Siegfried, the third opera of Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen tetralogy, has all the ingredients of a gripping fairy tale: A naive hero grows up deep in the forest without parents. Not yet knowing what fear is, he kills the dragon Fafner and wins not only the magical ring which has the power to rule the world, but also Brinnhilde, the Valkyrie who sleeps on a mountain top surrounded by an impenetrable wall of fire. Wagner’s music, a sublime web of leitmotifs, is as emotionally rich as it is dramatically thrilling.
“Siegfried is a story about power and the battle for it. Being one of our most quintessential quests, it is always relevant, and never more relevant than today. Siegfried is specially trained and nurtured with one specific aim—as an instrument for acquiring power. However, the power of childishness and nature has survived in Siegfried, and that is what makes this character so fascinating,” says Viestur Kairish.
Performed in German with Latvian and English surtitles.
In his dwelling deep in the forest near Fafner's lair, Mime toils at an anvil to forge a new sword for Siegfried, who has grown to manhood. The Nibelung has fashioned many blades for his ward, but they always broke into pieces when tested. Though Mime secretly has kept the shattered Nothung, the magic sword wielded by Siegfried's father, he lacks the skill to restore its fragments. If he could do so, with Siegfried's help, he would fulfill his dream of obtaining Fafner's ring and becoming ruler of the world.
Siegfried storms in with a bear he has captured, playfully scaring Mime. Impatient for a new sword, Siegfried grasps Mime's latest effort, only to have the weapon snap like a toy in his hands. To avoid the headstrong youth's anger, the Nibelung offers kind words and food, both brusquely rebuffed. Mime reminds Siegfried of the long years he has looked after him and all he has taught him. Siegfried retorts he has never learned to tolerate the sight of Mime.
They do not resemble each other, he says, and he demands to know who his real parents were. The Nibelung confesses that years ago he found a woman in distress in the woods and nursed her as she died giving birth. Her name was Sieglinde, and the baby's father had fallen in combat. Siegfried's name is a legacy from his mother. Moved by the story, Siegfried asks for proof of what he has been told, at which Mime takes forth the splintered remnants of the sword Nothung. At once the youth insists the weapon be wielded whole, so he can go forth into the world to seek adventure. Siegfried runs back into the forest.
As Mime sits dejected, a Wanderer appears. Soon the unwanted guest proposes a battle of wits in which he will forfeit his head should he lose. Mime, though suspicious, agrees, then proceeds to ask the Wanderer three questions: what race lives under the earth (the Nibelungs), on the face of the earth (the giants) and on cloudy heights (the gods)? The Wanderer answers correctly, and Mime realizes that his guest is no other than Wotan himself. The God in disguise then declares that Mime too must answer three questions, to save his own head: what is the race Wotan mistreated but loves most (the Wälsungs), what is the sword Siegfried must use if he is to kill the dragon Fafner (Nothung), and who will forge the shattered weapon anew? When Mime cannot answer the last question, the Wanderer tells him the sword can be forged only by one who has never known fear - and he leaves the Nibelung's head as bounty to that person.
Hearing distant growls, Mime panics, thinking Fafner is coming, but it is only Siegfried, eager to wield his father's sword. Mime tries to find out whether the youth comprehends the meaning of fear. Since he does not, Mime decides to take him to Fafner's lair, where surely he will learn it. When Siegfried once more orders Mime to finish Nothung, the Nibelung confesses that he lacks the craft, upon which Siegfried decides to forge the weapon himself. He succeeds by shredding the metal, melting it, and casting it anew. While the youth toils, Mime plots to get rid of him once Fafner has been killed and the treasure recovered. Siegfried brandishes the finished sword, splits the anvil with it and rushes into the forest.
That night, Alberich keeps vigil near Fafner's lair, brooding over his lost treasure, determined to regain the Ring. When the Wanderer approaches, the Nibelung at once recognizes him as Wotan. The god assures him that he no longer cares about the Ring - he is now only an observer of destiny. He adds that it is Mime whom Alberich should fear, for Mime wants the gold and brings a young hero to slay Fafner. The Nibelung is perplexed that his enemy seems to be helping him. The Wanderer and Alberich rouse the sleeping Fafner to warn him of approaching danger, urging him to surrender the Ring, but Fafner only mumbles he will devour any attacker. God and Nibelung disappear in the shadows.
As dawn breaks, Mime enters with Siegfried, showing him Fafner's lair. The youth longs to be alone and sends Mime away. Enchanted by the murmurs of the forest, Siegfried yearns for the mother he never knew. High in the branches above his head, a Forest Bird sings a song he wishes he could understand. Siegfried tries to imitate the bird. After several attempts fail, he uses his horn to communicate with the bird, but instead awakes Fafner. Fearlessly Siegfried attacks him and plunges his sword into Fafner's heart. Dying, he warns that whoever put Siegfried up to this deed is plotting his death as well. When Siegfried draws Nothung from Fafner's dead body, his fingers are burned by blood, and he touches them to his lips. The taste of Fafner's blood enables him to understand the language of the Forest Bird, who tells him of the Nibelung hoard, the Tarnhelm and the Ring. As Siegfried disappears into the cave to inspect the treasure, Mime returns, only to be confronted by Alberich. The brothers quarrel over the spoils, withdrawing when Siegfried reappears, carrying the Tarnhelm and the Ring. The Forest Bird warns Siegfried about Mime, who comes back offering a poisoned drink. Reading the Nibelung's true thoughts, the youth loses patience and kills him. While Siegfried rests, lamenting his solitude, the bird tells him of a woman who sleeps on a fire-encircled rock - Brünnhilde, a bride who can be won only by a hero who knows no fear. Realizing that he himself does not yet know that sensation, Siegfried is determined to learn fear from Brünnhilde. He follows the bird out of the forest toward the mountain where she sleeps.
At a deserted place, the Wanderer summons Erda from eternal sleep. He seeks knowledge of the future. Erda evades the questions, and the god, resigning himself to Valhalla's doom, bequeaths the world to the redemptive power of Brünnhilde's love. When Siegfried approaches, the Wanderer inquires about his exploits and the sword he wears. The youth responds arrogantly, angering the god, who tries to block Siegfried's path with his spear. Drawing Nothung, the youth splinters the Wanderer's spear with a single stroke.
Realizing his power has ended, the god retrieves the broken pieces, then vanishes as Siegfried penetrates the fire that surrounds the sleeping Brünnhilde.
The flames expire, and Siegfried discovers an armed, sleeping figure which he assumes to be a man. When he removes the warrior's shield, helmet and breastplate, he finds instead the first woman he has ever seen. At last sensing fear, he invokes the spirit of his mother, finally summoning the courage to kiss the maiden's lips. Brünnhilde, roused from her long slumber, hails the sunlight and her return to life. At first exuberant with joy that it is Siegfried who woke her, she yet starts in alarm when he tries to embrace her, protesting that earthly passion would destroy her immortality.
But she is mortal, no longer a Valkyrie, and womanly ardor soon replaces shame and fear. Throwing herself into Siegfried's arms, she bids farewell to memories of Valhalla, abandoning herself to human love, exulting even in thoughts of death.