Online opera guide & synopsis to Wagner’s TWILIGHT OF GODS

The Ring of the Nibelung is a total work of art on a par with works of world literature such as Homer’s Iliad or Dante’s Divina commedia. It is astonishing how homogeneous this work appears to us, which was created over a period of 25 years and in a complex process of development. Twilight of Gods (Götterdämmerung) is an opera with grandiose images and concludes this work with a gigantic finale.







Prologue (Norn Scene, Siegfried’s and Brunhilde’s Farewell scene)

Act I (Gibichung castle scene)

♪ Act II   (Gibichung mass scene, oath scene, revenge scene)

♪ Act III  (Siegfried’s death scene, Finale)




Zu neuen Taten

O heilige Götter

Interlude to the first act (Siegfried’s Rhine Journey)

Hoiho! Hoihoo! (Gibichung mass scene)

Heil’ge Götter, himmlischer Lenker

Auf Gunther, edler Gibichung (Revenge trio)

Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen

Heil dir, Gunther

Einen Ring sah ich an Deiner Hand

Brünnhilde, heilige Braut

Siegfrieds Trauermarsch (Siegfried’s funeral march)

Flieget heim ihr Raben … Grane mein Ross sei mir gegrüsst (Finale)



Recording recommendation

♪ Recording recommendation










Bayreuth, 1876


Richard Wagner, based on a wide variety of primary sources. The main ones are: Greek mythology, the Nordic Edda saga and Völsung saga, and the German Nibelungenlied.


Siegfried, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde (tenor) - Brünnhilde, Valkyrie and daughter of Wotan (soprano) - Waltraute, Valkyrie and sister of Brünnhilde (alto) - Gunther, king of the Gibichungs (baritone) - Gutrune, sister of Gunther (soprano) - Alberich, Nibelunge (baritone) - Hagen, Gibichung and son of Alberich (bass) - Wellgunde, Flosshilde and Woglinde, mermaids and Rhine daughters, guardians of the Rhinegold (mezzo, alto, soprano) - Norns, fated women (mezzo, alto, soprano)


DECCA with Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, Gottlob Frick, Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau conducted by Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic.










The Twilight of Gods, the finale of a great saga

The Twilight of Gods is the unraveling of this vast saga that Wagner has brought together from dozens of sources. Bringing this epic story together and writing monumental music to go with it, can rightly be called a century’s achievement. The plot of the “Ring” spans several generations, with more than 20 supporting characters playing along. In hardly any other work by a single artist have so many stage characters with their own personalities and destinies been created.

1848, At the age of 35 Wagner began the work on the Ring of the Nibelung. Like a crime thriller, he began the poetry from the end. He first called the conclusion simply “Siegfried’s Death”, then later changed it to the title “Twilight of Gods” which is the literal translation of “Götterdämmerung”. In 1869 he began to compose the Twilight of Gods and 5 years later the setting of the poem was completed. 25 years after the beginning of his work on the Ring he writes the last bars of the music. For the Twilight of Gods this means that 20 years have passed between the completion of the libretto and the composition, which is probably unique in the history of opera.



The Interpretation & much more informations

In the overall portrait to the ring I present the different approaches to the interpretation of the work. To read them, click on the  link below. Moreover you will find there much more Information about history, interpretations, theory of leitmotifs etc.

Link to the Portrait to “The ring of the Nibelung”




An own festival theatre in Bayreuth

It was clear to Wagner from the very beginning, that the performance of such a work in existing theatres was hardly possible.

Early the idea of his own festival theatre was born. But it was to take another 25 years until its completion. Securing the financing of this enormous undertaking cost Wagner a great deal of work. In 1872 Wagner and his wife Cosima moved to Bayreuth, and construction work began. Together with many patrons he succeeds in raising money for the laying of the foundation stone of the Festspielhaus and for the purchase of the Villa Wahnfried. Four years later the Festspielhaus is opened with Rheingold. The first festival took place in 1876 in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm and all the European cultural celebrities and became Wagner’s greatest triumph of his entire life.

With the Ring and the construction of the Festspielhaus, Wagner completed his vision of the Gesamtkunstwerk: the union of the arts of music, poetry, architecture and stage design.



