Original Title: Young Siegfried
Day Two of Der Ring des Nibelungen
Libretto by the composer
Time: Legendary, some years after Die Walküre
Place: Various parts of a forest; the foot of a mountain; the Valkyrie's rock on the mountaintop
First performed in Bayreuth, 16 August 1876
Siegfried is, in structure, the simplest of the Ring components,
an opera consisting of nine dialogues, three in each act, for various combinations of characters. In the three
scenes of Act I these dialogues are between Mime and Siegfried, Mime and the Wanderer, and finally Mime and Siegfried
again. Siegfried is also, to a certain extent, the scherzo of
the Ring symphony, the first two of the opera's three acts a brilliantly colored contrast to the more somber orchestral
coloring of the other parts of the cycle. Its prelude, however, begins in dark mood, the bassoons portraying Mime
brooding on the events that have passed, and dreaming of the gold which he is determined to acquire.
The ring motif and that of the Nibelungs hammering away are heard as the curtain rises on a rocky cavern in a forest, containing a naturally formed smith's forge. The dwarf, Mime, brother of the Nibelung Alberich, is seated at an anvil, attempting to forge a sword. He soon gives up, and begins to complain that, as often as he makes a sword, the youth for whom he has done so immediately breaks it and flings it aside. From Mime's soliloquy ('Zwangvolle Plage': Enforced drudgery) one learns that the youth is Siegfried. Mime has brought the boy up, in the hope that one day he will slay the dragon Fafner who lives deep in the forest, guarding the Nibelung gold, the Tarnhelm and the ring. 'There is a sword', Mime broods, 'that he would not be able to break, but alas I have not the strength or craft to weld its fragments together.' This is Nothung, the shattered sword of Siegfried's father, Siegmund, the fragments of which Sieglinde, who had died in giving birth to Siegfried, had preserved. With Nothung, Siegfried would certainly be able to kill Fafner, and then Mime would gain possession of the ring. Meanwhile, Mime can only continue to forge swords for Siegmund which will be contemptuously discarded. If he does not keep on forging, Siegmund ill-treats him.
The youth Siegfried now enters, playfully driving a large bear before him which he sets on Mime, who hides behind his anvil in terror, to the amusement of Siegfried, who encourages the animal with cries of 'Gobble up the hideous smith! Ask him if he's made me a sword!' Siegfried's music brings a new lightness, confidence and energy with it, to contrast with the dwarf's whining. When Mime convinces him that he has been at work, Siegfried drives the bear off into the forest. He tells the still quivering dwarf that he had brought the creature home, as he was looking for a better companion than Mime. When he is given the sword Mime has finished forging, Siegfried examines it critically and then, striking it upon the anvil, breaks it. 'I ought to have broken it across your skull,' he says to Mime, complaining that, although the dwarf is forever prattling on about giants and mighty battles, he is unable to perform the simplest task.
Mime attempts to wheedle himself into Siegfried's favor by reminding him of all that he has done for the youth. He offers Siegfried some meat he has roasted, and a bowl of broth, but the only response he gets is, 'I've roasted some meat for myself. Swallow your swill on your own.' Mime continues to mutter about how he clothed Siegfried as a baby, made him toys and a splendid horn, and gave him a warm bed to sleep in, but Siegfried replies that, although he has been taught many things by Mime, he has been unable to learn how to tolerate the dwarf, whom he thinks ugly and evil, and whom he is often tempted to kill. 'If you are so wise, Mime, perhaps you can tell me why it is', Siegfried continues, 'that, although I cannot endure the sight of you, and continually run off into the forest to escape your presence, I always come back to you. Every beast, bird, tree and fish I encounter is dearer to me than you are. Why do I return?'
