the Rheingold

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Work data
Title: the Rheingold
Rheintöchter and Alberich

Rheintöchter and Alberich

Shape: Opera in four pictures
Original language: German
Music: Richard Wagner
Libretto : Richard Wagner
Premiere: September 22, 1869
Place of premiere: Munich, National Theater
Playing time: approx. 2 ½ hours
Place and time of the action: in and on the Rhine, mythical prehistoric times

The Rhine daughters:


  • Wotan ( baritone )
  • Donner (baritone)
  • Happy ( tenor )
  • Lodge (tenor)
  • Fricka (mezzo-soprano)
  • Freia (soprano)
  • Erda (old)

The Nibelungen:

  • Alberich (baritone)
  • Mime (tenor)
  • Nibelungen (silent roles)


  • Fasolt ( bass )
  • Fafner (bass)

Audio file / audio sample The Rhine gold ? / i (WWV86 A) is anoperabyRichard Wagnerand, together with the following three musical dramasDie Walküre,SiegfriedandGötterdämmerung, formthe complete work (thetetralogy)The Ring of the Nibelung. TheRing des Nibelungenis a “stage festival for three days and one evening before”. The entire textbook was privatelyprinted in 50 copiesafter readings inZurich in1853. The Rheingoldis the shortest of the four works (approx. 2½ hours) and is performed without a break. The premiere of "Vorabends" took place on September 22nd, 1869 in theRoyal Court and National Theater in Munichunder the direction ofFranz Wüllnerand against Wagner's will. ThefirstBayreuth Festivalopened on August 13, 1876with a performance ofRheingold.

The work has been published by Verlag Schott , Mainz (Richard Wagner Complete Edition). The autograph of the score has been lost since the Second World War .


In the Rheingold the fundamental conflicts of tetralogy, especially the controversy about power and love, are presented.

The work begins with an approximately four-minute prelude (136 bars ) in which themes of the surging Rhine develop from a low E flat major chord. Only then does the actual plot begin, in which the Rhine daughters Floßhilde, Wellgunde and Woglinde appear. These are naive natural beings who have a magical treasure and guard it in the depths of the river - the Rhine gold. However, this treasure loses its innocent character and helps to immeasurable power when its owner renounces love and forges a ring out of gold ( quote: “Only those who renounce love of power, only those who chase away lust, only achieve magic to force gold to hoop ” ).

The dwarf Alberich from the people of the Nibelungs succeeds in doing just that (hence: The Ring of the Nibelung ) after the Rhine daughters have spurned his desire for love, whereupon Alberich finally curses love and in greedy rage steals the gold. He can now use the magic powers of the ring, subjugates the entire Nibelung people and forces them to work for him in the Nibelheim gold mines. He also subjugates his brother, the blacksmith Mime , and forces him to make a camouflage helmet for him, with which he can make himself invisible or assume any shape.

In the meantime, the giant brothers Fasolt and Fafner have completed the Walhall castle of the gods (“ Completes the eternal work ”). In return, Wotan had promised them the goddess Freia , who guards the secret of eternal youth, for marriage. Because only Freia can pick the apples from the garden of youth, which help the gods to immortality; they cannot do without them. Wotan cannot afford to breach a contract without endangering the foundations of his own power. So he first sought advice and help from Loge , who had suggested the contract with the giants to him at the time: he should look for a replacement for Freia. Loge then roamed the world, but found no equivalent substitute for love (and thus for Freia). Only from one person, Alberich, had he heard that he had renounced love for the power of the Rhine gold. Alberich's power is a threat to the giants. You are ready to exchange Freia for the gold that the Nibelung Alberich has now amassed. Until a solution is found, they keep Freia as a deposit.

Together with Loge, Wotan sets out to Nibelheim , deep in the earth, and through cunning they manage to take the Nibelung treasure from Alberich, including the camouflage helmet and ring (the key to power and wealth). Alberich is so angry about his being overwhelmed and robbed that he curses the ring ( quote: "Whoever owns it see worry, and whoever doesn't have it, gnaw envy" ).

