represented only by its second section said often "
flight motive " and serving as onset in the theme of love.
The other theme associated to Sieglinde: a Dionysian fanfare expressing
a revolt and a sexual desire repressed for a long time. Finally
a ceaselessly repeated sinuous motive accompanies the touch of the
body of her bridegroom brother: it expresses seduction, but also
a sort of plaintive and obsessional desire.
is rather close to the one that characterizes Hagen's manipulation,
his desire to seduce and to persuade. Sieglinde's character
is a paradoxical combination of a plaintive and a little passive
sweetness and explosions of vitality and passion. One notices
the brutality of these changes of humor in the last scene
of "Walküre". She passes immediately from a
suicidal dejection to a wild ecstasy as soon as she learns
that she carries a child. We must take good note of the energy
of this weak woman. It is she who continuously leads the party.
She is the unconscious instrument of Wotan's project. She
welcomes the hero, shows him the sword, pushes him to the
incestuous union, incites him in her vengeance, and pulls
him in the battlefield where he will die.
is she who recognizes her brother, but she will tell him the truth
only when the point of no return is crossed.
Erda and Brünnhilde, Sieglinde is clairvoyant. She sees her
brother torn by the pack. Same as for Siegmund, her existence is
placed entirely under the sign of the misfortune, and same again
as for him it is the poignant will to fight, to strive towards happiness.
incestuous couple was strikingly represented by Beckmann.
It disturbs us profoundly by the extraordinary variety of
contradictory feelings which it arouses: eroticism, pity,
tenderness, light condemnation also tinged with admiration,
solidarity, aversion, feeling of a failure and certain fault
in this love relation.
my opinion, aversion and illness do not result from incest. After
all, the healthier relationship between Brünnhilde and Siegfried
is not less incestuous. The mental and emotional consanguinity is
really what shocks more than the physical consanguinity (the same
voice, the same glance). During the duet of love, very strange if
one thinks of it, each one of them recognizes his reflection in
the other. The love relation is almost narcissistic and is placed
under the sign of blood. The last words of the duet of love are
"Wälsungen-Blut ". On this word Blood, the theme
of the misfortune falls like an axe.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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 ".
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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are at the origin of many misunderstandings. First of all
their famous ride was often musically deformed. The main theme
was accentuated in the fifth note instead of the second, replacing
the spectral leap by a heavy military music. She was presented
outside of the context and reorchestrated. She was accompanied
by the fireworks, by the helicopters in Apocalypse Now, by
a caravan of camels in the desert where nomads discovered
with delight a bottle of mineral water half buried in the
sand in a TV ad.
In popular mind, the Walkyries are the symbol of the Ring, Wagner
is the grandfather of triumphant German militarism and Siegfried
is the Aryan hero praised and sung by the Nazis.They are musical
monuments amounted to the glory of the imperious and triumphant
German race. Deutschland über Alles.
the reality written in the opera partition is absolutely different
and the Ring of Centenary was necessary to show it. The eight sisters
are real hyenas, characters accumulating the negative connotations.
Deprived of adequate selves, they are terrorized by Walvater Wotan
who despises them openly; they are incapable to help the two women
on the run. They restrict themselves to a corporatist reflex of
defence towards Brünnhilde. Their necrophilia role deserves
a phantasmagoria of horror. Their built in function is to instigate
the frenzy, the virility of young people to make them to death.
Hegel asserted, not without reason, that the one that wins in the
fight is the hero who pawns his life to defend his cause. Walkyries
suite this definition to the extreme: the heroes whom they select
entail and coach for Walhalla (the Hall of the heroes), correspond
all to the definition of Hegel: yes they are fearless winners, but
they are dead.
the spectral ride, which crosses the sky the massacre frightens
less than the atmosphere that precedes the entrance of the
heroes to Walhalla. We are at the antipodes of the noble assembly,
the delights praised by Brünnhilde to Siegmund, the delicious
creatures stretching out the mead to the happy warriors. The
viragos enjoy themselves with corpses, compare them, and roar.