Wagner’s great visions

Wagner drew great visions from his creativity. Examples include: the scenes of the Rhine, the heights of Valhalla, the forge halls of Nibelheim, the fire magic around Brünnhilde’s sleeping place or the finale of the Twilight of Gods. Each of these pictures (and many more) are moments of fantastic power. Created by an accomplished playwright. Even today, the performance of these scenes still poses great technical and artistic challenges for the theatres.

Especially the Twilight of Gods, with its dense storyline and various locations, is extremely demanding.




The leitmotifs play an important role in the whole ring. In the opera portrait of the Rhinegold you will find more information on this. Please click on the link.



What happened so far


Preliminary events


The synopsis of Rheingold (Part 1)


The synopsis of the Valkyrie (Part 2)


The synopsis of Siegfried (Part 3)









The Twilight of Gods begins with a huge prologue. If you add it to the first act, we are standing in front of a huge structure of the first act (Aufzug). It lasts over two hours, which is almost the length of the Rhinegold. The prologue, like the whole Twilight of Gods, is even more strongly determined by the leitmotifs than the three previous works were. Hardly a bar passes without us hearing a reference to a motif. Nothing is without meaning anymore.

Synopsis: Three norns are on the Valkyrie Rock. The Norn of the past takes the rope of fate in her hand. It once hung from the world ash tree, and she tells how Wotan once cut a spear from it on which he founded his reign. The ash died on it. The second Norn tells how Wotan piled the logs of the ash around Valhalla. The third prophesies that the fire god Loge will light the logs and destroy the empire of gods. When they wrap the rope around the rock, it breaks. The Norns descend again to their mother Erda.

Like the Rhinemaidens, the mythological number “three” characterizes the Norns. Throughout the history of mankind, fateful female appearances in threes, such as the erinnies or sirens, appear again and again. Musically, the three roles are distributed among the voice ranges soprano, alto and mezzo, as in the case of the Rhinemaidens.

Synopsis: It’s dawning. Brünnhilde and Siegfried step out of the cave where they spent their night of love. Brünnhilde says goodbye to Siegfried, who wants to set off for new deeds.

The orchestral interlude depicts the dawn of the day. The redemption motif is tenderly quoted:

Musical quote:  Redemption motiv

The farewell scene of Siegfried and Brünnhilde is one of the highlights of the Ring. It begins with Brünnhilde’s tender motif that no longer shows her as a Valkyrie, but as a woman:

Brünnhilde wakes Siegfried, and his heroic motif resounds jubilantly in the brass:

Musical quote: Siegfrieds Hero motif

You can find this great scene in the playlist in two versions. The first one is from the famous Boulez/Chéreau cycle from Bayreuth.

Zu neuen Taten (1)  –  Jones / Jung



The dream couple Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstadt

We hear the second recording with the dream couple of the 30s, the two Scandinavians Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstadt. The two were blessed with uniquely voluminous voices and yet they retained great lyrical qualities. This combination of voices was and is probably unrivalled in the history of performance of Wagner operas.

Melchior was a friend of Cosima Wagner and Siegfried Wagner and sang regularly in Bayreuth from the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival 1924 until 1931 and was the preferred tenor of the two.

Kirsten Flagstadt, who is still today associated with her Wagner roles of the highly dramatic fach (Isolde and Brünnhilde), interestingly enough sang her first Wagner part only at the age of almost 34. She appeared only once, in 1933, in minor roles in Bayreuth. From 1935 on, her artistic focus was the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where she triumphed performance after performance together with Lauritz Melchior.

Zu neuen Taten (2)  –  Flagstadt / Melchior



Synopsis: Brünnhilde wants to wait for his return and they symbolically love tokens. Brünnhilde gives him her horse Grane, and Siegfried gives her the ring, whose meaning he does not know.

Willst Du mir Minne schenken  –  Nilsson / Hoffmann


The ecstatic farewell

Synopsis: The two swear eternal fidelity to each other …

With a reprise, he accelerates the tempo once again, and Wagner composed an ecstatic farewell for the two lovers.

O heilige Götter –  Melchior / Tauber

Siegfrieds Rhine journey

Synopsis: … and Siegfried climbs a raft that will carry him up the Rhine.

