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Das Rheingold

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L'or du Rhin is the first of Wagner's ring cycle. Both the libretto and the score of "L'or du Rhin" were written and composed by Wagner and the opera was premiered in Munich in 1869. When planning the cycle Wagner started at the end, with the death of the hero Siegfried and worked backwards to his youth, conception and the trials of his parents.

Act 1

L'or du Rhin begins with a musical prelude, representing the motion of the River Rhine. The three Rhine maidens - Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde, are on the stage; playing and singing. Alberich, an ugly dwarf appears and attempts to seduce them but the maidens mock and reject him. The rising sun produces a golden orb and the maidens tell Alberich that this is the Rhine gold which their father has ordered them to guard. If someone renounces love they can take this gold, turning it into a magic ring which will let the bearer rule the world. Alberich, scorned by the maidens, seizes the gold, curses love and departs.

Act 2

Wotan and his wife Fricka, rulers of the gods, are asleep on the mountain. They awaken to see that their new castle is complete. Two giants, Fasolt and Fafner, have been commissioned to build this castle in exchange for the hand of Fricka's sister, Freia. Wotan is confident that Freia will be safe, as his servant Loge is searching the world for something the giants will value more. The giants, however, refuse to allow Wotan to break his word. Loge returns to say that the only thing the giants might accept is the ring that Alberich has stolen, so the giants depart taking Freia. Without Freia to keep them young all of the gods begin to wither and age so Wotan and Loge decide to enter the underworld in search of the gold.

Act 3

Meanwhile, Alberich has used the power of the ring to enslave the dwarves who are instructed to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. This renders Alberich invisible or able to change his shape and size. When Wotan and Loge arrive they hear about the dwarfs' misery. Alberich returns and orders his slaves to build a huge pile of gold. He then tells Wotan and Loge about his plans to conquer the world and boasts about the helmet. Loge pretends not to believe him and asks for a demonstration of its power. Alberich transforms himself into a frog; the two gods seize him and take him to the overworld.

Act 4

Alberich summons his slaves to bring his gold to the mountain top in exchange for his freedom. Wotan also takes the magic ring and as it is seized the dwarf curses it.
Fasolt and Fafner return with Freia and insist enough gold is piled up to cover her before they will release her. A small gap remains, however, and they ask Wotan to use the ring to fill it. He refuses and the giants take Freia away again. Erda, the earth goddess, older and more powerful than Wotan, appears and tries to persuade Wotan to give up the cursed ring. He calls the giants back and in exchange for Freia surrenders it. Fafner and Fasolt then begin to quarrel and Fafner kills Fasolt. Wotan and Fricka are now able to enter their new castle, which Wotan has named Valhalla. As the opera ends Loge forsees that the gods' time is nearly up and refuses to enter the castle; the Rhine maidens mourn the loss of the gold and proclaim that the power of the gods is illusory.


Wotan: King of the Gods.
Fricka: his wife.
Loge: servant to Wotan.
Freia: sister to Fricka.
Alberich: dwarf leader of the underworld.
Fasolt and Fafner: two giants.

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