That it is the natural love of a child for its parent which leads Siegfried to return home is a suggestion scornfully dismissed by the youth. He has observed the birds and beasts pairing off together, the father bringing food to the nest or lair while the mother suckles their young. Siegfried's music is tenderly lyrical in this episode. Where, he asks Mime, is the dwarf's wife? Where is the female whom Siegfried can call mother? The musical motif which pervades the score here is quite beautiful. Mime brushes these thoughts aside with the remark that Siegfried is neither bird nor fox, but the youth's curiosity is now aroused. 'You say you brought me up and gave me warm clothes, but where did I come from?' he asks Mime. 'Did you really make me without a mother' When Mime replies, 'You must believe what I tell you. I am both your father and your mother,' Siegfried reacts angrily. He has seen his own reflection in the sparkling streams of the forest, and he is well aware that he is as like Mime as a glittering fish is like a toad. 'A fish never had a toad for a father,' he tells Mime.
It now occurs to Siegfried that the reason he keeps returning to the cave and to Mime is to discover from the dwarf who his father and mother are. He demands an answer, and when Mime attempts to brush the question aside Siegfried seizes him by the throat. 'Out with it, you shabby scoundrel,' he repeats. 'Who are my father and mother?' Mime is forced to reveal how he had once come across a woman weeping in the forest. He had taken her into his cave, where she had borne a child. She died in giving birth, but not before she had bidden Mime call the child Siegfried, and had given him the fragments of a sword which, she said, had been carried by the child's father in his last fight.
Siegfried manages to drag from Mime the name of the woman, Sieglinde. When he demands proof of the story, Mime produces the fragments of the sword, Nothung. In great excitement, Sigfried insists that Mime immediately set about forging a sword from the pieces of steel. 'Only in these fragments do I place my trust,' he exclaims, insisting that he must have the sword that very day. When Mime asks why, Siegfried replies that he is determined to make his way from the forest out into the world, never to return. Mime is not his father, nor is this cave his home. As soon as he has his father's sword, he will be off, and will never see Mime again. Siegfried rushes out of the cave in a state of great exhilaration, leaving Mime to bewail his situation. How can he keep the youth from leaving him? How will he lead Siegfried to Fafner's cave? More immediately, how on earth is he going to succeed in forging a sword from the stubborn pieces of steel he sees before him? Mime's lament is heartfelt, though hardly calculated by Wagner to win any sympathy for the obnoxious Nibelung.
Numerous reminiscences of Die Walküre have pervaded this first scene. Now, as Mime sits brooding on his misfortunes, a disguised Wotan enters, wearing a long cloak and with a broad-brimmed hat pulled low over his forehead to conceal his distinctive eye-patch. Horns and cellos give him dignity and stature as he greets Mime courteously and asks for hospitality, but the dwarf is suspicious, and wonders if the stranger is some enemy who has been following him through the forest. Wotan tells Mime that he is known as the Wanderer, for he has wandered widely over the earth's surface. Mime rudely advises him to continue his wandering, at which Wotan observes that good men usually offer him shelter. It is only the misanthropes who seem to expect misfortune at every turn.
Mime finds himself drawn, against his will, into conversation with the Wanderer, who, after making himself comfortable at the hearth, pledges his head as security if he cannot give Mime useful advice in answer to any questions he may wish to ask. Telling himself that he must ask artful questions in order to be rid of this insidious spy, Mime accepts the wager and allows himself three questions. First, he asks Wotan to tell him, since he has wandered so widely throughout the world, the name of the race which dwells in the depths of the earth. Wotan's answer is a very full one. 'The Nibelungs dwell in the depths of the earth,' he tells Mime, 'and their land is known as Nibelheim.' He goes on to describe Alberich, whom he refers to as Black Alberich (Schwarz-Alberich), and his theft of the Rhinegold.
The stranger confidently awaits Mime's second question: 'Which race dwells on the surface of the earth?' Again he answers in detail, naming the giants, their chiefs Fasolt and Fafner, and their home, Riesenheim. He recalls how the two giants won the gold and the ring, and how Fafner slew Fasolt and transformed himself into a dragon to guard the treasure. It is not difficult to predict Mime's third question: 'Which race dwells on the cloudy heights?' The Wanderer answers it by telling of the gods, of Valhalla, and of Wotan, whom he calls Light Alberich (Licht-Alberich). He describes Wotan's spear, and the solemn treaties carved in its shaft by which the god assumes custody of the world.