In popular imagination they always sing in choir, while per
partition they roar in a horrifying disorder, screaming in
are atmospheric figures, comparable to Donner and to the thunderstorm.
But while the theme of Donner, of his hammer and thick clouds
that he collects, are based on the triad of nature, the harmony
of the furies is based on the fifth increased, succession
of two major tierces. This agreement belongs to the scale
by tones, used profoundly by Debussy to represent the unverifiable
force of elements and impulses. The stage setting and the
iconography further reinforce the musical and semantic misunderstandings.
is certainly extremely difficult to represent these riders
crossing the airs; Wagner the precursor showed the way by
using light projections. But today the stage-directors represent
them either as hardened grandmothers in grey plastic clothes,
with Prussian helmet headwear, or bitchy witches in leather
motorbike ware.The behaviour of Walkyries justifies to a certain
extent Brünnhilde's contemptuous attitude to one of them:
Waltraute comes to ask her for help.
She depicts the troop of her sisters in a horrible light. The warrior
sisters incapable of any reaction, surround wallowed on the ground,
terrorized, and paralysed by fear, the indifferent and depressive
God. They are unemployed and demoralized by idleness. The Walkyries
will perish in the final fire with the powerless and catatonic gods.
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Characters of " Siegfried "
title role is one of three characters most detailed by Wagner.
Although appearing only in the two last dramae, he occupies
the front of the stage and is bound for paradoxical and crushing
performances. He is in my opinion, together with the
Rhine maidens and Loge, the most difficult person to characterize
and to represent in a suitable way. One of the reasons is
the combination of paradoxical features.
It is just as difficult to represent them faithfully as to
make the Maidens sing under water! First of all the hero undergoes
a considerable evolution throughout the eight hours of performance.
At the beginning he is a teenager, a cruel and rebellious
little brat, but brilliant with vitality. Gradually the child
becomes adolescent and discovers himself step by step.
will really know himself only when he dies. Many a stage director
has interpreted the transformation of Siegfried after his first
sexual experience by growing him a beard overnight! Such approach
was at the origin of many popular misunderstandings, which affected
the Ring and threw a doubtful light on its "ideology".
On the first images of Doepler or Echter, Siegfried is an anti-authority
ecologist, a good young man in the pink cheeks and a sweet glance.
Rackham makes a moving portrait of his innocence and sweetness.
It is only after the First World War that Stassen makes him a symbol
of the Teutonic fighting spirit. Braune and the other Nazi iconographers
will stress this aggressive side. The affectionate protester, in
love with freedom, close to nature and dreaming about the friendship
of a companion, becomes the beautiful animal, powerful and aggressive,
dreamed and sung by Nazi iconographers.
the Second World War, directors had three choices. First choice
was to keep the traditional look: armour, hairy animal skin
and winged helmet.
choice was the look of the young a worker in overalls, or
an astronaut coming from Mars. The third, final choice was
consisted to caricature the character by exaggerating his
So, one could see Siegfried as a dull beer barrel, in Bavarian pair
of shorts and beer drinker's paunch or as protonazi officer super-evolving
among swastikas and mussolinien monuments. I wondered for some decades
what Wagner would have done if he had had to represent his favorite
hero with modern means.
us enumerate some features of the character, revealed by the image
of Wagner and those that worked with him have seen it. First of
all, Siegfried is as cheerful, as his father is sad. Even, if following
the example of the Rhine maidens,
his laughter is cruel. At the
beginning, having imposed a wholesome fear to the dwarf, he is obliged
to sit down to calm his laughter.
when Wotan tries to explain him the mystery of his blind eye:
" You are funny and I laugh! " He exclaims. The
dragon himself makes him laugh, and
Brünnhilde as Hagen
characterize him by the happy and radiant character. Cheerful
as the Rhine maidens, he is also a player. The counterpart
of this happy arrangement is his impatience and his fits of
anger. Not only Mime, but also Brünnhilde and Wotan have
to taste his physical impulsiveness. Curiously Siegfried passes
by periods of extreme quiet and excessive liveliness. The
other characteristic of the hero: his propensity to the "
Sehnsucht ", that is German romantic sentimentalism.
