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The Story

The dwarf Alberich forsakes love so that he may steal the Rhine’s gold. A ring is crafted from that gold, invested with great power. When the ring is taken from Alberich, he places on it a terrible curse.

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Background

Das Rheingold is the ‘preliminary evening’ of Richard Wagner’s four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. The shortest of the four, it introduces the characters that will drive this magnificent drama to its epic conclusion, and the musical themes that Wagner ingeniously develops through the cycle. Das Rheingold was first performed in 1869, along with the second opera, Die Walküre – but before the rest of the cycle was completed, and very much against Wagner’s wishes that the Ring be considered a unified whole. The cycle’s first complete performance in 1876 was a momentous event in opera history.

Das Rheingold famously begins with a musical representation of the flowing river Rhine. In his 2004 production for The Royal Opera, Keith Warner sets this opening in complete darkness: as the textures of Wagner’s music gradually intensify, so this universe slowly comes into being. Much of the production draws on 20th-century imagery to depict a world at the beginning of its decline, with the nightmarish laboratories of the Nibelungs contrasting vividly with the gods’ moneyed indulgence.

News and features

On Wikipedia

Emil Fischer in the role of Wotan at the 1889 New York premiere of Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold (; The Rhinegold), WWV 86A, is the first of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, or in English, 'The Ring of the Nibelung.' Das Rheingold premiered at the National Theatre Munich on 22 September 1869, with August Kindermann in the role of Wotan, Heinrich Vogl as Loge, and Karl Fischer as Alberich. Wagner wanted this work to premiere as part of the entire cycle, but was forced to allow the performance at the insistence of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The work was first performed as part of the complete cycle on 13 August 1876, in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Abstract taken from the Wikipedia article Das Rheingold, available under a Creative Commons license.