Mime admits that the Wanderer has redeemed his head, and invites him to be on his way. But the stranger merely observes that Mime should have asked about things he really needed to know. It is now his turn to ask questions, and by the rules of contest Mime's head is forfeited if he cannot answer them. The Wanderer's first question is, 'Which race is sorely oppressed by Wotan, although they are dear to him?' Mime has no difficulty in answering this. The Volsung twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, he tells his questioner, are the children whom Wotan fathered and loved tenderly. They produced Siegfried, the strongest of the Volsungs.
Pleased with himself for having been able to answer, Mime more confidently awaits the second question. 'A wise Nibelung takes care of Siegfried, whom he hopes will slay Fafner for him and obtain the gold,' says the Wanderer. 'Tell me, what is the sword which he must use?' Able to name Nothung, and to describe its provenance, Mime is now beside himself with glee. The stranger congratulates him on his wit and wisdom, and asks his third and most carefully loaded question: 'If you are so clever as to exploit the young hero to serve your own dwarfish desires, tell me who will weld together the splintered fragments of the sword Nothung?'
This last question throws Mime into a panic, for he knows well that it is certainly not he who will succeed in welding the sword. He is unable to answer. Repeating that Mime should have asked more intelligent nod practical questions, the Wanderer takes his leave, but not before giving Mime the answer: 'Only he who has never known fear shall forge Nothung anew.' As he departs, the Wanderer advises Mime to guard his head carefully, for it is now forfeit to the hero who has never learned the meaning of fear. Several motifs from the two previous Ring operas are, of course, heard during Mime's scene with the Wanderer, as between them they have rehearsed the entire story of the Rhinegold and its disastrous effects on all who seek to acquire it.
Left alone, Mime stares after the Wanderer, and then is suddenly seized with a fit of terror, imagining that he is being pursued by the dragon Fafner, whose theme, never far away throughout the entire act, now insidiously creeps closer on the tubas, reducing Mime to a state of abject fear. Siegfried returns, demanding to know if his sword is ready, but Mime is seriously worried that he will lose his head to one who has never learned to fear. He realizes that he has never taught Siegfried to fear, and immediately sets about trying to do so. The attempt seems bound to fail, until Mime decides upon a practical lesson. He will lead Siegfried to Neidhöhle, the lair of Fafner, and confront the youth with the dragon.
Siegfried is impatient to be off to fight the dragon and, he hopes, to learn fear. He demands his sword, and when Mime is forced to admit that only someone who does not know fear can forge Nothung, Siegfried determines to forge the sword himself. He proceeds to do so, after discovering from Mime the name of the sword. Siegfried's great forging song, 'Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert' ('Nothung! Nothung! Trusty sword) now begins, a celebration of brute strength which dominates proceedings to the end of the act. Mime realizes that Siegfried will certainly slay Fafner. He will then need to be rid of the young hero, so that he can obtain the Nibelung's hoard for himself. He mixes a poisonous brew, and dreams of enslaving his brother Alberich and his fellow Nibelungs, while Siegfried works away at his task. finally, Siegfried is able to hold Nothung aloft, and bring its blade crashing down to split the anvil in two with a mighty blow. As he lifts the sword again exultantly, and Mime cowers in terror, the curtain falls.
The three scenes of Act II are between the Wanderer and Alberich, Siegfried and Mime, and Siegfried and the woodbird, and they all take place in a clearing in the forest, close to the entrance of Fafner's cave. An orchestral prelude conjures up the darkness of the forest, the tuba representing Fafner the dragon, stirring uneasily in his sleep as he senses the approach of danger. Occasionally the ring motif makes a subdued appearance, and the trombones offer a reminiscence of Alberich's curse. When the curtain rises, it is just before dawn. Alberich is discovered sitting on a rock, keeping close watch on the cave in the hope that, somehow, he will find an opportunity to gain possession of the hoard. The Wanderer approaches, but is instantly recognized as Wotan by Alberich, who calls him a shameless thief and bids him be on his way. Wotan attempts to assure Alberich that he has come merely as an observer of events, but soon the two are deep in another of those discussions of past events which Wagner has ponderously inserted throughout the Ring. After a round or two of accusation and counter-accusation, the Wanderer tells Alberich that his quarrel ought properly to be addressed to his brother, Mime, who is already leading a youth towards Fafner's cave with the purpose of slaying the dragon. 'Be on your guard,' he warns the Nibelung. 'The youth as yet knows nothing of the ring, but Mime will tell him.'