The interlude has almost symphonic dimensions and was nicknamed “Siegfried’s Rhine journey”. It describes Siegfried’s journey and passed battles. L’intermezzo ha dimensioni quasi sinfoniche ed è stato soprannominato “Il viaggio sul Reno di Sigfrido”. Descrive il viaggio di Siegfried e le battaglie felicemente passate. Ha una struttura a due parti e cita i “temi del fuoco” di Loges nella prima parte e i temi dell'”acqua” nella seconda parte ed elabora i motivi del Reno e delle figlie del Reno.

Interlude to the first act (Siegfried’s Rhine journey)







The Gibichung

Synopsis: On the banks of the Rhine. Gunther, the King of the Gibichung, is sitting in his castle. With him are his sister Gutrune and their half-brother Hagen, the son of Alberich. Hagen has inherited from his father the hatred for the gods and greed for the ring. To get the ring, he cunningly advises the king to marry Brünnhilde to improve the tarnished reputation of his reign. But to do this, he needs Siegfried, who is the only one strong enough to break through the fire to her sleeping quarters. To win him over, Gutrune shall take Siegfried as her husband. He tells her about Siegfried’s origins and his wealth as owner of the treasure of the Nibelungs. When Gutrune doubts whether she can win Siegfried, Hagen reminds her of the Potion of Oblivion. As soon as she meets him, she is to hand him the potion and he will forget Brünnhilde.

We are in the realm of the Gibichungs. In the ring they represent the normal mortal humans, who, with the exception of Hunding, have not yet  appeared in the ring before. Their highest representatives, Gutrune and Gunther, become tragic figures in the Twilight of Gods – the deceived cheats. In the end they are mediocre creatures, almost anti-heroes, with whom one feels no pity. Wagner wrote for them the proud, but somewhat simple “Motif of the Gibichung”.

Musical quote:  Gibichung’s motif

Leitmotiv, Ring des Nibelungen-Götterdämmerung-Twilight of Gods, Gibichungen_Motiv


It sounds repeatedly in the orchestra right at the beginning:

Nun hör, Hagen, sage mir, Held …



Hagen the intriguer

While Alberich was the opponent of Wotan up to now, Hagen plays the counterpart to Siegfried in the Twilight of Gods. Musically, Wagner lets us know again and again, that Hagen is a negative force. The tritone (an excessive fourth that symbolizes the dark and uncanny) plays an important role in this. In the ring, the dragon Fafner has also received this flaw. In the following example we hear the tritone in a prominent place (0:55). Hagen tells Gunther about Brünnhilde and he asks him: “Could my courage face this?” Here the music breaks off meaningfully and the tritone sounds before Hagen mentions Siegfried’s name for the first time.

Wen rätst du nun zu frein


 Hagen is Alberich’s son. His mother is Grimhild, a woman of the Gibichungen family and mother of Gunther and Gutrune, who does not appear in this opera.

Wotan prophesied the appearance of Hagen already in the “Valkyrie”: “The fruit of hate beareth a wife, the child of spite grows in her womb, this wonder befell the loveless Niblung”.


Synopsis: As Siegfried passes the castle with his raft, Hagen calls to him and invites him to join them.

Jagt er auf Taten wonnig umher  –  Frick / Fischer-Dieskau / Windgassen



Siegfried proudly tells about the ring

Synopsis: When Siegfried enters the castle, Gunther welcomes him. Proudly Siegfried shows Gunther his magic helmet and sword. He tells that he was able to wrest the ring from the dragon and that Brünnhilde now owns it.

With the proud Siegfried motif in the horns, Siegfried enters the castle.

Wer ist Gibichs Sohn


Synopsis: Herzlich begrüsst Gunther ihn, und bietet ihm seine Freundschaft an.

Wir hören das ehrliche, herzliche Freundschaftsmotivs Gunthers in den Streichern:



Gutrune seduces Siegfried

Synopsis: Gutrune enters the hall with a drinking horn. Siegfried drinks the potion of oblivion. The effect sets in, and Siegfried wants to marry Gutrune. Siegfried asks Gunther if he has a wife. He answers that no woman has suited him yet. But there is a woman living on a rock, protected by high fire, whom he desires. The way to her is impossible, the fire would kill him immediately. Siegfried offers to help him. With the magic helmet he could take the shape of Gunther and win Brünhilde for him.

