Sigurd (opera)

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Work data
Title: Sigurd


Shape: Opera in four acts
Original language: French
Music: Ernest Reyer
Libretto : Camille du Locle and Alfred Blau
Literary source: Nibelungenlied
Premiere: January 7, 1884
Place of premiere: Brussels, Théâtre La Monnaie
Playing time: approx. 4 hours
Place and time of the action: Worms and Iceland in the time of Attila , 5th century
  • Sigurd ( Siegfried ), Franconian hero ( tenor )
  • Gunther ( Gundahar ), King of the Burgundians ( baritone )
  • Hagen , warrior, Gunther's companion ( bass )
  • A priest of Odin ( bass baritone )
  • Brunehild ( Brünhild ), Valkyrie Banished from Heaven ( Soprano )
  • Hilda , Gunther's sister ( mezzo-soprano )
  • Uta , Hilda's nurse (mezzo-soprano)
  • Rudiger , envoy of Attila (baritone)
  • Irnfrit , envoy Attilas (tenor)
  • Hawart , envoy of Attila (tenor)
  • Ramunc , envoy of Attila (bass)
  • The bard (baritone)
  • Attila (silent role)
  • Burgundian warriors and their wives, Burgundian people, Icelandic people, priests, servants, servants, etc. ( choir )
  • Three Norns, Valkyries, Mermaids, Elves, Goblins (Ballet)

Sigurd is an opera in four acts and nine pictures by Ernest Reyer based on a libretto by Camille du Locle and Alfred Blau . The plot is based on the Nibelungenlied and has some parallels to Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung from the Ring of the Nibelung . The first performance took place on January 7, 1884 in the Théâtre la Monnaie in Brussels.


The action takes place in Worms and Iceland in the times of Attila in the 5th century.

Hilda, the sister of the Burgundy King Gunther, secretly loves the hero Sigurd. That is why she turns down Attila's offered hand. When Sigurd appears in Worms, Hilda's nurse Uta hands him an enchanted love potion, which in turn makes him fall in love with Hilda. Sigurd and Gunther swear eternal loyalty, and Sigurd undertakes to accompany Gunther and Hagen to Iceland, where Gunther wants to win the Valkyrie Brunehild for himself. This was exiled from heaven there at the behest of Odin, because she had forbidden to help a mortal, Sigurd, in battle. Disguised as Gunther, Sigurd manages to break the spell around Brunehild's palace and free the Valkyrie. Once in Worms, Brunehild is led to believe that Gunther has freed her and will make her his wife. Sigurd, on the other hand, demands Hilda's hand as a reward for his service. After the double wedding, Hilda reveals to Brunehild that it was not Gunther but Sigurd who was the savior. Brunehild then releases the magic of the love potion and lets Sigurd realize that she is the woman intended for him. When Gunther and Hagen observe this, Hagen demands atonement for the alleged betrayal of Sigurd and kills him. Brunehild and Sigurd only find each other in death.

First act. Worms

1. Ballroom of Gunthers Castle (1st act).
2nd bank of the Rhine (3rd act).
3. Gardens of Gunthers Castle (4th act).
4. The liberation of Brunehild (2nd act).
5. The field of the dead (2nd act)

Great hall of Gunthers Castle

Scene 1. The wives of the Burgundian warriors, Gunther's sister Hilda, their nurse Uta and entourage praise King Gunther, who is preparing for a new campaign. While everyone is partying, Hilda ponders a dream in which a Milan that she had been nurtured by was torn by an eagle after he was released. Uta explains the dream to her: The Milan stands for a noble bridegroom who is threatened by a rival. Hilda explains that she wants to give up love forever. She hopelessly loves the hero Sigurd and has already rejected Attila's advertising. Society dissolves.

Scene 2. Uta promises Hilda a love potion that will surely win Sigurd over.

Scene 3. After a strenuous excursion, King Gunther appears with his entourage. With him are Hagen, a bard, Rudiger and the other ambassadors of King Attila. Servants carry torches and tables are brought in to prepare the feast. Gunther confirms his alliance with Attila and makes a toast to him and his envoy. Gunther has decided to win Brunehild as his wife. At his request, Hagen recites the song of this Valkyrie, banished by Odin, who is sleeping in a palace of fiery walls in Iceland. Only the bravest warrior could penetrate the flames to awaken her and to receive her as a woman.

Scene 4. Hilda and Uta and their entourage join the celebrants. Rudiger and his companions urge Hilda again to give in to Attila's courtship - but she is silent and throws herself into her brother's arms for protection. Gunther explains that one must accept Hilda's decision. He calls for a new round of drinking. Trumpets sound. Hagen inquires about the cause and then reports the arrival of a proud knight in shining armor.

