‘Siegfried’ by Richard Wagner | Pierre Boulez & Patrice Chéreau | 1980 | Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival

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ACT I

In his cave deep in the forest, the dwarf Mime forges a sword for his foster son Siegfried (“Zwangvolle Plage!”). He hates the boy but hopes that Siegfried will kill the dragon Fafner, who guards the Nibelungs’ treasure, so that Mime can get the all-powerful ring and rule the world. Siegfried runs in, picks up the new sword and smashes it, raging at Mime’s incompetence. The dwarf, acting innocently, offers him food and kind words, but Siegfried doesn’t want any of it. He knows he cannot be Mime’s real son, as there is no physical resemblance between them, and demands to know who his parents were. For the first time, Mime tells Siegfried how he found his mother, Sieglinde, in the woods and how she died giving birth to him. Siegfried is moved by the story but asks for proof. When Mime shows him the fragments of his father’s sword, Nothung, Siegfried orders Mime to repair it for him and rushes out.

As Mime sinks down in despair, a stranger enters. It is Wotan, lord of the gods, in human disguise as the Wanderer (“Heil dir, weiser Schmied”). He challenges the fearful Mime to a riddle competition, in which the loser forfeits his head. The Wanderer easily answers Mime’s three questions—who lives under the earth (the Nibelungs), on it (the giants), and above it (the gods). Mime in turn knows the answers to the traveler’s first two questions but gives up in terror when asked who will repair the sword Nothung. The Wanderer admonishes Mime for enquiring about faraway matters when he doesn’t know about the things that closely concern him. Then he departs, leaving the dwarf’s head to “him who knows no fear” and who will re-forge the magic blade.

When Siegfried returns demanding his father’s sword, Mime tells him that he can’t repair it and tries in vain to explain the concept of fear to the boy. To teach him, he proposes a visit to Fafner’s cave. Siegfried agrees and enthusiastically begins to forge the sword himself (“Nothung! Neidliches Schwert!”). While he works, Mime prepares a sleeping potion to give to Siegfried once he has killed Fafner. Flashing the finished sword, the boy smashes the anvil in half and runs off into the forest.

ACT II

That same night, Mime’s brother Alberich is hiding by the entrance to Fafner’s cave, obsessed with thoughts of winning back the ring. The Wanderer enters, assuring the startled Nibelung that he is not after the ring. Instead, he warns Alberich to watch out for Mime. He then wakes Fafner and tells him that a young hero is on his way to kill him. Unimpressed, the dragon goes back to sleep. The Wanderer and Alberich disappear.

As Dawn breaks, Mime and Siegfried arrive. The youth sends Mime away and, caught up in the peaceful beauty of the woods, thinks about his parents (Forest Murmurs). Listening to the song of a bird, he tries to imitate it on a reed pipe but fails and blows his horn instead. This awakens Fafner, who comes out of the cave, and in the ensuing fight Siegfried kills the dragon. With his dying breath, he warns the boy of the destructive power of the treasure. When Siegfried accidentally touches a drop of Fafner’s blood to his lips, he suddenly understands the singing of the bird, directing him to the gold in the cave (“Hei! Siegfried gehört nun der Niblungen Hort!”). Alberich and Mime appear quarreling but withdraw as Siegfried comes out with the ring and the Tarnhelm. The bird warns Siegfried not to trust Mime, and when the dwarf returns with the potion, Siegfried kills him. The bird then tells Siegfried of a beautiful woman named Brünnhilde, asleep on a mountain surrounded by fire. He immediately sets out to find her.

ACT III

On a wild mountain pass, the Wanderer summons Erda, goddess of the Earth, to learn the gods’ fate (“Wache, Wala!”). She evades his questions, and he resigns himself to the impending end of the gods’ reign. His hope now rests with Brünnhilde and Siegfried and the redemptive power of their love. When Siegfried approaches, making fun of the god whom he takes for a mere old man, the Wanderer attempts to block his path. With a stroke of Nothung, Siegfried shatters the Wanderer’s spear (the same one that smashed Nothung to pieces years before) and advances.

Dawn breaks on the mountaintop where Brünnhilde sleeps. Siegfried, who has never before seen a woman, thinks he has discovered a man. When he removes Brünnhilde’s armor, he is overwhelmed by the sight of her beauty. For the first time he feels fear. Mastering his emotions, he awakens the girl with a kiss. Hailing the daylight (“Heil dir, Sonne!”), Brünnhilde is overjoyed to learn that it is Siegfried who has brought her back to life. At first she resists his declarations of passion, realizing that earthly love must end her immortal life (“Ewig war ich”). Finally understanding that her vanished godhood has left her a mortal woman, she says goodbye to Valhalla and joins Siegfried in praise of love.

Act 1

1. Titles [:59]
2. Vorspiel-Prelude [3:16]
3. Zwangvolle Plage!Müh Ohne Zweck! [8:56]
4. Vieles Lehrtest Du, Mime [9:41]
5. So Starb Meine Mutter An Mir? [6:23]
6. Heil Dir,Weiser Schmied! [7:27]
7. Auf Der Erde Rücken Wuchtet Der Riesen Geschlecht [14:09]
8. Verfluchtes Licht! [12:11]
9. Notung!Notung! Neidliches Schwert! [13:05]

Act 2

10. Vorspiel-Prelude [5:20]
11. In Wald Und Nacht [11:19]
12. Fafner!Fafner!Erwache,Wurm! [6:40]
13. Wir Sind Zur Stelle! [6:03]
14. Dab Der Mein Vater Nicht Ist [4:13]
15. Waldweben [6:04]
16. Siegfried’s Hornuf [11:51]
17. Wohin Schleichst Du Eilig Und Schlau [5:16]
18. Wilkommen,Siegfried! [6:50]
19. Neides Zoll Zahlt Notung [10:36]

Act 3

1. Vorspiel-Prelude [4:09]
2. Stark Ruft Das Lied [9:48]
3. Dir Unweisen Ruf’ Ich Ins Ohr [3:29]
4. Dort Seh’Ich Siegfried Nahn [6:41]
5. Kenntest Du Mich,Kühner Sprob [8:25]
6. Selige Öde Auf Wonniger Höh’! [14:37]
7. Heil Dir,Sonne! [9:45]
8. Dort Seh’ Ich Grane [7:37]
9. Ewig War Ich,Ewig Bin Ich [11:28]