Wotan only wants to exchange the hoard (the gold) for Freia and keep the camouflage helmet and the ring for himself. However, the giants insist that the entire Nibelung treasure be handed over. In this situation, the primeval mother Erda appears and warns Wotan of the curse of the ring. She prophesies the twilight of the gods , the end of the gods. After Wotan was the last to hand over the ring to the giants, Alberich's curse shows its effect for the first time: Fafner greedily kills his brother Fasolt while sharing the booty.

At sunset the gods can take possession of Walhall Castle. But the danger of the curse is not over. To counter this danger, Wotan has an idea that is already presented musically in the 4th scene of the Rheingold ( Nothung , the sword ), the implementation of which remains reserved for the other works in the cycle. The Rhine daughters beg the gods to give them back the stolen gold, but they only earn scorn and ridicule.

How much the Rheingold (as the eve of the tetralogy) is interwoven with the following works Die Walküre , Siegfried and Götterdämmerung - referred to by Wagner as the first, second and third day - becomes musically clear through both forward-looking and referring motifs. In the large dialogues between Wotan and Fricka or between Wotan and Briinnhilde in the second winding of the Walkiire , talking between Wotan (Walker) and the blacksmith Mime in the first Siegfried -Elevator and in the Nornen scene of Gotterddmmerung is to the act of Rheingold repeatedly referred to.

The gold

Stage design by Helmut Jürgens for “Rheingold”, performance by Bayer. State Opera 1952

The Rhine gold shines in the first scene after sunrise in the depths of the Rhine and makes the entire reef shine. The beauty of the natural spectacle shows the world in its natural order, to which the Rhine daughters also belong: Unaffected by individual striving for power, they guard the gold, "so that no wrongdoer steals it from the hoard".

Alberich , who appears for the first time in the same scene, has separated himself from this natural order. His actions arise on the one hand from envy, wanting to own, the "envy game" in which the stronger defeats the weaker and keeps his belongings as booty, but on the other hand it is also triggered by the behavior of the Rhine daughters, who seductively incite his lust to mock him afterwards: Alberich tries to win over one of the beautiful Rhine daughters, but is only teased and rejected by them. The Rhine daughters unsuspectingly - and carelessly - tell him about the gold. Alberich, at first impressed by the natural beauty of gold, asks immediately about the mercantile value ("Your diving games were only good for gold? I don't care!") . He learns from the Rhine daughters that only those who cursed love can create a ring out of gold that gives them power over the entire world. Alberich then curses love and snatches the gold (“I don't force love, but I cunningly force myself lust”) . He succeeds in forging the ring, and he first uses it to implement the associated power in coercion against his Nibelung people, who from then on have to win new treasures from the underground shafts and restlessly amass the Nibelung hoard. Alberich's brother Mime also has to forge the camouflage helmet under the pressure of the ring. Only at the end of the entire tetralogy do the Rhine daughters get the ring back so that they can dissolve it back into pure, "pure" gold.

Effect of gold

Elfriede Jelinek , the 2004 Nobel Prize laureate in literature , published a prose work in 2013 entitled purely GOLD. A stage essay that deals with the status and effectiveness of gold and money in capitalism . rein GOLD was created at the suggestion of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and, according to the author, is primarily based on the libretto and the prose draft of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen .



Cast for the first performances in Munich, Bayreuth and Vienna

role Pitch World premiere, Munich
September 22, 1869
(conductor: Franz Wüllner )
Bayreuth first performance
August 13, 1876
(conductor: Hans Richter )
First performance in Vienna
January 24, 1878
(conductor: Hans Richter )
Wotan Bass baritone August Kindermann Franz Betz Emil Scaria
Lodge tenor Heinrich Vogl Heinrich Vogl Gustav Walter
Fricka Mezzo-soprano Sophie Stehle Friederike Green Mila Kupfer-Berger
Freia soprano Henriette Müller Marie Haupt Bertha von Dillner
thunder Bass baritone Karl Samuel Heinrich Eugene Gura Eduard Nowiasky
Glad tenor Franz Nachbaur Georg Unger Anton Schittenhelm
Erda Old Emma Seehofer Louise Jaide Hedwig Reicher-Kindermann
Alberich baritone Karl Fischer Karl Hill Johann Nepomuk Beck
mime tenor Max Schlosser Max Schlosser Viktor Christian Schmitt
Fasolt Bass baritone Toni Petzer Albert Eilers Hans Rokitansky
Fafner bass Kaspar Bausewein Franz von Reichenberg August Egon Hablawetz
Rhine daughters
Woglinde soprano Anna Kaufmann Lilli Lehmann Hermine von Siegstädt
Wellgunde Soprano or mezzo-soprano Therese Vogl Marie Lehmann Auguste Kraus
Floßhilde Mezzo-soprano Wilhelmine Ritter Minna Lammert Ernestine Gindele

Duration (using the example of the Bayreuth Festival)

At the Bayreuth Festival it was customary to document the length of the individual lifts, but not all years were recorded there. In view of the uninterrupted performance of the Rheingold, however, the documentation was easier than for the other parts of the Ring des Nibelungen. Therefore, more data is recorded precisely. Even with the same conductor, the duration differed from year to year and performance to performance. The type of voice and the temperament of the singers also influenced the duration.

Overview (1876 to 1970)

  • Shortest duration: 2:08 hours, Heinz Tietjen (1939)
  • Longest duration: 2:42 hours, Hans Knappertsbusch (1951)
  • Span: 34 minutes (30%, based on the shortest duration)

Playing time with individual conductors

year conductor Total duration (hours)
1876 Hans Richter 2:31
1896 Felix Mottl 2:32
Siegfried Wagner 2:21
1897 Hans Richter 2:25
Felix Mottl 2:30
Siegfried Wagner 2:23
1899 Siegfried Wagner 2:27
1904 Franz Beidler 2:23
Hans Richter 2:25:30
1908 Hans Richter 2:15
1909 Michael Balling 2:21
1912 Siegfried Wagner 2:21
1914 Michael Balling 2:23
1927 Franz von Hoeßlin 2:22
1930 Karl Elmendorff 2:39
1933 Karl Elmendorff 2:40
1934 Heinz Tietjen 2:17
1936 Wilhelm Furtwängler 2:36
1938 Heinz Tietjen 2:17
1939 Heinz Tietjen 2:11
Heinz Tietjen 2:08
1942 Karl Elmendorff 2:22
1951 Herbert von Karajan 2:25
Hans Knappertsbusch 2:42
1952 Joseph Keilberth 2:19
1953 Clemens Krauss 2:22
1957 Hans Knappertsbusch 2:40
1960 Rudolf Kempe 2:32
1961 Rudolf Kempe 2:34
1964 Berislav Klobučar 2:29
1965 Karl Bohm 2:20
1966 Otmar Suitner 2:14
1968 Lorin Maazel 2:21
1970 Horst Stein 2:20
1994 James Levine 2:39
2015 Kirill Petrenko 2:15