Scene 5. Gunther sits on his throne under a canopy with Hilda at his side, surrounded by his warriors. Sigurd appears in full armor to the sound of trumpets. He has heard of Gunther's plan to win Brunehild and urges him to give it up, since he himself has this goal. The knights and Gunther are initially outraged by his haughty words, but the newcomer introduces himself as Sigurd, son of King Sigemon. This name is well known to Gunther because Sigurd had once saved his sister from the hands of enemies. He renounces a fight and both swear an eternal friendship. Hilda hands Sigurd a drinking glass to seal the bond - it's Uta's love potion. Rudiger gives Hilda a bracelet as a parting present in Attila's name. Meanwhile, Sigurd is already feeling the effects of the potion. He promises Gunther to help him conquer the Valkyrie, but in return demands another wage, which he will name when they return.

Second act. Iceland

First picture. Sacred forest on the seashore. A sacrificial altar under a large linden tree

Scene 1. Among the chants of the priests and the people, the high priest Odins offers his wife Fréja a crown as an offering.

Scene 2. Gunther appears under his canopy with Hagen, his warriors and the armed Sigurd. Trumpets sound. The high priest asks the reason for their intrusion, and Sigurd, Gunther and Hagen explain that they have come from the Rhineland to wake the sleeping Valkyrie. The high priest and the other Icelanders warn them of certain death threatened by the magical creatures of this place - but the Burgundians are not deterred. Thereupon the priest proclaims Odin's word: Brunehild's magic can only be solved by a single hero who sounds the holy horn in the dark valley. He must be purer than the dawn of a fine day and must neither have stood under the yoke of a woman nor ever whispered words of love. Sigurd asks him to bring him the holy horn of Odin. One of them will be on his way. The priests and the people disappear into the trees.

Scene 3. Sigurd explains to his companions that he wants to take on the task. It is obvious that Odin's description meant him. So that Brunehild doesn't recognize him, he will exchange armor with Gunther and keep the visor locked. Then he would hand her over to Gunther as a virgin.

Scene 4. Priests and people return with the holy horn. The high priest hands it to Sigurd and explains: As soon as the spirits howl around him, he must sound it three times. Then the palace will rise. If Sigurd were to be successful, they would have to leave as soon as possible to avoid the revenge of the spirits. As the curtain goes down, the choir moves away. Sigurd is left alone.

Second picture. The dead field "Folkranger"

A gloomy plain interspersed with dolmens and other druid stones. In the background a lake surrounded by weeping trees.

Scene 5. Sigurd gathers his courage. He remembers Hilda, summons the elves, goblins and ghosts and blows the horn for the first time.

Scene 6. The sky darkens, it thunders, and the wind whistles through the trees. The three Norns appear on the lakeshore. They have tears in their eyes and wash white clothes that seem to spoil them. They use gestures to explain to Sigurd that it is the shroud intended for him. Then they disappear into the lake. Sigurd uses the horn for the second time, but suddenly armed Valkyries appear from all sides amid a thunderstorm and try to snatch it from him. He fights them courageously, but now goblins and other ghosts are attacking too. Finally Sigurd manages to lean against a rock and blow the horn.

Scene 7. The lake is now bathed in a soft light. The Valkyries and goblins have disappeared. Mermaids slowly rise from the lake and reeds, while elves emerge from the forest. They hug Sigurd and try to dance to push him into the lake. Sigurd resists. An elf steals his horn and escapes with it. Sigurd breaks free and tries to get the horn back. The Valkyries and goblins reappear amidst thunder and lightning. Nonetheless, Sigurd manages to wind his way through the swords of the Valkyries and snatch the horn from the elf. He blows in for the third time. After a clap of thunder, the wind rises again. The three Norns return to lead Sigurd to the flaming palace that gradually rises from the lake. At a sign from the Norns, the wall collapses and reveals a magnificent hall.

Second act, third picture. Sigurd in front of the Flame Palace

Third picture. A hall of an enchanted palace

The three Norns bring Sigurd to the sleeping Brunehild. He lowers his visor and wakes her. Brunehild rises. She greets her liberator, gives him her belt as a token of love and asks him to take her with him to his home. Then she falls asleep in his arms and sinks back onto the bed with him. Sigurd thinks of his friend Gunther and puts his sword between himself and Brunehild. Then he summons the defeated spirits to carry them to Gunthers Castle.