We hear Gutrune’s motif right at the beginning. Like her brother’s friendship motive, it begins with a downward jump of a fifth:

By drinking Hagen’s potion, Siegfried becomes an involuntary traitor to his love for Brünnhilde. It is the tragedy of the “pure” man who fails in a world corrupted by power.

Willkommen Gast… Vergäss ich alles, was Du mir gabst  –  Jung / Mazura / Altmeyer



Gunther and Siegfried drink blood brotherhood

Synopsis: Gunther accepts joyfully and the two drink euphorically blood brotherhood.

When the two drink blood brotherhood, Gunther Hagen invites Hagen to join the oath. Hagen, the underdog, does not want to drink. Laconically he means “My blood would taint your drink”.

Blühenden Lebens labendes Blut  –  Frick / Fischer-Dieskau / Windgassen


Synopsis: Hagen is satisfied. His plan to win back the ring for his father Alberich seems to succeed.

In this scene Hagen reveals his sinister plan to the listener for the first time. Right at the beginning of the scene (0:08) we hear the tritone in the brass again, which creates a spooky effect. At we hear at 2:37 the passage “but to me he brings the ring” and with the word “Ring” we hear a radiant major, but shortly afterwards the tritone sounds heavily in the brass again.

Hier sitz ich zur Wacht  –  Frick



Brünnhilde renounces the gods

Synopsis: Brünnhilde sits lonely on the Valkyries’ Rock and looks at Siegfried’s ring in tender remembrance.

Wagner composed a masterful transformation music, which leads in a great way from Hagen’s “guard” to Brünnhilde’s motif and finally ends with the Valkyrie motif of the arriving Waltraute.

Zwischenspiel … Altgewohntes Geräusch


Synopsis: Gladly she greets Waltraute, her Valkyries sister. Brünnhilde is happy to see Waltraute despite Wotan’s spell. In a dark voice, Waltraute tells of the gloomy atmosphere in Valhalla. Wotan has returned from his long hike bitterly, his spear was in ruins. The end of the gods is near, and the only salvation will be if the ring is returned to the Rhinemaidens.

When Brünnhilde tells that Wotan had the wood of the world ash tree set up in logs around Valhalla, the gods’ power motif sounds repeatedly. It is opposed to the spear motif (a downward instead of an upward movement) and prophesies the gods’ loss of power:

Höre mit Sinn, was ich Dir sage  –  Ludwig


Synopsis: But Brünnhilde is not prepared to give up Siegfried’s token of love, even if this would seal the fate of the gods. Desperately, her sister begs her to return the ring. But her mind is made up and she sends Waltraute away. Suddenly the sky turns red and she thinks to hear Siegfried’s horn call. Brünnhilde hurries towards him, but she recedes in horror when she sees a stranger.

Was leckt so wütend die lodernde Welle zum Wall  –  Nilsson



Brünnhilde’s Catastrophe

Synopsis: In the name of the Gibichungen, Siegfried in Gunter’s shape demands the right to take her as his wife. Brünnhilde desperately tries to fend him off, but he brutally tears the ring from her finger and forces the pale Brünnhilde into the cave to consummate the marriage.

Brünnhild! Ein freier kam, den Dein Feuer nicht geschreckt  –  Windgassen / Nilsson









Synopsis:  On the banks of the Rhine. In the moonlight Hagen sleeps in front of the Hall of Gibichung. Alberich appears before the eyes of the sleeping Hagen. He admonishes him to win back the ring.

In the prelude, a pale and restless music transports us into the world of Alberich. Alberich proposes to Hagen that he destroy Siegfried (“Den goldnen Ring, den Reif gilt’s zu erringen!”):

Vorspiel … Schläfst du, Hagen, mein Sohn – von Kannen / Kang



The unique mass scene of the Gibichung

Synopsis: Hagen swears to it and Alberich leaves him. Soon Siegfried appears and announces that he appeared at Brünnhilde’s in Gunther’s shape and could change with Gunther unnoticed in the fog of dawn. He assures Gutrune that he had not touched Brünnhilde and announces the imminent arrival of Gunther and Brünnhilde. Cheering, Gutrune agrees to the imminent wedding. Hagen calls the people of Gibichung together to offer the king and his bride a worthy reception and to celebrate the upcoming double wedding. He admonishes the soldiers to assist Gunther’s bride.