Selected recordings

year Cast
(Alberich, Wotan, Fricka, Loge, Freia,
Fasolt, Fafner, Donner, Froh, Erda, Mime)
catalog #
Mono / Stereo, Live / Studio
1937 Eduard Habich , Friedrich Schorr , Karin Branzell , René Maison , Dorothee Manski , Norman Cordon , Emanuel List , Julius Huehn , Hans Clemens , Doris Doe , Karl Laufkötter Arthur Bodanzky
Orchestra and Choir of the Metropolitan Opera New York
2 CD: Naxos
Mono, Live
1949 Adolf Vogel , Ferdinand Frantz , Elisabeth Höngen , Julius Pölzer , Ilona Steingruber , Marjan Rus, Herbert Alsen , Alfred Poell, Willy Friedrich , Rosette Anday , William Wernigk Rudolf Moralt
The Vienna Symphony Orchestra
CD: Myto
Cat: 2MCD 962.144
Mono, Studio
1952 Gustav Neidlinger , Hermann Uhde , Ira Malaniuk , Erich Witte , Inge Borkh , Ludwig Weber , Josef Greindl , Werner Faulhaber, Wolfgang Windgassen , Melanie Bugarinovic, Paul Kuën Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra and Choir off the Bayreuth Festival 1952
CD: Arlecchino
Cat: ARL-29-30
Mono, Live
1953 Gustav Neidlinger , Ferdinand Frantz , Ira Malaniuk , Wolfgang Windgassen , Elisabeth Grümmer , Josef Greindl , Gottlob Frick , Alfred Poell, Lorenz Fehenberger , Rut Siewert, Julius Patzak Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro della RAI (Rome)
Cat: CZS 7 67124 2
Mono, Live
1953 Gustav Neidlinger , Ferdinand Frantz , Ira Malaniuk , Erich Witte , Bruni Falcon , Ludwig Weber , Josef Greindl , Hermann Uhde , Gerhard Stolze , Erika Zimmermann, Paul Kuën Clemens Krauss
Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
CD: Gala, 100.519
Mono, Live
1955 Gustav Neidlinger , Hans Hotter , Rudolf Lustig , Ludwig Weber Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
CD: Testament, 100.519
Stereo, Live
1956 Gre Brouwenstijn , Hans Hotter , Gustav Neidlinger , Ludwig Suthaus , Jean Madeira , Georgine von Milinkovic Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
CD: Import, 100.519
Stereo, Live
1958 Gustav Neidlinger , George London , Kirsten Flagstad , Set Svanholm , Claire Watson , Walter Kreppel, Kurt Böhme , Eberhard Waechter , Waldemar Kmentt , Jean Madeira, Paul Kuën Georg Solti
Vienna Philharmonic
CD: Decca
Cat: 455 556-2
Stereo, Studio
1966 Gustav Neidlinger , Theo Adam , Annelies Burmeister, Wolfgang Windgassen , Anja Silja , Martti Talvela , Kurt Böhme , Gerd Nienstedt , Hermin Esser , Věra Soukupová , Erwin Wohlfahrt Karl Böhm
Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
CD: Philips
Cat: 412 475-2
Stereo, Live
1967 Zoltán Kelemen , Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau , Josephine Veasey , Gerhard Stolze , Simone Mangelsdorff , Martti Talvela , Karl Ridderbusch , Robert Kerns , Donald Grobe, Oralia Domínguez , Erwin Wohlfahrt Herbert von Karajan
Berlin Philharmonic
CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 457 781-2
Stereo, Studio
1980 Hermann Becht , Donald McIntyre , Hanna Schwarz , Heinz Zednik , Carmen Reppel, Matti Salminen , Fritz Huebner, Martin Egel, Siegfried Jerusalem , Ortrun Wenkel , Helmut Pampuch Pierre Boulez
Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
CD: Philips
Cat: 434 422-2
Stereo, Studio
1988 Ekkehard Wlaschiha , James Morris , Christa Ludwig , Siegfried Jerusalem , Mari Anne Häggander, Kurt Moll , Jan-Hendrik Rootering , Siegfried Lorenz , Mark Baker, Birgitta Svendén , Heinz Zednik James Levine
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
CD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 445 295-2
Stereo, Studio
1989 Theo Adam , James Morris , Marjana Lipovšek , Heinz Zednik , Eva Johansson , Hans Tschammer, Kurt Rydl , Andreas Schmidt , Peter Seiffert , Jadwiga Rappé, Peter Haage Bernard Haitink
Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio
Cat: CDS 7 49853 2
Stereo, Studio

See also

Web links

Commons : The Rheingold  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. purely GOLD review page at , blurb, as well as purely GOLD. a stage essay . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-498-03339-2 , p. 223.
  2. ^ Egon Voss: The conductors of the Bayreuth Festival, 1976, Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg; P. 97 f.
  3. So justified in Egon Voss (ibid.)