Second act, fourth image, Sigurd and Brunehild in the crystal gondola

Fourth picture

The magical palace is swallowed up by the lake again. The bed with Sigurd and Brunehild is transformed into a crystal gondola and is pulled away by the three Norns, who have now been transformed into swans. The landscape has lost its gloomy character and is illuminated by a magical light. The mermaids, elves and goblins dance on the grass. The curtain goes down.

Third act. Worms

First picture. A garden of Gunthers Castle

Scene 1. An invisible choir calls Gunther, who is still sleeping, to report Sigurd's return. Uta and Hilda sneak up between the trees to secretly watch what is happening.

Scene 2. Gunther is slowly waking up. As the sun rises, Sigurd appears with Brunehild, who is still sleeping, in the background of the scene. He tells Gunther that he has kept his oath. Brunehild will soon wake up as his bride. He himself now awaits his reward. Sigurd moves away and leaves Brunehild with Gunther.

Scene 3. While the invisible choir is saying goodbye to the former Valkyrie, Gunther turns to Brunehild. She wakes up expecting to see her husband. At first she doubts that Gunther should be her liberator. But when he introduces himself as King of the Burgundy, she accepts him as her future husband and master. Gunther triumphs.

Scene 4. Hilda and Uta appear from the right. While Hilda is already indulging in joy at Sigurd's love in return, Uta has premonitions and warns that no one should find out about her secret (the love potion).

Third act, second picture. Sigurd's entry in front of the castle

Second picture. A large terrace in front of Gunthers Castle

On the right the castle with a gate and several entrances. On the left the houses of the farmers and large trees. In the background the Rhine.

Scene 1. Lumberjacks, sailors, hunters and fishermen, as well as the Burgundian women and children, begin their day's work, and the warriors gradually awaken too. The workers move away in different directions.

Scene 2. Hagen leaves the castle, followed by his warriors with trumpets and banners. He lets out a horn call, whereupon the population gathers again to hear his news. Hagen announces the imminent wedding of the king to the Valkyrie Brunehild and calls on those present to give the bride a triumphant reception.

Scene 3. The entire court welcomes Brunehild. Gunther and Brunehild sit on a throne in front of the castle. Brunehild receives various bridal gifts according to Germanic custom: horses and weapons from the warriors, wool and spindles from Hilda and the women and grain from the farmers. She thanks you kindly. Hagen announces a tournament for entertainment.

Divertissement. After the ballet, a boat decorated with flowers appears on the Rhine. Gunther asks Brunehild to cross over with him to the other side of the Rhine in order to perform the priestly ceremony there.

Scene 4. Sigurd approaches on horseback with his numerous entourage to claim his promised reward, Hilda's hand. With their consent, Gunther accepts his request. He asks Brunehild to symbolically unite Hilda's and Sigurd's hands. But when she touches Sigurd's hand, thunder is heard. Sigurd is startled as her hand seems to burn his. Gunther interprets this as a good omen for a double wedding, but Uta sees it as a warning from heaven. She collapses. The two couples get into the boat and disappear.

Fourth act. Worms

First picture. A terrace of Gunthers Castle

The palace on the left. A wide staircase leads down from the Queen's apartments. The upper part of the steps forms a kind of arch or portico. A large gate leads into the palace. Trees on the right, a path. Forests on the horizon. Eve.

Scene 1. The wives of Gunther's warriors draw water from a spring. Servants come from the palace to also fill vessels that they carry on their heads. They report that in the palace the former happiness has now given way to sadness, since Brunehild is plagued by a mysterious illness. The women withdraw as Brunehild steps out of the palace and slowly walks forward, supported by their maids.

Scene 2. Brunehild, plaintively, sits down at the source. After the maids disappeared back into the palace, she remembers her old connection with Sigurd, whom she had once saved in battle - the reason for her exile. She accuses Odin of having given her to Gunther as wife, although her heart belongs to Sigurd, and longs for eternal darkness.

Scene 3. Overwhelmed by jealousy, Hilda shows Brunehild a belt she had received from Sigurd. Brunehild recognizes him as her own virgin belt, which she had given Sigurd in the Flame Palace. Hilda reveals to her that it was not Gunther who had conquered her, but Sigurd, and brags that Sigurd never loved anyone other than her, Hilda. Brunehild is convinced that only magic could be the reason for his change of heart, because she and Sigurd were united by the gods.

Scene 4. Meanwhile night has come. Gunther and Hagen come out of the palace with servants carrying torches to organize a night hunt. While the servants make the necessary preparations, Brunehild accuses Gunther of his deception. She insists that Sigurd set her free, that he was given to her by the gods and that she loves him. Either Sigurd or Gunther must die before dawn. She moves away with threatening gestures and leaves Hilda, Hagen and Gunther terrified, while the hunters in the background call for the hunt.

