Twilight of the Gods synopsis
On a mountain top
The Three Norns, daughters of Erda, are weaving the rope of destiny and tell how Wotan sacrificed an eye to learn wisdom and carved his spear, the symbol of his authority, from a branch torn from the World Ash Tree. A young hero, Siegfried, shattered Wotan's spear with his sword. Wotan then ordered the World Ash Tree to be felled. The wood from the tree is now heaped around Valhalla: one day it will be ignited and Valhalla engulfed in flames. The rope suddenly snaps.
An orchestral interlude depicts daybreak.
Siegfried and Brünnhilde emerge from the cave where they have spent the night together. Brünnhilde sends Siegfried off into the world in pursuit of glory. They exchange tokens of their love: Siegfried gives her the ring, and Brünnhilde gives him her horse, Grane.
An orchestral interlude depicts Siegfried's Rhine journey.
The Hall of the Gibichungs on the Rhine
Gunther, leader of the Gibichungs, and his sister Gutrune have a half-brother, Hagen. He is the son of Alberich.
Gunther worries about his standing. Hagen advises him and Gutrune to make advantageous marriages: Gunther should marry Brünnhilde, but he could never penetrate the fire that surrounds her. Hagen has a solution: Siegfried should brave the fire on behalf of Gunther; Gutrune should then marry Siegfried. Hagen reminds Gutrune of a potion which she could use to make Siegfried fall in love with her and forget Brünnhilde.
Gunther welcomes Siegfried to his court, and Hagen asks about the Nibelung treasure. Siegfried explains that after killing the dragon he left the treasure behind, only taking the magic helmet and a ring, which he has given to Brünnhilde.
Gutrune offers Siegfried the magic potion. The effects are felt immediately: Siegfried begs to marry Gutrune and offers to help Gunther win Brünnhilde; it is evident he has no memory of her himself. Siegfried will use the helmet's powers to disguise himself as Gunther and win Brünnhilde for him. The two men swear an oath of blood-brotherhood before Siegfried sets off. Gunther follows, ordering his half-brother to guard his fortress.
On a mountain top
Waltraute is Brünnhilde's sister and former fellow-Valkyrie. She has stolen away from Valhalla visit Brünnhilde. Brünnhilde misunderstands: has Wotan at last forgiven her? No – Wotan sits in silence, his shattered spear in his hand, waiting for his world to end. He waits for the return of his ravens to herald the destruction. But if the ring were returned to the Rhine-daughters, Valhalla would be saved. Brünnhilde is indifferent to Valhalla's fate : she refuses to give it up and dismisses Waltraute. The ring is Siegfried's love token to her.
Brünnhilde hears Siegfried's horn, but a stranger, with Gunther's voice and appearance, walks through the flames. He tears the ring from her finger. Before he joins her in the cave for the night, Siegfried resumes his own identity to swear a night of chastity to honour his blood-brother Gunther.
In front of the Gibichung Hall
Hagen sleeps during his watch. Alberich appears in a dream. He urges his son to win back the ring for the Nibleungs.
Siegfried returns with news that Brünnhilde yielded to him in his disguise as Gunther; he assures Gutrune that he placed his sword between himselkf and Brünnhilde to ensure chastity. He swapped places with Gunther in the morning.
Hagen summons Gunther's men to celebrate the double wedding. Gunther arrives with his new bride
Siegfried does not recognize Brünnhilde. She sees the ring on his finger: ‘Gunther' took it from her, so she accuses Siegfried of stealing it. Siegfried is perplexed: he can only remember slaying the dragon and taking the ring from him. Furious, Brünnhilde realizes the deception: it must have been Siegfried who slept with her last night. Siegfried swears an oath (on Hagen's spear) that he kept his word to Gunther. Brünnhilde swears on the same spear that Siegfried has perjured himself. Siegfried whispers to Gunther that perhaps the magic helmet failed to hide his features completely and suggests that they leave Brünnhilde to calm down.
Left alone with Gunther and Hagen, Brünnhilde swears revenge for Siegfried's treachery. Hagen will be her accomplice but he needs her help to kill Siegfried. Brünnhilde remembers that despite all her magic she never cast a spell to protect Siegfried's back, as no hero would ever turn it to his enemies. Gunther is appalled by his own disgrace and wants no part in the plot, but Hagen persuades him with the promise that he will win the ring. Hagen suggests concealing the murder as a hunting accident. While Gunther and Brünnhilde call on Wotan to avenge their wrong, Hagen appeals to his father, Alberich.
By the Rhine
The Rhine-daughters lament the loss of the gold from the river. Siegfried appears alone, separated from the rest of the hunting party. The Rhine-daughters ask for the ring on his finger. They warn him about Alberich's curse: if he keeps the ring, he is doomed to die. He is unmoved by their threats.
The rest of Hagen's hunting party arrive and Siegfried tells them about the Rhine-daughters' warning of his death. Hagen invites Siegfried to tell them about his youthful exploits and he recalls how he was brought up in the forest by Mime (Hagen's uncle), the forging of his father's sword, and how he killed the dragon, took the ring and the magic helmet and killed Mime. He can remember no more: Hagen offers Siegfried a second potion to unlock his most recent memory. Now he can remember Brünnhilde and his love for her. A pair of ravens circles overhead, then flies towards Valhalla. Hagen plunges his spear into Siegfried's back, claiming vengeance for perjury.
The Gibichung Hall. Night
Nightmares disturb Gutrune's sleep. Hagen presents Siegfried's corpse to her. Gutrune accuses Gunther, but Gunther blames Hagen, who claims the ring as his reward. He kills Gunther; when he tries to take Siegfried's ring for himself, the dead man's hand rises.
Brünnhilde now understands everything. Gutrune admits that Brünnhilde was Siegfried's true love. Brünnhilde orders Siegfried's funeral pyre to be built. She takes the ring from Siegfried's finger; his death has atoned for Wotan's guilt. Wotan can now rest. She promises to return the ring to the Rhine-daughters: it will be purified of its curse by the flames. She rides into the flames to be reunited in death with Siegfried. Hagen attempts to grasp the ring for himself, but is drowned by the Rhine-daughters. Valhalla is engulfed in flames.
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