Das Rheingold, the prelude to the Ring, begins when the Nibelung dwarf Alberich steals the precious gold of the Rhine river in order to be avenged upon the pretty but scornful Rhine daughters. The ambitious sky god Wotan, in need of treasure to pay for the construction of a glorious castle in the sky, captures Alberich and pays off his own debt with the magic ring the dwarf made from the gold. But Alberich curses the ring, and the evil of the curse immediately causes bloodshed. As the gods cross a rainbow bridge to enter Valhalla, their splendid new castle, the forlorn cries of the bereft Rhine daughters remind us that all its glittering glory is a sham.
Die Walküre, which features the unforgettable “Ride Of The Valkyries” and the thrilling “Magic Fire Music,” is equal parts heady romance and high-stakes family drama. Deep in the forest, love blossoms between a dashing outlaw and a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. But their adulterous, incestuous coupling draws the ire of the goddess of marriage, who demands that the twins be punished. The Valkyrie Brünnhilde, moved by the pair’s overwhelming love, takes their side. Sieglinde escapes to bear her brother Siegmund’s son, while Wotan punishes Brünnhilde by casting her out of heaven and leaving her in an enchanted slumber—albeit protected by a threatening ring of fire.
The sunny comedy Siegfried follows the growth of the innocent young hero born of the incestuous twins. As the naïve boy seeks companionship—and tries to learn the meaning of fear—he frees himself from the treacherous dwarf Mime, liberates the ring from the dread dragon Fafner, shatters the spear of the mighty god Wotan, and rescues lovely Brünnhilde from her magical sleep and falls in love with her.
Götterdämmerung, the Ring’s overwhelming conclusion, features the beloved “Rhine Journey,” “Siegfried’s Funeral March,” and “Brünnhilde’s Immolation.” Its story moves from the gloomy prophecies of the three Norns who spin the web of fate, to the glorious union of Siegfried and Brünnhilde high atop their fire-surrounded rock, to the scheming machinations of Hagen, duplicitous advisor to the shallow King Gunther. Drugged into forgetting his vow of fidelity to Brünnhilde, Siegfried offers her to Gunther in exchange for Gunther’s lovely sister, Gutrune. In revenge, Brünnhilde betrays Siegfried, who gets stabbed in the back; but as atonement she sacrifices her own life, burns up the defunct gods in their heaven, cleanses the world of the curse on the ring, restores the stolen gold to the river, and makes possible a new beginning.