Scene 5. Hilda throws herself at Gunther's feet and confesses that she told Brunehild her secret. Hagen continues.

Scene 6. After Hagen returns, he blames Sigurd for what happened because he revealed her secret to Hilda. He also had to die because of his love for Brunehild. The two of them hide under the portico when they see Sigurd approaching.

Scene 7. Overheard by Hagen and Gunther, Sigurd vaguely remembers his relationship with Brunehild.

Scene 8. Brunehild reappears on the terrace. She has exchanged her queen's dress for a veil adorned with flowers, verbenas, and sage, capable of breaking spells. She hands Sigurd some of the verbs and asks him to throw them into the source and repeat a saying in the process. Sigurd obeys. The spell wanes and Sigurd recalls his love for Brunehild. He promises to defeat Gunther in an honorable duel. Gunther leaves his hiding place, tells Hagen that Sigurd must die and follows Sigurd. Brunehild leans against a rock, shaken.

Scene 9. Brunehild's desperate exclamation “Sigurd is going to die!” Makes Hilda rush over. Brunehild begs her to take her into the woods to save Sigurd. But Hilda would rather see Sigurd dead than in the arms of a rival. Only when Brunehild promises to break away from him is she ready to help her. Suddenly Brunehild winces. At the same time, tumult breaks out behind the stage. Brunehild senses that Sigurd has already been fatally wounded.

Scene 10. The dying Sigurd is carried by his companions. Uta and the women step out of the palace. Everyone laments the hero's death. He asks for Brunehild one last time, who declares that she wants to die with him.

Scene 11. Gunther and Hagen join them. When Gunther swears to punish the murderer, Hilda replies that he himself is the murderer and that the gods are sure to punish him. When the hordes of Attila destroy his empire, they will laugh at his fate. Hagen draws his sword to kill her, but is held back by Gunther. Hilda gives Uta the bracelet Attila received and asks her to bring it back to him so that he can carry out his revenge.

Second picture. apotheosis

Sigurd and Brunehild gradually rise on a rainbow in Odin's realm that opens to them. They are finally united. A heavenly choir promises them the end of their suffering. Under the clouds in the background of the stage, Attila leans on his sword between the corpses of Burgundian warriors.


In its structural arrangement with tableaus and a few large musical numbers, Sigurd stands in the tradition of Giacomo Meyerbeer's Grand opéra . In the second and third act there is a ballet each. Sigurd is the first French opera with a complex system of leitmotifs . In terms of use, it already goes well beyond Wagner's Lohengrin . The style of music is less reminiscent of Wagner than Weber , Meyerbeer, Gounod or Berlioz .

The orchestral line-up for the opera includes the following instruments:

Work history

Accessories, Paris 1885
Costume of Hagen, Paris 1885

The first sketches for the libretto were made by Michel Carré . Its original version already contains the essential elements of the opera as well as a prologue “In Heaven”. But he left the project early on. The final libretto was written by Camille du Locle and Alfred Blau . The basis was Émile Louis Victor de Laveleye's French translation of the Nibelungenlied , as well as the Edda and the Völsunga saga for the motifs of the second act . Other elements such as the love potion, the eavesdropping scene in the fourth act and Brunehild's love death are possibly inspired by Gottfried von Straßburg's Tristan or Wagner's Tristan und Isolde . Wagner's project on the same subject, Der Ring des Nibelungen , was only known to Reyer through hearsay at the time he was composing his Sigurd , and he had been given nonsensical information about it. Wagner's opera should contain an underwater scene and be written in a newly invented marine language. Reyer later assured that he had not known any more recent works by Wagner than Lohengrin at the time.

Developed in the 1860s, the opera was originally intended for the Paris Opera . In 1866 and 1870, two production proposals were rejected by the Paris Opera because they were not scenic. However, parts of the first three acts were performed several times in concert. Reyer did not finish the composition until 1883 when he had received a specific approval from the Thêâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels.

Rose Caron as Brunehild, Paris around 1899

At the premiere on January 7, 1884, Rose Caron (Brunehild), Blanche Deschamps-Jéhin (Uta), M. Jourdain (Sigurd), Maurice Devriès (Gunther) and Léon Gresse (Hagen) sang the leading roles . It was a great success, thanks mainly to Rose Caron.

This was followed by productions in London (by Alberto Mazzucato in Italian ), Lyon and Monte-Carlo . As early as 1885, Sigurd was featured on the Paris Opera program - until 1890 in a greatly abbreviated form. There she experienced several resumptions until the middle of the 20th century . Sigurd became Reyer's most popular opera. For half a century, heroic tenors and dramatic sopranos used the leading roles for their debuts.


