Wagner – Sesquicentenary of Premiere

Written by Paul Cooke
Painting by Hermann Hendrich

Die Walkure by Hermann Hendrich German composer & author, 1813-1883. Ring Cycle / Nibelungen.
Contributor: Lebrecht Music & Arts / Alamy Stock Photo

Richard Wagner would probably rather we didn’t celebrate the sesquicentenary of the premiere of Die Walküre this month. In response to the Europe-wide uprisings of 1848, Wagner wrote a prose outline and then a libretto inspired by the tale of the death of Siegfried, a hero of Norse-Germanic mythology through whom a corrupt world was destroyed and replaced by one of hope. Wagner soon realised that one opera wouldn’t be enough for his purposes and ultimately created a series of four music dramas: Das Rheingold (a prologue); Die Walküre (Siegfried’s origins); Siegfried (his youth); and Götterdämmerung (Siegfried’s death and the destruction of Valhalla). His intention was that these works would not be performed separately: “At a specially-appointed Festival,” proclaimed Wagner, “I propose … to produce those three Dramas with their Prelude, in the course of three days and a fore-evening.”

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