In Götterdämmerung, the work’s essential conflict between the longing for love and the greed for power – which Wagner developed and deepened during the course of the Ring’s operas– comes to a shattering culmination. The hero Siegfried unknowingly betrays his bride Brünnhilde. She swears vengeance – and sets off a chain of tragic events that brings the world to an end…
The stage director Viestur Kairish: “Siegfried is the innocent victim. He is full of emotions, absolutely unconditional in his love, and so naïve that it is touching. He does not really understand anything of what is happening around him. Siegfried is very much an anti-hero. Like many other real-life heroes. What I find fascinating is the two sides of the concept of the hero: on the one hand, there is the actual life of the hero, which is very often not heroic at all, but rather sad and tragic. On the other hand, there is the legend – what people make out of the hero's life after he died.”
It is unclear what is harder: to stage this five-hour, vocal-symphonic machinery or to understand and express the characters of this tangled and deep plot. Riga’s production succeeds with both. The LNO staging is full of tension and humour.
Dmitrij Tsilikin, Vedemosti
Performed in German with Latvian and English surtitles.
Three Norns spin the rope of Fate, recalling Wotan's days of power and predicting the end of the Gods. When the rope breaks they descend in terror to their mother, Erda, goddess of the earth.
Brünnhilde sends Siegfried forth to deeds of valour, even though she is fearful that she may lose him. As a token of his love, Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the magic Ring he took from Fafner. Passionately they bid farewell as Siegfried sets off into the world.
In their residence on the Rhine, Gunther, Lord of the Gibichungs, and his sister Gutrune, both unwed, ask counsel of their half-brother, Hagen. Plotting to secure the Ring, Hagen advises Gunther to marry Brünnhilde: by means of a magic potion Siegfried can be induced to forget his bride and win her for Gunther in return for Gutrune's hand. The hero's horn announces his approach. Gunther welcomes him, and Gutrune offers him the potion. Remembering Brünnhilde, he drinks – and instantly forgets all, quickly succumbing to Gutrune's beauty and agreeing to bring Brünnhilde to Gunther. The two men swear an oath of blood brotherhood, and then depart. Hagen, left to keep watch, broods on his plot's success.
Brünnhilde is visited by her sister Waltraute, who says Wotan has warned the gods their doom is sealed unless Brünnhilde yields the Ring to the Rhinemaidens. But Brünnhilde's love for Siegfried is more important to her than concern for the Gods. She refuses to give up the Ring, and Waltraute rides off in despair. Dusk falls as Siegfried returns transformed by the Tarnhelm into Gunther's form. He tears the Ring from the terrified Brünnhilde's finger and claims her as Gunther's Bride.
At night, Hagen dreams of his father, the Nibelung Alberich, who forces him to swear he will regain the Ring. As dawn breaks, Siegfried returns with cheerful greetings for Hagen and Gutrune: he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther. Hagen summons the vassals to welcome the ruler and his new bride. When Gunther leads in Brünnhilde, she is startled at seeing Siegfried; observing the Ring on his finger, she decries his treachery and proclaims Siegfried her true husband. Still under the potion's spell, the hero vows upon Hagen's spear that he has never wronged her. Brünnhilde swears he lies, but Siegfried dismisses her charge and leaves with Gutrune.
The dazed Brünnhilde, bent on revenge, reveals to Hagen the hero's one vulnerable spot: a spear in the back will kill him. Taunted by Brünnhilde and lured by Hagen's description of the Ring's power, Gunther joins the murder plot. The couples proceed to the wedding feast.
On the banks of the Rhine the three Rhinemaidens bewail their lost treasure. Soon Siegfried approaches, separated from his hunting party. The maidens plead for the Ring, but he ignores both their entreaties and warnings. When the hunters arrive, Siegfried at Hagen's urging describes his boyhood with his foster father Mime, his slaying of the dragon Fafner and finally – after Hagen gives him a potion to restore his memory – his wooing of Brünnhilde. Pretending indignation, Hagen plunges a spear into the hero's back. Remembering Brünnhilde with his last breath, Siegfried dies.
At the Gibichung Hall, Gutrune nervously awaits her bridegroom's return. Hagen tells her Siegfried has been killed by a wild boar, but when his body is carried in she accuses Gunther of murder. Hagen admits the crime. Quarrelling over the Ring, Gunther is killed by Hagen, who falls back in fear when the dead Siegfried raises his hand. Brünnhilde condemns the gods for their guilt in his death, takes the Ring, and promises it to the Rhinemaidens. Placing it on her finger, she sets Siegfried’s body afire and commits suicide. As the river overflows its banks and the Gibichung Hall is consumed, Hagen tries to get hold of the Ring, but gets killed. The Rhinemaidens regain their gold, at last purified of its curse. Flames engulf Valhalla: the old world order has come to an end. A new era is about to begin.