act 2 complete in 7 parts
pictured: Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Lotte Lehmann
the libretto will open up in a seperate page
Richard Wagner Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
Conducted by Fritz Reiner 1936 Mono.
Although Wotan, chief of the gods, rules over giants, men and the Nibelung dwarfs by virtue of the treaties and contracts engraved on the shaft of his spear, he has himself broken one such contract — he promised to give the goddess Freia to the two giants Fasolt and Fafner as payment for building the stronghold of Valhalla, but when the work was completed he refused to part with Freia, who provides the gods with the apples of eternal youth.
A substitute had to be found, and the giants demanded the treasure of Alberich the Nibelung. Alberich had stolen the magic Rhine gold from the three Rhine maidens and forged from it a ring which gives its bearer mastery of the world if he will forswear love. Wotan was not prepared to renounce love, but coveted the power of the ring. He took it by force from Alberich, who then put a deadly curse on it. Wotan gave it to the giants but was only after the all-wise goddess Erda, mother of the three Norns (weavers of the world's destiny), warned him of the approaching end of the gods. Alberich's curse took immediate effect: Fafner killed Fasolt to gain the ring, and took the entire treasure.
By means of the Tarnhelm (a magic cap which Alberich's brother Mime had forged from the gold) he changed himself into a monstrous dragon and in this form he hoards the treasure in a cave in the depths of a forest. Wotan now takes two measures to secure himself against danger. With the help of the nine Valkyries borne to him by Erda (chief among whom is Brünnhilde), he gathers about him in Valhalla an army of warriors who will be able to defend him against Alberich's power, should the Nibelung ever regain possession of the Ring, and at the same time he seeks to influence events so that the ring will fall into the hands of a hero who has grown up free of divine help and is not bound by any of the treaties that bind the god himself. Under the name "Wälse" he has fathered, by a mortal woman, the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have become separated from each other while children.
It is the following morning. Siegmund and Sieglinde have fled from Hunding into the mountains. Wotan orders his daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, to prepare for battle in order to help Siegmund kill Hunding in their coming fight. Fricka, Wotan's consort, now approaches. As the guardian of marriage, she demands the death of Siegmund, who is guilty of both adultery and incest. When Wotan refuses to abandon his "free hero", Fricka lays bare his self-deception: Siegmund is in no sense independent since his fate has been pre-ordained by Wotan, who has even indirectly led him to find the magic sword.
Wotan, as guardian of oaths, is compelled to punish Siegmund and must now promise to leave him to his fate without any protection. He must also forbid Brünnhilde to aid him in his fight against Hunding. When Fricka has left, Wotan openly expresses his despair, and in the course of a long monologue explains to Brünnhilde the story of the Ring and the curse attached to it. When Brünnhilde shows her reluctance to abandon Siegmund, Wotan threatens her with his terrible anger; he orders her to obey, and storms off. Brünnhilde sadly withdraws. Siegmund and Sieglinde now arrive; Sieglinde, half-crazed with fear, sinks into an exhausted sleep. Brünnhilde appears before Siegmund to announce his forthcoming death and his reception among the heroes of Valhalla.
Siegmund, however, refuses to follow her into Valhalla if Sieglinde cannot accompany him. Brünnhilde is deeply moved that a man can value love higher than the everlasting bliss of Valhalla. She is overcome with compassion as Siegmund, in a fit of despair, prepares to kill his sleeping sister after learning that she bears his child. Brünnhilde prevents him and promises to support him despite Wotan's command. But in the fight Wotan himself unexpectedly intervenes. His spear shatters the magic sword, Siegmund is killed by Hunding, and Brünnhilde, gathering up the pieces of the sword, hastily leads Sieglinde away to safety. Hunding falls dead at a contemptuous gesture from Wotan, who then hurries after Brünnhilde to punish her disobedience.