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22 September 2010

On this day in history: First performance of Das Rheingold, 1869

On 22nd September 1869, the National Theatre in Munich hosted the première performance of Das Rheingold ('The Rhine Gold'), the first part of Richard Wagner's four-part opera Der Ring des Nibelungen ('The Ring of the Nibelung'). Wagner had wanted the whole cycle to be performed together in new opera house specifically designed for that purpose; however, at the insistence of his patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, preview performances were given of the first two parts - the second being Die Walküre ('The Valkyrie'). Wagner began work on the opera in the summer of 1848 when he wrote a basic outline of a story based loosely on the myths of the Norse gods.

In Das Rheingold, a dwarf called Alberich who steals the Rhinegold from which he makes a magic ring that would enable its wearer to rule the world. The god Wotan wants the ring for himself, and on the advice of his fellow god, the cunning Loge, the two travel to the dwarven mines to steal the ring. Loge tricks Alberich into using a magic helmet to transform himself into a toad, whereupon the gods capture him and take him to the surface. In return for his freedom the gods demand that Alberich hand over all his treasure, including the ring, which the dwarf reluctantly does but not before cursing the ring to bring its wearer nothing by unhappiness.

At the première August Kindermann played Wotan, Heinrich Vogl played Loge, and Wilhelm Fischer appeared as Alberich. The whole cycle was not performed together until August 1876 when it was staged at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus ('Bayreuth Festival Theatre').

Kristian Evensen's Richard Wagner Website includes a more complete synopsis of Das Rheingold as well as the other parts of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Related posts
Première of Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra: 27th November 1896
Riot at première of Stravinsky`s Rite of Spring: 29th May 1913


Unknown said...

How appropriate that it is so close to the Hobbit publication. The stories, at least on the surface seem so similar. I'll have a better idea after I see Rheingold for the first time next month.

Unknown said...

Agreed. Tolkein wanted to create a mythic tradition similar to those in other lands. I hope you enjoy(ed) the concert.