In the second act of Wagner’s 1876 opera, Siegfried, we are drawn into the mystery and magic of the forest. Gradually, in the opening moments of the Waldweben (“Forest Murmurs”) sequence, our ears become attuned to the hum of nature. A rustling breeze through the vibrant green canopy forms a backdrop for cheerful birdsongs. Time is suspended, and the inner world of the deep forest becomes a serene and wondrous sanctuary.
Jeff Counts includes quotations from Wagner’s description of the scene in the opera’s libretto:
Siegfried has come to the forest and the cave of the dragon Fafner, intent on facing down the legendary beast. While he waits for Fafner to appear Siegfried “stretches himself out comfortably under the lime tree” and quickly becomes “lost in silent reverie.” He “leans back and looks up through the branches” and becomes enchanted by the “forest murmurs.” As he ponders about what his father and mother might have been like, Siegfried sighs amidst the “increasing forest murmurs” and then “listens with great interest to the song of a bird in the branches above him.”
Siegfried attempts to answer the bird’s sweet song using a pipe made from a clump of reeds. It is only later, after he withdraws his sword from the heart of Fafner and tastes the dragon’s hot blood, that Siegfried gains the ability to understand the song of the bird. He is instructed by the magical forest messenger to find Brünnhilde, who is asleep on a mountaintop, surrounded by a ring of fire.
This concert performance from April, 2022 features the Frankfurt Radio Symphony with conductor Alain Altinoglu:
- Wagner: Siegfried, Metropolitan Opera, James Levine, Siegfried Jerusalem, Brian Large, James Morris, Dawn Upshaw, Ekkehard Wlaschiha, Matti Salminen, Hildegard Behrens, Richard Wagner, Heinz Zednik, Birgitta Svendn Amazon
- Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic
Featured Image: “Siegfried in the Woods” (1900), Reinhold Max Eichler