Reassured that Wotan has no intention of seizing the treasure, and that he has to contend with an adversary no more formidable than his own brother, Alberich agrees to Wotan's suggestion that they should awaken the sleeping Fafner, who, grateful to be warned of the approach of danger, might be willing in return to give up the ring to Alberich, and to keep the remainder of the hoard. Fafner is awakened but, after growling that he is hungry for the youth, goes back to sleep. Wotan, amused, repeats his advice to Alberich to take a strong stand with his brother. He departs, leaving Alberich to await the approach of Mime and Siegfried.
As the day dawns, Mime enters, followed by Siegfried, while Alberich conceals himself. Siegfried observes that they have come a huge distance, traveling throughout the night, simply in order for him to learn fear. Mime points out Fafner's cave, and describes the fierce dragon who could easily gobble Siegfried up at one gulp. The youth replies that he will close the dragon's mouth before he can be bitten. When Mime warns him that the dragon's poisonous spittle would cause his flesh and bones to waste away, Siegfried sensibly decides to keep to Fafner's side. He similarly dismisses Mime's graphic description of the dragon's tail, which could coil around him, crushing him to death. 'Has the dragon a heart?' Siegfried asks, 'and in the usual place?' If so, I'll thrust Nothung into it.' He is clearly not going to learn fear on this occasion.
Mime assures Siegfried that, when he actually sets eyes on Fafner, his heart will quake with fear, and only then will he realize how much Mime loves him. Angrily forbidding the dwarf to love him, Siegfried orders him out of his sight for ever. When Mime says he will rest at the nearby stream, Siegfried says he will let the dragon go there, and will plunge Nothung into his guts only after he has devoured Mime. The dwarf takes himself off, muttering that he hopes Fafner and Siegfried will succeed in killing each other.
Siegfried lies down in the shade of a tree to wait for Fafner to awaken. He soliloquizes about the beauty of the day and the coolness of the forest, and expresses his feelings of joy and relief at never, as he thinks, having to look on Mime's loathsome visage again. He wonders what his father was like, and scornfully dismisses the possibility that it was Mime, for the Nibelung would surely have spawned someone as ugly and misshapen as himself. Then he falls to musing on what his mother must have been like. His attention is diverted by the singing of a woodbird in the branches of the tree, and he wishes he could understand the bird's song. He fashions a rough pipe from a reed, and tries to imitate the bird, but without success. Siegfried's soliloquy and the orchestra's contribution make up the beautiful sequence known as the Waldweben or Forest Murmurs.
Flinging the pipe aside, Siegfried blows a call on his horn, which awakens Fafner, who emerges from his cave calling 'Who's there?' Surprised to encounter a beast able to speak, Siegfried replies that he is someone who does not know fear. Can the dragon teach it to him? 'Is this bravado?' asks Fafner. After they have exchanged taunts, Siegfried and Fafner fight, and Siegfried plunges his sword deep into the dragon's heart. Musically this is a disappointing episode, Wagner's orchestra depicting the fight loudly and clumsily. Fafner, as he lies dying, asks Siegfried who he is. Siegfried's reply is that he does not really know. With virtually his last breath, a rather long, Wagnerian breath, the dragon tells the youth that he has murdered the giant Fafner, who had killed his brother Fasolt for the accursed gold they had acquired from the gods. He warns Siegfried that he who prompted him to this deed is even now plotting the hero's death. Siegfried asks Fafner to tell him something of his, Siegfried's, origins, since the dragon seems so wise at the moment of death. 'Tell me where I came from,' he asks. 'You will know from my name, Siegfried.' But Fafner merely repeats the name 'Siegfried' weakly as he dies.
