Listen to Die Walküre

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The second installment in Wagner's monumental Ring cycle, Die Walküre is the most deeply moving and romantic of all the Ring operas. Its riveting, devastating drama involves complex relationships between brother and sister, husband and wife, father and daughter. Every character is unforgettable—valiant Siegmund and Sieglinde, headstrong Brünnhilde and mighty, tortured Wotan, determined Fricka and vengeful Hunding. Wagner's music drama burns itself on our memories, exciting us with the emotional intensity of its lyrical outbursts and its incredible power and majesty.

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Act one

Siegmund seeks shelter in Hunding's home. Sieglinde, Hunding's wife, looks after him. Siegmund tells Hunding of his boyhood: his mother was killed and his twin sister abducted. His father raised him as a lone warrior, and then vanished. Siegmund reveals that is seeking shelter, having supported a young woman whom kinsmen were forcing into a loveless marriage. After slaying several of her oppressors, he was disarmed, wounded, and put to flight. Hunding declares that the fallen were his own kinsmen, and that he will exact vengeance the following day. The sacred vows of hospitality, however, protect his guest that night.

Siegmund recalls his father's promise that he would find a sword in his hour of need. Sieglinde reveals that she has drugged Hunding with a sleeping draft, and shows Siegmund a sword buried to the hilt in the ash tree that grows through Hunding's house. A stranger, whom Sieglinde recognized as her father, had appeared at her wedding feast and plunged the sword into the tree, promising it would belong to anyone who could withdraw it. So far, everyone has failed this challenge.

Suddenly moonlight floods the room. Greeting the spring, Siegmund declares that fate sent him to rescue Sieglinde and claim her as his bride. She recognizes him as her brother, and names him "Siegmund". He pulls out the sword and names it "Nothung" ("Need") and the ecstatic twins become lovers.

Act two

Scene one

Brünnhilde, Wotan's favorite Valkyrie daughter, greets her father. He commands her to defend Siegmund in his duel with Hunding.

Fricka, goddess of marriage and Wotan's wife, demands that he cease protecting the incestuous lovers, and that marital propriety must be upheld. Wotan is reluctantly forced to yield: the gods cannot survive if they ignore the sacred laws on which their power rests. When Brünnhilde returns, Wotan explains the long history of the ring. He had intended that Siegmund would recapture the ring, but that is now impossible; Wotan is reduced to awaiting the end of his supremacy, which Erda predicted would follow the birth of Alberich's son. Wotan bitterly instructs Brünnhilde to ensure Hunding's triumph over Siegmund. When the Valkyrie protests, her father threatens her with severe punishment should she disobey.

Scene two

Overcome by shame and fear, Sieglinde begs her brother to leave her. Siegmund is confident of victory over Hunding. Sieglinde's terror increases as she has a premonition of Siegmund's death.

Brünnhilde appears to Siegmund as the messenger of death, and tells him that she will escort him to Valhalla. When he learns that Sieglinde cannot accompany him, Siegmund scorns the heroes’ paradise. He prepares to kill Sieglinde and himself, to preserve their union in death. Deeply moved, Brünnhilde promises to aid Siegmund in battle.

Siegmund confronts Hunding. Brünnhilde manages to protect him until Wotan appears, shattering Siegmund's sword and enabling Hunding to kill him. Brünnhilde flees with Sieglinde, and the fragments of the sword. Having kept his promise to Fricka, Wotan contemptuously slays Hunding and swears to punish Brünnhilde.

Act three

The Valkyries assemble. Brünnhilde begs her sisters to save Sieglinde from Wotan’s wrath. The Valkyries tell her that Wotan does not go near the forest that shelters Fafner, the giant, who has transformed himself into a dragon to guard his treasure. Brünnhilde reveals that the life of Siegmund’s unborn son depends on Sieglinde’s survival. Ecstatic, Sieglinde sets off for the forest alone, taking with her only the shattered fragments of the sword, “Nothung.”

The Valkyries flee from Wotan's wrath. He condemns Brünnhilde to be put to sleep on the Valkyrie rock, defenseless against the first man who claims her as his wife. Brünnhilde explains that she disobeyed only Wotan's words, not his true desire. She asks to be surrounded by a fire that only a fearless hero can penetrate. Wotan grants her request and, bidding her a heartbroken farewell, he kisses her eyes and lets her sink into a deep sleep. When he calls for Loge, the demigod of fire, a sea of flames encircles the mountain. Declaring that anyone who fears his spear will never step through the fire, Wotan disappears.

Meet the artists

* Lyric Opera debut
** Ryan Opera Center alumni
*** Current Member, Ryan Opera Center

Program book

Go inside this production of Die Walküre with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

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New Lyric production of Wagner’s Die Walküre generously made possible by

Mazza Foundation

Helen and Sam Zell

Marianne Deson-Herstein Trust, in memory of her parents, Samuel and Sarah Deson

Lyric Audio Streaming is made possible through a generous gift from

Robert F. Finke
in Memory of Carol Keenan

Photo: Cory Weaver