April 22, 2017 - May 7, 2017
Recurring daily
Houston Grand Opera
510 Preston Street, Suite 500 | Houston, TX 77002

Prologue The three Norns—who control the fates of the gods and mankind—busily weave the rope of destiny. They envision Valhalla in flames and predict the gods’ imminent downfall. Suddenly their rope breaks and they tumble down to their mother, Erda, deep in the earth. Siegfried and Brünnhilde awake after their night together. Knowing he is destined to pursue heroic challenges, Brünnhilde encourages him to leave. As a pledge of his love, he gives her the ring before he departs. ACT I At his home on the banks of the Rhine River, Gunther, the leader of the royal Gibichung family, ponders how to strengthen his rulership and asks his half-brother, Hagen, for advice. (Gunther and Hagen have the same mother.) Hagen, the son of Alberich, recommends strategic marriages: he proposes Brünnhilde as bride for Gunther, and Siegfried as husband for their sister, Gutrune. Gunther and Gutrune know this can be accomplished only through trickery, so Hagen suggests that Siegfried be lured to their home and given a potion that will make him fall in love with Gutrune. They would then induce Siegfried to secure Brünnhilde for Gunther, since Gunther could never break through the flames on his own. They hear Siegfried’s horn nearby, invite him to their hall, and begin to implement their deceitful plan. Brünnhilde’s Valkyrie sister Waltraute pays her a visit. She describes a broken Wotan who wishes only that Brünnhilde would return the ring to the Rhinemaidens: the very survival of the gods depends upon it. Brünnhilde refuses to yield the ring, citing it as a token of Siegfried’s love, and Waltraute leaves in anguish. Having drunk the love potion, Siegfried has fallen in love with Gutrune and has no recollection of Brünnhilde. In return for Gutrune’s hand, Siegfried takes on Gunther’s appearance with the aid of the Tarnhelm and breaks through the flames to claim Brünnhilde for Gunther, tearing the ring from her hand. Intermission ACT II Alberich comes to Hagen in the night as he sleeps outside the Gibichungs’ hall, urging him to get the ring from Siegfried. At daybreak, Siegfried arrives, announcing he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther. When they enter, Brünnhilde is shocked to see Siegfried—and the ring on his hand—and accuses him of betraying her. But Siegfried, still under the potion’s spell, denies their love. When Hagen offers to kill Siegfried, Brünnhilde, now bent on avenging her honor, reveals Siegfried’s one weak spot—his back. Together they convince Gunther to join in their plot to murder Siegfried as the marriage celebrations begin. Intermission ACT III Out hunting near the banks of the Rhine, Siegfried spies the Rhinemaidens, who beseech him to return the ring, but Siegfried ignores their warnings about the ring’s curse. Hagen, Gunther, and the other members of Siegfried’s hunting party appear and decide to rest. As they drink wine, Siegfried regales them with stories about his past: about his boyhood with Mime, reforging the sword Nothung, and killing the dragon. As he reminisces, Hagen offers him wine that contains an antidote to the potion, and all of Siegfried’s memories of Brünnhilde return. Hagen thrusts his spear into Siegfried’s back, and the hero dies with Brünnhilde’s praises on his lips. At the Gibichung hall, Gutrune has just awakened from a bad dream when Hagen, Gunther, and the rest of the party return with Siegfried’s body. Grief stricken, she blames Gunther, but he replies that Hagen was the killer. Quarreling over the ring, Hagen strikes Gunther down, but when he tries to take the ring from Siegfried’s hand, the dead hero raises his arm menacingly and all recoil in terror. Brünnhilde orders a funeral pyre to be built on the banks of the Rhine. Denouncing the gods for their guilt in Siegfried’s death, she returns the ring to the Rhinemaidens and walks into the flames. The river overflows and the Rhinemaidens drag Hagen to his death in the water. The fire spreads and begins to consume Valhalla. The old order has perished.

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