Opera – Die Walkure
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner. Die Walküre’s best-known excerpt is the “Ride of the Valkyries”.
Wagner took his tale from the Norse mythology told in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda.
It received its premiere at the National Theatre Munich on 26 June 1870 at the insistence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It premiered in Wagner’s Bayreuth Festival as part of the complete cycle on 14 August 1876. The opera made its United States premiere at the Academy of Music in New York on 2 April 1877.
Although Die Walküre is the second of the Ring operas, it was the third in order of conception. Wagner worked backwards from planning an opera about Siegfried’s death, then deciding he needed another opera to tell of Siegfried’s youth, then deciding he needed to tell the tale of Siegfried’s conception and of Brünnhilde’s attempts to save his parents, and finally deciding he also needed a prelude that told of the original theft of the Rheingold and creation of the ring.
Wagner intermingled development of the text of these last two planned operas, i.e. Die Walküre, originally entitled Siegmund und Sieglinde: der Walküre Bestrafung (Siegmund and Sieglinde: the Valkyrie’s Punishment) and what became Das Rheingold. Wagner had first written of his intention to create a trilogy of operas in the August 1851 draft of “Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde” (A Communication to My Friends), but did not produce any sketches of the plot of Siegmund and Sieglinde until November. The following Summer, Wagner and his wife rented the Pension Rinderknecht, a pied-à-terre on the Zürichberg (now Hochstrasse 56–58 in Zürich). There he worked on the prose draft of Die Walküre, an extended description of the story including dialogue between 17 and 26 May 1852 and the verse draft between 1 June and 1 July. It was between these drafts that Wagner made the decision not to introduce Wotan in Act I, instead leaving the sword the god had been going to bring on stage already embedded in the tree before the action starts. The fair copy of the text was completed by 15 December 1852.