A little of Fafner's blood has splashed on to Siegfried's hand, which now burns like fire. When he puts his hand to his mouth to suck the blood away, he discovers that the dragon's blood has given him the ability to understand the song of the woodbird. The bird informs him, in a high, light soprano voice, that the Nibelung's treasure, which he will find in the cave, is now his. If he takes the Tarnhelm, it will enable him to perform magical deeds, but if he can find the ring he will become the ruler of the world. Siegfried thanks the bird for its friendly and helpful advice, and enters the cave.
The orchestra's gentle depiction of the forest's murmuring is interrupted by jagged woodwind figures as Mime reappears and makes his way towards the cave, only to be intercepted by Alberich, who has observed everything from his hiding-place. The two brothers begin to quarrel over the Rhinegold, and especially the ring. Mime claims it as his because he has devoted so many years to bringing up Siegfried to retrieve it, but Alberich snarls that he would rather see the ring belong to a mangy cur than to a shabby slave such as Mime. He also rejects out of hand Mime's offer to give up the ring in exchange for the Tarnhelm, for he realizes that he would never be able to feel safe if Mime had the power to make himself invisible. Mime next threatens his brother with Siegfried, who now emerges from the cave holding, as the brothers angrily observe, 'both the ring and the Tarnhelm. Alberich thinks it prudent to make himself scarce, muttering as he leaves that in due course the ring will return to its rightful owner, by whom, of course, he means himself.
Siegfried does not realize the significance of either the ring or the Tarnhelm, having taken them simply on the advice of the woodbird, which now makes its voice heard again, warning him not to trust Mime. Having tasted the dragon's blood, Siegfried will now be able, according to the woodbird, to understand Mime's unspoken thoughts. And indeed, the hypocritical words of affection which Mime intends to utter now reach Siegfried's ear as threats. Poor Mime finds himself telling Siegfried that he is going to drug him and then cut off his head while he is sleeping. 'So you want to slay me as I sleep?' Siegfried asks calmly. 'I want what? Is that what I said?' replies Mime. 'No, I only want to hack off your head, because even if I didn't hate you so much, how else could I gain hold of the treasure?'
Unable to bear any more of this, Siegfried in a sudden access of loathing takes his sword and kills Mime with a single blow. Nearby, the sound of Alberich's laughter can be heard, as Siegfried drags Mime's body into the cave and places it on top of the gold, blocking the entrance to the cave with the corpse of the dragon.
Exhausted, Siegfried now lies under the shade of a tree to rest, and listens to the woodbird. A new motif, expressing Siegfried's yearning for love, is heard in the orchestra, as he asks the woodbird to find him a faithful friend. The bird tells him that a marvelous woman awaits him, and describes Brünnhilde sleeping on her rock, encircled by fire, and destined to be the wife of the hero who breaks through the flames to awaken her. When Siegfried asks if he will be able to do this, the woodbird answers that only someone who knows no fear will win Brünnhilde. Siegfried happily recognizes himself in this description. Led by the bird, who flies on before him, he sets out in the direction of Brünnhilde's rock as the act ends.
The three dialogues in Act III are between the Wanderer and Erda, the Wanderer and Siegfried, and Siegfried and Brünnhilde. The prelude to Act III weaves several appropriate motifs into its fabric, its restless mood depicting the momentous thoughts of Wotan, the Wanderer, as he travels on, attempting to retain control of the gods' destiny. When the curtain rises, a wild spot at the foot of a rocky mountain is revealed. It is night, and a violent storm is raging, which gradually subsides, although lightning continues flashing intermittently among the clouds. The Wanderer stands at the mouth of a cave in the rock, calling upon Erda, the earth goddess, to awaken from her slumbers and appear. 'I sing you a waking song', he declaims, 'to arouse you from your brooding sleep. Omniscient one, awaken!'
Presently, as the woodwind section of the orchestra gently breathes the sleep motif, Erda appears at the mouth of the cave, looking as though she is covered in hoarfrost, her hair and garments giving off a shimmering glitter. Erda demands to know who has disturbed her sleep of wisdom and, while the orchestra supports him with the appropriate motifs, Wotan describes himself as someone who has wandered far, roaming the world in search of knowledge. He flatters Erda by telling her that he realizes that no one is wiser than she, but she replies that, while she has been asleep, the Norns are awake, weaving the world's rope and zealously spinning Erda's knowledge. Why does he not consult the Norns? 'Because', says the Wanderer, 'the Norns are subservient to events which they are unable to influence.' His desire is to alter the actual course of events.