This scene is of ghostly savagery. Hagen’s call for a wedding  “Hoihoo” is not in major, his voice forms a tritone with the basses. Thus his horn sounds, his calls and the male choir create an almost brutal atmosphere, which is whipped up over a period of almost 10 minutes. In the recording below we hear a passage at 1:28 where ten different notes can be counted at the same time in the score, in other words: a completely atonal passage! Added to this are the agitated tremolos in the basses. With the greatest pathos the choir shouts “Hail to thee and thy bride”, the first choral scene of the entire ring!

Hoiho! Hoihoo! (great scene with horns and choir)  –  Halfvarson


Wagner intended real bull horns for this scene, which produce a rougher sound than the trombones and French horns usually used. In the following excerpt you can see an interesting part of a documentary film about the recording production of this scene with Georg Solti, Gottlob Frick as Hagen and the bull horns.

Documentary film  –  Solti, Frick


Synopsis: Gunther is received magnificently by the people. Brünnhilde follows him. She is pale with humiliation and she has her eyes lowered. Gunther proudly presents his bride, the daughter of the gods.

A brilliant short choral piece with an evil background.

Heil dir, Gunther – Karajan



Brünnhilde sees Siegfried

Synopsis: Siegfried appears with the ring on his finger and Gutrune on his arm. Stunned, Brünnhilde sees Siegfried. When she speaks to him in a trembling voice, she realizes that Siegfried no longer knows her.

Gegrüsst sei, teurer Held  –  Mödl / Suhaus / Greindl


Synopsis: When she notices the ring on Siegfried’s hand, which Gunter allegedly snatched from her, she realizes with a shudder the wrong game and accuses Siegfried of robbery. Siegfried claims to have snatched it from the dragon.

Hagen skillfully orchestrates the dialogue between Siegfried and Brünnhilde. He addresses Brünnhilde frankly: “Brünnhilde, valiant woman, do you really recognise the ring?” This scene (in the video below at 2:26) is incredibly dramatically composed; Hagen’s text is written almost entirely at the same pitch and is accompanied only by the strings, which imitate the hammering of the Nibelungs and increase in pitch three times over ten bars.

Einen Ring sah ich an Deiner Hand  –  Varnay / Windgassen



Siegfried’s perjury

Synopsis: Spurred on by Hagen, Brünnhilde now accuses Siegfried of fraud. She tells of having consummated the marriage with Siegfried and thus declares Gunther to be the betrayed husband. To protect him, Siegfried claims by his holy sword that he never touched her. Brünnhilde for her part repeats that she has consummated the marriage with Siegfried. All eyes now are on Siegfried.

Heil’ge Götter, himmlischer Lenker  –  Nilsson / Windgassen


Synopsis: In order to protect his blood brother, Siegfried swears his innocence on the point of Hagen’s spear and thus commits the perjury of never having touched her. The turmoil is great when Brünnhilde, for her part, swears an oath to have spoken the truth. Siegfried can reassure Gunther and the guests with difficulty. He calls upon them to accompany him to the feast.

Helle Wehr! Heilige Waffe! … Gunther, wehr deinem Weibe 


Synopsis: Brünnhilde, Hagen and the deeply ashamed Gunther stay behind.  Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie, feels powerless, at the mercy of the forces.

Welches Unholds List liegt hier verholen  –  Leider



The revenge trio

Synopsis: Hagen offers to avenge her and wants to know  how he can defeat Siegfried. Brünnhilde tells him that Siegfried is invincible in battle and that he is only vulnerable at one point on his back. Hagen turns to Gunter, who is paralyzed in deep shame, and suggests that he kill Siegfried. Gunther hesitates to let the blood of his blood brother flow. When Brünnhilde mocks him and Hagen offers him the ring, Gunther agrees and they decide to disguise Siegfried’s death as a hunting accident. At this moment the bridal procession emerges. Gunther and Brünnhilde join in and the wedding ceremony starts.