  • January 7, 1884: First performance at the Thêâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels
  • July 15, 1884: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden , London
  • January 15, 1885: Opéra de Lyon
  • March 7, 1885: Opéra de Monte-Carlo
  • June 12, 1885: Opéra de Paris
  • December 24, 1891: New Orleans (USA)
  • December 30, 1891: 100th performance at the Opéra de Paris
  • December 26, 1894: Milan, Teatro alla Scala
  • January 13, 1905: New production at the Opéra de Paris
  • October 14, 1919: Opéra de Nancy (for the opening of the Opera House)
  • December 1, 1923: New production at the Opéra de Paris
  • December 4, 1924: Opéra municipal de Marseille
  • October 17, 1934: New production at the Opéra de Paris
  • February 22, 1936: New production at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo
  • 1963: New production at the Opéra de Marseille
  • July 7, 1973: Radio broadcast by the ORTF
  • May 6, 1994: Opéra de Montpellier
  • 1995: New production at the Opéra de Marseille
  • October 6, 2013: Concert performance in the Victoria Hall, Geneva
  • January 30, 2015: German premiere at the Erfurt Theater
  • October 14, 2019: Opéra de Nancy (concert version)


  • Malibran Music , Dom Disques: Various excerpts, created between 1910 and 1934, with Cesar Vezzani, Marcel Journet, Marjorie Lawrence, Germaine Lubin and others (1 CD, 74 min.)
  • Le Chant du Monde , Harmonia Mundi LDC 27891719: concert by ORTF , commercial studio recording from 1973, 3 CD, 191 min., Conductor: Manuel Rosenthal, with: Guy Chauvet (Sigurd), Robert Massard (Gunther), Jules Bastin (Hagen) , Ernest Blanc (priest), Andréa Guiot (Brunehild), Andrée Esposito (Hilda), Denise Scharley (Uta), Bernard Demigny (Rudiger), Jean Dupouy (Irnfrid), Claude Méloni (Hawart), Jean Louis Soumagnas (Ramunc), Nicolas Christou (bard)
  • Radio broadcast of the concert performance at the Montpellier Festival on August 6, 1993, 176 min., Conductor: Günter Neuhold, with: Chris Merritt (Sigurd), Monte Pederson (Gunther), Alain Vernhes (Hagen), Marcel Vanaud (priest), Valérie Millot (Brunehild), Michèle Lagrange (Hilda), Hélène Jossoud (Uta), Wojtek Smilek (Bard)
  • Unofficial recording of a performance in Marseille on June 22, 1995, 182 min., Conductor: Dietfried Bernet , with: Alberto Cupido (Sigurd), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Gunther), Antoine Garcin (Hagen), Jean-Marc Ivaldi (priest) , Françoise Pollet (Brunehild), Cécile Perrin (Hilda), Viorica Cortez (Uta)
  • Radio broadcast of November 23, 2013 of a concert performance in Geneva (October 6, 2013), 164 min., Conductor: Frédéric Chaslin, with: Andrea Carè (Sigurd), Boris Pinkhasovich (Gunther), Tiji Faveyts (Hagen), Khachik Matevosyan ( Priest), Anna Caterina Antonacci (Brunehild), Anne Sophie Dupreis (Hilda), Marie-Ange Todorovitch (Uta), Nicolas Carré (Rudiger), Nicolas Courjal (bard)
  • Radio broadcast of February 21, 2015 of a performance in Erfurt (January 30, 2015), conductor: Joana Mallwitz , with: Marc Heller (Sigurd), Kartal Karagedik (Gunther), Vazgen Ghazaryan (bass), Juri Batukov (priest), Máte Sólyom -Nagy (Bard), Ilia Papandreou (Brunehild), Marisca Mulder (Hilda), Katja Bildt (Uta)

See also


Web links

Commons : Sigurd (Reyer)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f Manuela Jahrmärker: Sigurd. In: Piper's Encyclopedia of Musical Theater. Volume 5. Works. Piccinni - Spontini. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1994, ISBN 3-492-02415-7 , pp. 233-235.
  2. ^ A b c Steven Huebner: French Opera at the Fin De Siecle . Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-19-816280-4 .
  3. a b c Hugh Macdonald:  Sigurd. In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).
  4. Production dates for the premiere on January 7, 1884 , accessed on August 18, 2016.
  5. ^ Opera in German Lands - Messieurs Gunter et Hagen. Article in Deutschlandradio Kultur , accessed on February 24, 2015.