The second opera.
About 4 hours 10 minutes plus two intervals.
Three acts which set out the parentage of Siegfried and the fate of Brunhilde.
Act 1 – Hunding’s House
Fleeing battle in a heavy storm, Siegmund finds shelter at at a house in the woods. It is the how of Hunding and his wife, Sieglinde. After a brief recovery, Siegmund makes to leave, but Sieglinde asks him stay.
Hunding returns from the same battle and reluctantly offers Siegmund hospitality.
Siegmund tells his story, describing how his mother was murdered, his twin sister kidnapped and his father lost.
Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund’s pursuers and grants him one night’s stay, after which they will fight.
Sieglinde drugs Hunding’s drink sending him into a deep sleep.
She tells Siegmund of about an old man who appeared at her wedding and drove a sword into the bark of the tree that grows in their house. No one has been able to pull the sword free -it awaits a hero who will be her saviour.
Of course, Sieglinde is the lost twin sister and she realises this just as they declare their love for each other. Siegmund draws the blade from the tree and names it Northung. The couple embrace.
Act 2 – The Mountains
We meet Brunhilde, Valkyrie daughter of Wotan. He tells her she is to protect Siegmund in his fight with Hunding.
Fricka arrives. As the goddess of marriage she insists Siegmund and Sieglinde are punished for their incest and adultery. She has also worked out that not only is Wotan the father of Siegmund and Sieglinde but he also placed the sword in the tree for Siegmund to find. This is Wotan‘s plan to create an independent hero to support his machinations.
Fricka argues Siegmund is not free but is Wotan‘s pawn. Wotan reluctantly relents and agrees to allow Hunding to kill Siegmund.
This is a key plot point on which much of The Ring turns, so it’s worth dwelling on for a moment. After hearing Erda‘s warning and seeing the power of the ring’s curse firsthand, Wotan seduced Erda to find out more about the fate of the Gods. The result of the union was Brunhilde and her eight Valkyrie sisters who are tasked with gathering souls of fallen heroes to build an army to take on Alberich.
The ring meanwhile, remains with Fafnir who has turned himself into a dragon to guard the gold. Wotan can’t take the ring from Fafnir due to the contract between them so was hoping for a hero not bound to him to do the job for him. Fricka‘s argument has scuppered this plan – got that? Back to the action!
Wotan changes his orders to Brunhilde and now tells her to allow Hunding to win the forthcoming fight.
Siegmund and Sieglinde are now in the mountains themselves, attempting to flee Hunding. Sieglinde passes out, which allows Brunhilde to approach Siegmund and relate his fate to him. She is impressed by his resoluteness and his loyalty to Sieglinde and decides to honour Wotan‘s original directive, which was after all his true wish, and allow Siegmund victory.
Hunding catches up with the fleeing siblings and battle ensues with Siegmund getting the upper hand. Suddenly, Wotan appears and shatters Northung with his spear. Hunding takes his chance and kills Siegmunde. Brunhilde grabs the shards of Northung, picks up Sieglinde and rides off. Wotan slays Hunding and gives chase.
Act 3 – The Mountain Top
The Valkyries ride in. Brünnhilde arrives with Sieglinde. She asks for their support but they are afraid to stand against Wotan. Sieglinde seeks to join Siegmund in death but Brünnhilde reveals she is carrying his chid, whom she must name Siegfried. Sieglinde takes the fragments of Nothung from Brunhilde and flees.
An angry Wotan arrives and condemns Brünnhilde to become mortal and to sleep until a mortal man claims her. Brünnhilde begs for mercy pointing out she really carried out Wotan‘s wish rather than his order.
Finally, Wotan relents and agrees to get Loge to encircle her sleeping form with fire so only a true hero can claim her. Brunhilde sleeps.