Erda's next suggestion is that the Wanderer should question Brünnhilde. 'Conquered by Wotan,' she says, ap-parently unaware, despite all her great knowledge and wisdom, that it is Wotan whom she is addressing, 'I gave birth to a wish-maiden. Why do you not seek enlightenment from her, the child of Erda and Wotan?' The Wanderer finds himself telling Erda how Wotan was forced to punish Brünnhilde by putting her into a deep sleep from which she can be aroused only by a mighty hero. 'How would it help me to question her?' he asks, reasonably.
Erda is dearly confused at this news. 'Does he who taught defiance now punish defiance?' she asks. 'Does he who is responsible for a deed feel anger when the deed is done? She asks to be allowed to return to her slumber, but the Wanderer still requires to know how to overcome his cares. 'You are not what you call yourself,' exclaims Erda, to which the Wanderer replies, 'You are no longer what you believe yourself to be.' He tells her that her wisdom as the earth mother is drawing to a close. Tacitly admitting his identity, he says that he has resigned himself to the fact that his omnipotence as a god is also ending, indeed that he himself has willed it. A new and important motif appears in the orchestra here: that of the inheritance of the world. Wotan tells Erda that he has bequeathed the world to the valiant Siegfried, who, without any help or advice from him, has gained possession of the Nibelung's ring. 'Brünnhilde, the child whom you bore me,' he continues, 'will awaken to Siegfried, and will perform a deed which will redeem the world.' He releases Erda to return to her slumbers in the depths of the earth.
It is now daylight, and the storm has completely subsided. As Erda disappears, the Wanderer looks into the distance and perceives the approach of Siegfried. Preceded by the cheerful song of the woodbird, the young hero duly arrives. Having guided him to this spot and indicated the way to the mountaintop, the woodbird flies off. Siegfried is about to begin his ascent of the mountain when the Wanderer steps forward and begins to question him. Asked where he is going, Siegfried says that he seeks a rock surrounded by fire, on which there sleeps a woman whom he intends to awaken.
'Who told you of this woman and made you yearn for her?' asks Wotan, in reply to which Siegfried describes the bird whose speech he was able to understand only after he had tasted the blood of a dragon he had slain. 'Who induced you to fight this fearful dragon?' asks his relentless interrogator. Siegfried answers honestly and without guile, but after Wotan has asked him who forged the sword and who made the splinters from which the sword was forged, pointless questions to which the Wanderer already knows the answers, Siegfried understandably loses his patience, calls Wotan an old gossip, and orders him either to point out the direction of Brünnhilde's rock or else hold his tongue and get out of the way.
Wotan advises Siegfried to show more respect for his age, but the youth replies that he has just got rid of one old man who had always obstructed him, and that the stranger will share Mime's fate if he is not careful. He laughs at Wotan's broad-brimmed hat, and asks why it hangs over his face. Wotan tells him that it is for protection against the wind, but Siegfried peers underneath the brim and notices that one of Wotan's eyes is missing. 'No doubt someone struck it out when you barred his way,' he suggests. 'If you don't take yourself off, you might lose the other one.' Wotan answers this obscurely, but Siegfried, impatient to be on his way to Brünnhilde, pays no heed and attempts to move on.
Aware that the hero who wins Brünnhilde will thereby deprive him of his power for ever, Wotan attempts to scare Siegfried away from the task by describing the fire which now can be seen raging around the rock at the top of the mountain, 'Go back, rash boy,' he advises, to which Siegfried replies, 'Go back yourself, braggart!' Wotan now tries to bar the way with his spear. 'My hand still holds the symbol of sovereignty,' he asserts. 'This shaft once shattered your sword. It will do so again.' Thinking that he has encountered the man who killed his father, Siegfried strikes Wotan's spear with his sword, shattering it as a flash of lightning darts from the spear and a clap of thunder is heard. 'Go forward, then, I cannot stop you,' Wotan admits, as he picks up the pieces and quickly leaves. Momentarily annoyed at having let his father's enemy escape, Siegfried now notices the glow of the flames on the mountaintop. Blowing his vigorous horn-call, he advances confidently towards the fire, eager to find the bride who awaits him.
