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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Wagner's Anniversary And The End Of The World In 'Gotterdammerung'

Ken Howard
Metropolitan Opera
Siegfried is dead!

The 2012-13 opera season has come and almost gone. For whatever wonders summer may hold, the Met Opera season of broadcasts closes this weekend with the living end, Richard Wagner's "Götterdämmerung."

In a staggering marathon of recapitulations, developments, plot changes and reversals, and a grand procession of leitmotivs that ignite a conflagration that ends the opera, the gods and the world are reborn in the cleansing fires of the overflowing Rhine.

But how does it all happen?

Wagner's vision of "The Ring" - like his vision of the world - altered through the quarter century that passed from conception to production.

It began with a reading of a work sometimes called "Young Siegfried," or at times "Siegfried's Death," in a hotel in Switzerland to an attentive but puzzled audience.

They kindly explained that they liked what they heard but could make no sense of the sequence of events.

Thus "The Ring" was born out of the necessary back story.

The plot and music of "Götterdämmerung" are among the loftiest, most epic and shattering in all of opera or music-drama.

After the reunion of Siegfried and Brünnhilde at the opening of Act One and the singing of the mutual declaration of love, "Zu neue Taten" (To new deeds, true hero), we get to the inspired Siegfried's Rhine journey and then the sunlit beauty dissolves into twilight, and night of the opera's progression.

Part simple domestic drama, part Norse epic, and with some of the greatest music ever written in any form, it all explodes in a cosmic tragedy.

The lonely Gibichungs Gunther and Getrune sit at home unmarried and lonely when their scheming and duplicitous "chief minister" Hagen suggests they marry the heroic Siegfried and Brünnhilde, aided by the magic potions of forgetfulness.

Siegfried arrives at their home, is given the drink, and the confusion begins as he abducts his own Brünnhilde and "gives" her to Gunther claiming he doesn't know her.

There are furious charges and counter charges from a Brünnhilde, now enraged:

Betrug! Betrug!

Perfidy! Perfidy!


There follows the famous blood oath in which all swear to Siegfried's death. It will be Hagen who kills him, stabbing our hero in the back.

This happens after pleading from the Rhine Maiden's that he return the ring and Waltraute's great narrative in which she begs her sister to relinquish the Ring and save the world.

Not even for this will she give up her lover's gift. It all ends after the famous Funeral march on a great pyre into which Brünnhilde will ride after recapitulating the entire saga in her finale, the famous Immolation Scene.

The world and the gods are consumed by fire so that the world may be cleansed and reborn.

Please tune in to KPAC 88.3 FM for the epic close to the Verdi–Wagner bicentennial this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. for Wagner's "Götterdämmerung."

Our cast includes Deborah Voigt, Jay Hunter Morris and is conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Ron has always lived in two musical worlds: jazz and classical. Although born in Los Angeles, he has lived in San Antonio most of his life.