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Introduction

The dwarf Alberich steals the Rhinegold, guarded by the daughters of the Rhine, and forges a ring that brings him infinite power. Wotan, ruler of the gods, plans to seize the dangerous ring – but to what end?

Background

Richard Wagner’s four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen was both the consummation of German Romantic opera and the beginning of a whole new style of opera-music drama. It lasts over fifteen hours in its entirety and provides an unparalleled musical and dramatic experience. Das Rheingold was conceived as a ‘prelude’ to the cycle. It was first performed in Munich in 1869.

Das Rheingold begins with a musical representation of the river Rhine – envisaged in Keith Warner’s production as a depiction of the Big Bang. The destructive power of the ring is expressed using images from 20th-century science, such as the dwarf Alberich’s nightmarish, underground laboratories. In contrast, the gods are a dying breed: their foppish costumes and mountain-top hall are inspired by the late-Victorian period. Musical highlights include Wotan and Loge’s descent to Nibelheim, accompanied by the resounding sound of 18 anvils, and the gods’ triumphant entrance to Valhalla, which is tragically undercut by the sound of the mournful Rhinedaughters lamenting their lost gold.

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