Completed in 1874, Götterdämmerung (“Twilight of the Gods”) is the fourth and final opera in Richard Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. Wagner composed the Ring cycle, which is based on Norse mythology, over the course of 25 years. Its themes include the conflict between love and the pursuit of power, the violation of nature, self-sacrifice, annihilation, and rebirth.
Dramatic orchestral sequences occur throughout Götterdämmerung. In these moments, we move beyond the literal meaning of the libretto into a vast world of tonal color and instrumental voices. Siegfried’s Rhine Journey is the orchestral interlude which links the Prologue and Act I. Brünnhilde has sent Siegfried off to new, heroic adventures. Before mounting her horse and bearing her shield, he gives her the ring of power as a pledge of his faithfulness.
Siegfried’s Rhine Journey begins with a solemn statement of the “Fate motif” in the trombones and tuba. The darkness of night carries the hushed anticipation of dawn, which gives way to a majestic sunrise. Siegfried’s horn call alternates with Brünnhilde’s leitmotif in the bass clarinet. The music dances with a delirious joy which is interrupted only by the mythic, ever-flowing waters of the Rhine.
This performance, recorded on April 29, 2022, features conductor Alain Altinoglu and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony:
Featured Image: “Richard Wagner, Götterdämmerung, Act I, Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” Ferdinand Leeke