Very sensitive to beauty and to brightness, he can be shy
and brave at the same time.
Siegfried is represented as a quiet muscled imbecile. But the false
duet of love with Brünnhilde shows him in a surprisingly different
way. The boy shows himself as a skilful courtier and answers the
arguments of the Walkyrie with remarkable logic and sharpness. Mime
hates Siegfried, Wotan is proud of him at the beginning, but is
cruelly humiliated by his presumed heir. Brünnhilde feels for
him an unfathomable, unspeakable, maternal tenderness, alternating
with a wild idolization which paves the way for prepares for a wild
vengeance. The key passages that stir up Brünnhilde's feelings
for Siegfried are the following:
Du wonniges Kind... ": You charming child, your mother
will never return to you... A very affectionate motive accompanies
the line of song, which melancholically goes down on the last
verse. (Wagner recommends singing it "hesitantly").
It is this affectionate, maddeningly exciting theme that will
conclude "Siegfried". The same theme crowns the
short existence of the hero. It will be associated to the
shudders of agony, which the dying young man takes for the
shudders of sensual delight.
The same theme comes up when the magic caress make the hero invulnerable.
(Apparently, his back was not caressed!)
" Ewig war ich... " Brünnhilde begs Siegfried
not to infringe on her virginity and to keep her as his anima. Two
motives accompany these psychoanalytical verses before the word.
The first one, said "about peace" results from a string
quartet, but its line of bass reproduces the motive of Walkyrie's
will never reappear in the Ring. The second, associated with
verses " O Siegfried Herrlicher! Hort der Welt... "
O powerful Siegfried, treasure of the world, life of the earth,
cheerful hero person! " It begins with a trill and a
melancholic and sensual chromatic preparation resulting in
the oscillating triad of the perfect accord. One hears this
triad in the prelude of the Rhinegold, and when Siegfried
remembers his reflection in the water. This filiation explains
itself by the following verses: " have not you ever seen
your image in a clear brook? ". (One could object that
it is difficult to be mirrored in a source! Same as to wonder
how to sing under water without swallowing it!). Let us be
serious, the music literally melts under the most heart-rending
tenderness, tempted by a feeling, which is as delicate as
powerful: the fear to lose what one likes too much. Colette
wrote about Chéri that physical beauty in a boy is
sad because it is intended not to last.
This obsessing and discreet theme appears laconically and only four
times in the Ring. When Brünnhilde asks her lover not to overwhelm
her but to spare her, when in solitude, in the middle of the near
thunderstorm, she contemplates the wedding Ring and later when ill
treated by Siegfried she falls broken into his arms and meets her
shining glance, finally when she is mad with resentment she evokes
this fatal moment. These themes reflect the character of a very
young man, almost a child. And this teenager is capable of arousing
feelings of an unfathomable protective tenderness, of a melancholic
and worried care, of a boundless admiration. Such character does
not agree with the reputation of an insensible brute, which is generally
attributed to Siegfried.
theme of peace and that of Siegfried as treasure of the World
are most meagrely distributed in the Ring. But Wagner caught
up on these themes in the strongly autobiographical music
of Siegfried Idyll.
He projected his feelings for his hero on his the newborn
child Siegfried Wagner.
One finds these two themes reborn, refined and associated
in counterpoint to a popular lullaby, to the theme of silver
horn of adolescent Siegfried, to a motive for the warm blood
which circulates in his veins, and finally to another one
of his quartos called " about the decision to love ".
above enumerated brings a precious light on the character of the
young man: Wagner liked him and admired him. The composer identified
himself with Brünnhilde as he identified Siegfried with his
son. This is the source of his ambiguous longing for the inaccessible,
which is typical for the homosexual phantasm. We know that Siegfried
Wagner, who was unhappily named after the hero of the Ring, died
of a heart attack after having directed the funeral march of Siegfried.
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