The light now begins to fade, gradually giving way to a dissolving cloud illuminated as though by the red glow of dawn. The cloud in turn becomes a fine, rose-colored veil of mist which divides so that the upper part entirely disappears above, and the rocky mountain-top now becomes visible, looking just as it did at the end of Die Walkre. The sleeping Brünnhilde can be seen, lying in full armor, with her helmet on her head and her shield covering her, surrounded by a ring of fire. The fire-music and sleep motifs have been heard in the orchestra, rising to a climax and then subsiding. Siegfried, as he approaches from below, looks about him. The slumber motif has now given way to the melody in which Loge, in Das Rheingold, had sung of 'Woman's delight and worth'. Siegfried sees Brünnhilde's horse, Crane, sleeping in the nearby forest, and stops in surprise when he catches sight of Brünnhilde. Despite what he has been told, he at first mistakes her for a man, even after he has removed her helmet and released her long, golden hair, whose beauty gains his appreciation. It is only when he has lifted up her shield that he exclaims, 'Das ist kein Mann!' (That's no man!), a line with which tenors sometimes experience difficulty. The orchestra's lyrical reminiscence of several motifs accompanies the scene of Brünnhilde's awakening.
Startled at this first encounter with a female, Siegfried at first invokes his mother to help him. But then nature puts it into his head to awaken Brünnhilde with a kiss. He does so, and slowly Brünnhilde awakens to greet the glorious light of day once more, the orchestra depicting her gradual awakening in a nobly radiant passage in which the high shimmering strings sing of the ecstasy of warmth and life, while Brünnhilde greets the sun and the light of day: 'Heil dir, Sonne!' Heil dir, Licht!' (Hail to thee, sun! Hail to thee, light!) To the theme of the fate motif, she asks who has awakened her, and Siegfried tells her his name. Overjoyed, Brünnhilde explains to him that she loved him even before he was born, for she had protected his mother, Sieglinde, when she was carrying Siegfried in her womb. Together, they bless the mother who gave birth to him.
The hero's kiss has awakened not only Brünnhilde but also, it seems, her horse, the sight of whom reminds her of her glorious past. She tries to explain something of the history of the ring to Siegfried, but he can only gaze at her, enraptured.
When he attempts to embrace her, Brünnhilde begs Siegfried to leave her in peace, overcome as she is by shame at having lost her godlike condition. But he insists that she awaken fully to love and to him, and finally she succumbs. To the gracious theme which Wagner had used as the main subject of the Siegfried Idyll, heard first in the orchestra, Brünnhilde begins to melt in tenderness: 'Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich, ewig in süß sehnender Wonne' (I always was, I always am, always in sweet yearning bliss). 'I will be yours forever,' she cries, as passion awakens within her.
'The fear you almost taught me I have forgotten,' Siegfried replies as he takes her in his arms. Brünnhilde bids a light-hearted farewell to the resplendent pomp of the gods as she and Siegfried greet the day, the sun, the world. With their ecstatic love duet, the opera ends exultantly. 'You are for ever my own, my all, you are radiant love and laughing death,' they assure each other in the C major final section of their duet, Brünnhilde ending on an exuberant high C as the orchestra gives forth with a combination of motifs involving love, Siegfried and the inheritance of the world.
UNLESS the character of Wagner's 'Superman' hero strikes one as being unpleasant, arrogant, brutish and murderous enough to qualify as a proto-fascist, Siegfried can be the most appealing of the four music dramas of The Ring, rather than the most appalling. Fresh in conception, it is full of music which represents Wagner at his most lyrical, and it is less burdened than either Die Walküre or Götterdämmerung with redundant or dull passages. Its score is the most joyous and orchestrally colorful of the entire tetralogy.