At the end of this act, Wagner created a real (and stirring) Revenge Trio as we know it from the Italian Opera  (“So soll es sein”). The coming doom is foreshadowed in this trio, for each of the performers has different intentions, which Wagner demonstrates with music rich in dissonance.

So soll es sein  –  Wiener / Greindl / Varnay









Synopsis: In a wooded valley, on the passing Rhine.

More than twelve hours of music have passed since the light-hearted prelude to Rheingold. For the first time, we hear lighthearted music again. This time of hunting horns and the flowing Rhine. First, the horns intonate Siegfried’s motif and then move on to an undulating motif of the Rhine. The prelude ends with the playful singing of the oboes and clarinets, which introduce the world of the Rhine daughters.

Vorspiel  –  Janowski



Siegfried encounters the Rhinemaidens

Synopsis: The Rhine maidens swim in the river and mourn the loss of the gold. They eagerly await a hero to bring the gold back to them. They hear Siegfried’s horn.

The mood of the foreplay continues. Wagner contrasts the cheerful mood of the Rhine with the sad songs of the Rhine nixies, creating a fascinating effect on the listener.

Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen



The prophecy

Synopsis: When he appears on the bank, he complains that he has not yet been able to hunt down any prey. The mermaids see the ring on his hand and offer to help him hunt and in return they demand the ring. Siegfried refuses at first, but agrees when the mermaids tease him as a miser. They warn him of the power and curse of the ring. Only if he handed over the ring to them could his evil fate be averted. Now Siegfried realizes the value of the ring and he is seized by the greed for power. He thinks he is invincible and puts the ring back on his finger. The maidens prophesy that he will be killed today.

In the Rhine scene we see how much Siegfried has already “degenerated”. He, the man of nature, has not succeeded in bagging a prey. In this way Wagner shows that Siegfried has lost his closeness to the origin and is thus doomed to perdition.

Siegfried! Schlimmes wissen wir dir


Synopsis: But Siegfried does not want to be intimidated by the mermaids and leaves the place. The mermaids make their way to Brünnhilde.

The scene ends with beautiful transformation music. When Siegfried refuses to return the ring, the Rhinemaidens turn back to the waterworks. Beautiful chromatic arabesques in the orchestra and the voices of the Rhinemaidens once again create a dreamlike, carefree mood, which is complemented by Siegfried’s friendly, self-indulgent words to the quartet.

Kommt, Schwestern! Schwindet dem Toren!


Synopsis: Siegfried finds back to the hunting party. They take a break. Hagen gives Siegfried wine. The latter steps to Gunther with the cup and tries to cheer him up.

Hoiho … Trink, Gunther, Trink  –  Greindl


Hagen’s secret addition to the wine and the murder

Synopsis: Hagen adds herbs to the wine that bring the past back to life in Siegfried. He pours more wine and asks Siegfried to tell him about himself.  Siegfried tells his story. With even more wine Hagen loosens his tongue. Now Siegfried remembers Brünnhilde and tells ecstatically how he took her as his wife. With this he has admitted the breach of faith. Hagen points to Wotan’s two black ravens that have appeared. Siegfried turns around and looks at them, whereupon Hagen reaches for the spear. Gunther, who has now seen through Hagen’s game, tries in vain to stop him and Hagen stabs Siegfried from behind with the spear.

Siegfried tells his story. Once again we hear his adventures and many leitmotifs emerge in the orchestra. The music becomes more and more urgent. And as he ecstatically recounts his night of love with Brünnhilde, heavy trombones and buzzing strings sound, describing the ravens flying away. Shortly thereafter, before Hagen strikes, we hear the curse motif once again (in the audio sample below at 7:40).

Musical quote: Curse Motiv

Mime hiess ein mürrischer Zwerg … In Leid zu dem Wipfel lauscht’ ich hinauf  –  Lorenz




Siegfried’s swan song

Synopsis: When Siegfried dies, he takes his leave of Brünnhilde.

One last time we hear the love spell of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. The motif of Brünnhilde’s awakening resounds in the winds. Symbolically Wagner shows us that the awakening of life coincides with death, the utopian anarchy of love in freedom must give way to the power-hungry world of treaties.

Musical quote:  Brünnhilde’s awakening motif

Brünnhilde, heilige Braut  –  Windgassen



Siegfried’s funeral march

Synopsis: Siegfried is carried to the halls of Gibichung with a solemn escort.

Siegfried’s Funeral March is another great symphonic poem of the Ring. Siegfried’s life passes by once again musically. Beethoven’s Funeral March from his 3rd Symphony probably served as the model for this section. Like the model, Siegfried’s Funeral March is in three parts (minor-major-minor). The climax is heard in the 3rd part where we once again hear Siegfried’s motives in the winds. In this part we hear the triumphant motif of Siegfried. Do you remember the horn motif ? It is practically the same, simply slowed down 4 times:

Musical quote: Siegfried’s Hero motif

We hear this piece in a version by Herbert von Karajan. Karajan himself only worked in Bayreuth for a short time. Despite the success of two productions in the early fifties, Wieland Wagner reproached him severely for his slow tempo and the loud accompaniment, which led to a lack of comprehensibility of the text. Karajan never went back to Bayreuth and moved the main part of his festival activities to Salzburg.

Trauermusik beim Tode Siegfrieds  –  Karajan



The curse of the ring finds another victim

Synopsis: In the castle Gutrune is tormented by bad premonitions. She awaits the arrival of Siegfried. Snide, Hagen shows her her dead husband. When Gutrune sees Siegfried slain, she accuses Gunter. Gunter in turn accuses Hagen of murder, whereupon Hagen demands the ring as a reward. When Gunther refuses this request, Hagen stabs him with his spear. He wants to snatch the ring from Siegfried’s dead body, but to everyone’s horror Siegfried’s hand raises threateningly.

When the hand appears, the sword motif appears again.

Nicht klage wider mich  –  Salminen / Nöcker



The final apotheosis of Brünnhilde

Synopsis: Brünnhilde takes the ring. She has learned everything from the Rhinemaidens and instructs the Gibichung to build a pyre. A last time she looks at the dead Siegfried. She takes the ring from her finger and gives it back to the Rhinemaidens. Wotan’s ravens reappear. Brünhilde sends them to Wahlhalla to announce the Twilight of Gods. Brünhilde lights the logs under the laid out Siegfried and rides with her horse Grane into the fire to unite with Siegfried in death.

And now the sacrifice of Brünnhilde begins. It is a grand, 20-minute performance that leads to union with Siegfried in death, and becomes the world’s conflagration.

See the big immolation scene in its entirety with Gwyneth Jones in the television version from the Chéreau/Boulez Ring.

Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort … Mein Erbe nun nehm ich zu eigen  –  Jones



Synopsis: The fire engulfs the castle, and the Rhine overflows its banks. Hagen jumps into the river to snatch the ring from the Rhinedaughters, but the mermaids pull it down. Rejoicing, Flosshilde holds up the. In the distance a glow breaks out in the heaven: the burning Valhalla, which has been lit by Loge. With the apocalypse the end of the world of gods has come.

Once again Wagner quotes many of the ring’s leitmotifs. As the ravens fly away, we hear the tragic Twilight of Gods motif:

Musical quote:  Twilight of Gods motif

Wagner struggled for many years to decide how his great work should end. He wrote several finished text versions. The great temporal span of the work led to different biographical situations that constantly demanded new interpretations. The Anarchist follower of 1848 was not the same as the King’s favourite of 1868! For a long time Wagner Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view of the world hung in the balance, but finally an optimistic version prevailed. The work will end with a radiant chord.

When Brünnhilde ignited the fire of love, she threw the burning logs which are leading to the apocalypse. The corrupted system breaks down. And once again we hear the motif of the Rhinemaidens, when Flosshilde holds the ring in her hands, bringing the gold back where it was at the beginning of this saga. This opera ends with the fire of the burning Valhalla and the transfiguring ascent of the music, the love/redemption motif of Brünnhilde that heralds the beginning of a new world.

Flieget heim ihr Raben … Grane mein Ross sei mir gegrüsst  –  Flagstadt

When Richard Wagner composed the last bars of the Twilight of Gods on November 21, 1874, he noted: “I say nothing more”.






Recording recommendation of the opera TWILIGHT OF GODS


DECCA with Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, Gottlob Frick, Christa Ludwig, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau under the direction of Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.



Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide on TWILIGHT OF GODS by Richard Wagner.







0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *