Part One of
The Ring of the Nibelung
English adaptation by Larry A. Brown
At the bottom of the Rhine River
The upper part of the stage is filled with swirling waters. Below, the waters resolve into a fine mist, so that a space a man’s height from the ground seems completely free of the waters, which move like clouds overhead. Craggy rocks rise up from the river bed. The three Rhinedaughters are playing in the waters.
WOGLINDE: Weia! Waga! Surging waves, rock our watery cradle! Wallala weiala weia!
WELLGUNDE: O sister, are you watching alone?
WOGLINDE: With you there will be two of us.
WELLGUNDE: [diving towards her] Let’s see how well you watch!
WOGLINDE: [darting away] Safe from you!
FLOSSHILDE: Heiaha weia! Careful, wild sisters!
WELLGUNDE: Swim, Flosshilde! Woglinde is getting away! Help me catch her.
FLOSSHILDE: [diving down to separate them] The sleeping gold requires careful guarding. Keep a better watch, or you will pay dearly for your games!
They ignore her and swim back and forth, laughing and chasing each other. Meanwhile, Alberich has emerged from a dark chasm below, and is watching the maidens lustfully.
ALBERICH: He, he! What graceful, desirable creatures you are! From Nibelheim’s night I would gladly approach, if only you would come near.
WOGLINDE: Who’s there?
FLOSSHILDE: A voice calling from the darkness below.
WELLGUNDE: Look who is spying on us! Ugh! Horrible!
FLOSSHILDE: Be on your guard. Father warned us about such a villain.
ALBERICH: You, swimming up there!
RHINEDAUGHTERS: You down there, what do you want?
ALBERICH: May I not admire your delightful sporting? Come closer so I can join in the fun!
WOGLINDE: He wants to play with us?
WELLGUNDE: Is he teasing?
ALBERICH: How you shine in the glimmering light! How I long to embrace one of you lovely creatures, if you would glide down here to my arms!
FLOSSHILDE: Now I laugh at our fears. The dwarf is in love!
WELLGUNDE: The dirty old lecher!
WOGLINDE: [to her sisters] Let’s teach him a lesson. [she swims toward Alberich]
ALBERICH: One’s coming near!
WOGLINDE: Come over here by me!
ALBERICH: [climbing over the rocks toward her] Cursed slippery rocks! I can’t keep my grip anywhere! And the mist tickles my nose! [sneezes]
WOGLINDE: Sneezing, my splendid suitor approaches!
ALBERICH: You’re mine at last, my beauty! [he grabs for her but she darts away]
WOGLINDE: If you would woo me, then follow me here.
ALBERICH: Alas! You flee from me? Come back! I can’t move as swiftly as you.
WOGLINDE: Can you climb down to the bottom here? [descending]
ALBERICH: Yes, this is much better!
WOGLINDE: Now up again! [her sisters laugh at her trick]
ALBERICH: How can I catch this playful fish? Come back, false one!
WELLGUNDE: Hey! You charmer! Why not come over here?
ALBERICH: Are you calling me?
WELLGUNDE: Why bother with Woglinde, when I’m available?
ALBERICH: You are much fairer than your slippery sister and more radiant. Come closer so I can reach you.
WELLGUNDE: Is this close enough?
ALBERICH: Not nearly! Throw your lovely arms around my neck so I can fondle your swelling breasts in my passionate, burning embrace!
WELLGUNDE: Let me take a closer look at my new lover. Ugh! You hairy, hideous creature! Sulfurous dwarf! Find yourself a sweetheart as black as yourself!
ALBERICH: [grabbing her] I may not please you, but I can hold you tight!
WELLGUNDE: So tight, I slip from your grasp! [swimming away as her sisters laugh]
ALBERICH: Faithless female fish! If I’m not handsome enough for you, make love to an eel, if that is more to your liking!
FLOSSHILDE: Stop grumbling, you goblin! Discouraged already? You’ve failed with two, now try a third. She may console your grief.
ALBERICH: What a lovely song I hear! It’s lucky there are three of you, for surely one will like me. Prove to me that you’re sincere. Come down here into my arms.
FLOSSHILDE: Oh sisters, how foolish you are, not to see how handsome he is!
ALBERICH: Now I see how stupid and ugly they are compared to you, the loveliest of all!
FLOSSHILDE: Your sweet song bewitches me, seducing my ear!
ALBERICH: My heart trembles with longing, hearing such praise from your lips.
FLOSSHILDE: Oh how your looks delight my eye, dearest of men!
ALBERICH: Sweetest of maidens! If only I might hold you forever!
FLOSSHILDE: Your prickly beard, your shaggy hair, your toad-like appearance, your croaking voice – how these pierce my heart! I want nothing else! [her sisters laugh]
ALBERICH: Are they laughing at me?
FLOSSHILDE: Thus concludes my love song! [she swims away, laughing as well]
ALBERICH: Sorrow! Woe is me! Betrayed by all three! You shameless, slippery temptresses! Do you know nothing but treachery and lies?
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Wallala! Wallala! Lalaleia! Leialalei! Heia! Heia! Ha ha! Shame on you, goblin! Stop complaining! Why didn’t you hold on tighter to the maiden you love? We will be faithful and true to the one who catches us. Try again – it’s hard to escape in the waves! Heia! Heia! Ha ha!
ALBERICH: Passion sets me on fire! Rage and longing provoke me to madness! My lust drives me on, despite your laughter. I must have you! I swear, one shall be mine!
The Rhinedaughters swim swiftly about while Alberich desperately attempts to catch one of them, without success. Suddenly, his attention is drawn upward toward a brilliant glow coming from the waters above.
WOGLINDE: Look, sisters. The sunlight smiles on our watery depths.
WELLGUNDE: Through the green darkness, she calls the sleeping gold to wake.
FLOSSHILDE: She kisses its eyelids to open them.
WELLGUNDE: See it smile with a gentle glow.
WOGLINDE: Down through the waters streams its radiant beam!
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Heiajaheia! Heiajaheia! Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Gleaming joy, how bright is your laughter! Glorious beams that glisten in the waves! Awake, friend, and let us play delightful games in your honor. The water sparkles as we dance and sing in your riverbed. Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Heiajaheia!
ALBERICH: What is this, you slippery nymphs, that gleams and glitters so brightly?
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Ignorant dwarf, where do you come from that you have never heard of the Rhinegold?
WELLGUNDE: Do you not know of the golden radiance which sleeps but to wake in the sun?
WOGLINDE: The lovely star which shines gloriously through the water’s depths?
RHINEDAUGHTERS: See how we bathe in its brightness! Come join us. Wallala la la leia lalei!
ALBERICH: Does the gold have any value beyond lighting your games? If not, it’s worthless!
WOGLINDE: He would not speak so harshly of this golden gem if he knew of its powers.
WELLGUNDE: The world’s wealth could be won by a man who fashions a ring from the Rhinegold. With it he could rule the world.
FLOSSHILDE: Careful, my sisters! Our father told us to guard our shining treasure wisely, lest some deceiving thief carry it off. Be quiet, you tattle tales!
WELLGUNDE: My prudent sister, why do you worry? Have you forgotten the price one must pay to forge the gold?
WOGLINDE: Only he who has renounced the joys of love and turned from sensual pleasure will master the magic to transform the gold into a ring.
WELLGUNDE: So we are safe. All that live, live to love. No one could renounce its joys forever.
WOGLINDE: Least of all this lecherous goblin, who will perish from lust and desire!
FLOSSHILDE: I must agree. I myself was nearly scorched with his hot passion.
WELLGUNDE: Like a sulfurous brand inflamed with longing, he sizzles in the water!
RHINEDAUGHTERS: [laughing] Loveliest Nibelung, laugh with us, you handsome creature! Share in our delight! Heiajaheia!
ALBERICH: [his eyes fixed on the gold] The world’s wealth can be mine if I utter the curse? Though love be denied me, I may win pleasure through cunning. Laugh, then! The Nibelung approaches your golden toy!
RHINEDAUGHTERS: [unbelieving] Save yourselves, sisters! The dwarf’s gone mad with love! Ha ha ha!
ALBERICH: Still unafraid? Then laugh in the darkness, you watery nymphs! I will extinguish your light. I snatch the gold from the rock and will forge the avenging ring. For, hear me, you waters, thus do I curse Love forever!
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Stop, thief! Save the gold! Oh help us, help! Oh despair!
Alberich seizes the gold and disappears into the gloom of the caverns below. The Rhinedaughters’ cries are mixed with Alberich’s harsh, mocking laughter in the distance. A thick darkness descends on everything. The rocky riverbed vanishes. Gradually, the light of dawn begins to break, and the waves are transformed into clouds as the scene rises heavenward toward the realm of the gods.
An open space on a mountain height
Wotan, ruler of the gods, and Fricka his wife are asleep on a flowery bank. Behind them rises an imposing castle.
FRICKA: [waking] Wotan, my lord! Awake!
WOTAN: [still dreaming] The sacred hall of the gods is guarded by gate and door. Manhood’s honor, eternal might, rise to everlasting glory!
FRICKA: Wake from your dreams and look! [he does so and sees the castle]
WOTAN: The immortal work is completed! On the mountain top, the mighty hall of the gods stands magnificent! Designed by my dreams and constructed by my will, it shines for all to see, holy, glorious abode!
FRICKA: Does that which alarms me cause in you nothing but delight? You have your stronghold now, but I fear for Freia, goddess of youth and love. Have you forgotten the reward you promised the giants once they finished the work?
WOTAN: I am mindful of the bargain. That defiant race was subdued by my spear, on which is graven the terms of the treaty. The castle is finished; do not think on what it cost.
FRICKA: What heartless cheerfulness! If I had known of your dealings, I would not have stood for it. But you men made your plans in secret, keeping the women out of it, and so shamelessly you gave away my sister! When men lust after power, nothing for them is sacred!
WOTAN: Are you so free from blame? You begged me for this hall.
FRICKA: I wanted my husband to remain faithful. Perhaps a magnificent dwelling would keep him from roaming the world, looking for adventure. But with thoughts only of war and glory, you built a towering citadel, more a fort than a home.
WOTAN: Wife, outside the confines of this castle I must have freedom to rule over all the world. All life seeks change. Wandering is my nature; I cannot relinquish such pleasure.
FRICKA: Cruel, unfeeling man! For the mere delight of dominion and power, you would gamble away love and woman’s worth?
WOTAN: To win you as wife cost me one of my eyes, remember? Your scolding is foolish. I worship women much more than you’d like. And I shall not give up Freia, the fair, nor did I ever intend to.
FRICKA: Then protect her now. Here she comes running for your aid.
FREIA: Help me! Shelter me, brother! Fasolt is threatening to take me away!
WOTAN: Let him threaten. Have you seen Loge?
FRICKA: Are you still trusting in that sly rogue? He does nothing but harm, and yet you continue to call on him.
WOTAN: Where courage may prevail, I need no one’s aid. But only Loge’s cunning will help in this case. He said that Freia would be safe; he has a plan.
FRICKA: And when you need him, where is he? Here come the giants seeking their reward. Where is your crafty advisor?
FREIA: Oh, help me, brothers! Donner, Froh, come to my protection, now that Wotan has failed! Save me!
FRICKA: These disgraceful men who first betrayed you are safely out of the way now!
Fasolt and Fafner enter carrying huge clubs
FASOLT: While you closed your eyes in sleep, we built your stronghold. Tirelessly with mighty toil we piled up stones, raising lofty towers, heavy doors and gates to keep your castle secure. There it stands, the citadel that you ordered, shining in the sun. Take your home and give us our pay.
WOTAN: Very well, you’ve earned your reward. What do you ask?
FASOLT: The price was already fixed; have you so soon forgotten? Freia, the fair, we want for ourselves.
WOTAN: Clearly your labors have blinded your wits. Name another wage; Freia is not for sale.
FASOLT: What’s this? Ha! Do you break your word, betray your own treaty? Do you take the words carved on your spear so lightly?
FAFNER: My trusting brother, now do you recognize his deceit?
FASOLT: God of light, who so lightly weighs his own words, take heed! You must learn to keep your promises. You are ruler of the gods because you are the guardian of treaties. Your power rests on honoring the agreements carved on your staff. Because of your wise settlement, we served you in peace, but now I curse your wisdom and wage war on your peace if you do not uphold what you have promised! This stupid giant counsels the wise; learn from him now.
WOTAN: How cunning of you to take seriously what was spoken of in jest! What use can Freia, this slender and lovely goddess, be to you hulking giants?
FASOLT: What injustice to mock us like this! You gods reign surrounded by beauty, yet you willingly if foolishly bartered this woman for a glorious tower of stone. We dull giants slaved away, sweating with blistering hands, only to win a woman sweet and gentle to grace our poor home, and then you call our bargain absurd?
FAFNER: Stop your empty chatter. The woman’s not what we want. Freia’s charms mean nothing, but we gain by stealing her from the gods. Golden apples grow in her garden, and she alone can cultivate them. Those who eat this fruit have life everlasting. Without it, the gods will lose their youth and beauty, and their power will fade. That’s why we must take Freia away!
WOTAN: [aside] Loge delays too long!
FASOLT: Give us a plain answer now.
WOTAN: Ask for something else.
FASOLT: No other! Freia alone!
FAFNER: You, girl! Come with us.
FREIA: Help! Someone defend me! [Donner and Froh enter]
FROH: Come to me, Freia. Back, giants! Froh protects her now.
DONNER: Fasolt and Fafner, have you never felt the weight of my hammer’s heavy blow?
FAFNER: What means this threat?
FASOLT: Why do you interfere? This is not war; we simply want our just reward.
DONNER: I know the payment that giants deserve. Come, I will weigh it out with good measure!
WOTAN: Stop, you brute! Force is not called for here. This treaty is protected by my spear. Put your hammer away!
FREIA: Oh, despair! Wotan abandons me!
FRICKA: So this is your clever plan, merciless husband?
WOTAN: At last, here comes Loge! Where have you been? Is this how you hasten to settle the bad bargain you arranged?
LOGE: What bargain is that? Oh, you mean the one you made with the giants? I’ve been busy inspecting their work. It’s quite secure, excellent craftsmanship, I must say. All the stones are properly in place. For you gods it will make a comfortable home, I’m sure. Of course, as I’m not welcome, I must continue to roam the earth on my own. So you see, I’ve been quite busy; you can’t accuse me of laziness.
WOTAN: Don’t try to elude me, schemer! Remember, of all the gods I am your only friend. If you betray me, beware! So speak, I need your advice. When this agreement with the giants was made, you know I consented only because you promised to find a way around it.
LOGE: I promised to think about it, that’s all. But who can discover what can never be found?
FRICKA: See on what a deceiving knave you have risked your trust!
FROH: You are called Loge, but I call you Liar!
DONNER: I’ll quench your flame, fire-god!
LOGE: To conceal their own mistakes, everyone blames me!
WOTAN: Leave him be! You don’t understand Loge’s art. His counsel is worth more when he speaks with caution.
FAFNER: No more delaying! Pay us now!
FASOLT: Our reward is past due.
WOTAN: [turning to Loge urgently] Speak up, stubborn one! What have you found in your travels?
LOGE: Never a word of thanks for all I’ve done! Intent only on serving you, I searched the four corners of the earth, seeking a substitute for Freia that would satisfy the giants. I sought in vain, for I discovered that nothing in the whole world is more precious to a man than the beauty and love of a woman! I asked every living creature, on land, sea and air, wherever I found life: What means more to a man than a woman’s love? The only answer I received was laughter, everywhere I went. Only one man did I find who had renounced love of woman for love of gold. The Rhinedaughters told me their sad tale: the Nibelung Alberich, failing to win their favors, stole the Rhinegold in revenge, prizing it more than a woman’s charms. Now the Rhinedaughters plead to you, Wotan, to bring the thief to justice and to return the gold to its watery home.
WOTAN: What use is this news to me? I’m in need of help; I’ve no time to help others!
FASOLT: [to his brother] I envy the Nibelung’s gold. Alberich has done us much harm, but he always has slipped through our fingers.
FAFNER: We may suffer more in the future with the power he’s gained from the gold. Loge, tell us the truth – why does the Nibelung value this gold so much?
LOGE: While in the waters it was a toy to delight the childish games of maidens. But when fashioned by magic into a ring, it gives the wearer power to rule the world.
WOTAN: I have heard men speak of the Rhinegold. Great wealth and power lies in its brilliant gleam.
FRICKA: [aside to Loge] Could a woman wear the ring and thus charm her lord with its beauty?
LOGE: No husband dare be false to the woman who commands the power of this glittering jewel under which the Nibelung hoards now serve.
FRICKA: Can Wotan attain the gold?
WOTAN: [with increasing interest] I should possess this ring! Tell me, Loge, how could I learn the skill to forge the gold?
LOGE: A magic spell transforms the gold into a ring, but only he who renounces love may wield this power. [Wotan turns away displeased] That does not appeal to you, but it doesn’t matter now anyway. Alberich did not hesitate; he cursed love and forged the ring.
DONNER: We will all serve the dwarf if the ring remains his.
WOTAN: I must have the ring!
FROH: An easy task, now that love need not be renounced.
LOGE: Child’s play; without any craft it can be yours.
WOTAN: But how?
LOGE: By theft, of course! What a thief stole, you steal from a thief – simple as that. But Alberich defends himself with evil weapons. You must proceed cautiously if you are to bring justice in this case and return the gold to the Rhinedaughters.
WOTAN: The Rhinedaughters? They’re not in my plans.
FRICKA: Ignore the cries of that watery brood. Too many men have been lured by them into the depths of the Rhine.
Wotan stands apart, struggling with himself. Meanwhile, the giants have been conversing with each other.
FAFNER: Believe me, the gold is worth much more than this woman. Eternal youth is also available to him who rules the gold. [Fasolt seems convinced against his will] Hear me, Wotan. You may keep Freia. All we ask for is Alberich’s gold.
WOTAN: Are you mad? How can I give you what I don’t possess?
FAFNER: We built these high walls with hard labor. With a little cunning you may achieve what we have failed to do – defeat the Nibelung.
WOTAN: Why must I work to attain your ends, you stupid, insolent pair?
FASOLT: [seizing Freia] Very well, we’ll keep this woman hostage until the debt has been paid.
FREIA: Oh, save me!
FAFNER: Let us take her away until evening. When we return, if the Rhinegold does not lie here waiting for us . . .
FASOLT: Then the treaty is finished. Freia will be forfeit and must stay with us forever!
FREIA: Oh sister, brothers! Save me! [the giants carry her off]
FROH: After them!
DONNER: Smash them all!
They look inquiringly at Wotan who stands motionless. Loge watches the giants as they vanish into the distance, then turns back to the others. A chilling mist begins to engulf the mountaintop as the light fades.
LOGE: What troubles you, oh gods? Do my eyes deceive me, or are you growing weak and gray before me? Froh, the light has gone out of your eyes. Donner, you’ve dropped your mighty hammer. Why so sad, Fricka? Don’t you like your husband’s gray hairs?
FRICKA: Alas! What is happening to us?
DONNER: I cannot lift my hand.
FROH: My heart is weak.
LOGE: Now I understand. You’ve not eaten any of Freia’s fruit today. The golden apples in her garden kept you young and vigorous, but now that she’s gone, the trees wither, and the fruit falls rotting to the ground. It does not matter so much to me; Freia was always stingy with me. I never tasted her fruit, as I’m not as great a god as any of you! But you staked everything on this youth-giving fruit. The giants knew that well. They meant to strike this blow. So what will you do now? Lacking the apples of immortality, even the gods grow old and die.
FRICKA: Unhappy husband, see how your selfish folly has brought shame and disgrace upon us all!
WOTAN: Loge, come with me. We will descend to Nibelheim, and there I’ll win the gold.
LOGE: Will you thus answer the Rhinedaughters’ pleas?
WOTAN: Be silent! It is Freia who must be saved!
LOGE: As you wish. Shall we descend through the Rhine?
WOTAN: Not through the Rhine!
LOGE: Then follow me down this sulfurous crevice.
WOTAN: The rest of you remain here until evening. For our lost youth, I will obtain the gold!
Sulfurous fumes engulf the stage in darkness as the music indicates a descent into the center of the earth.
A subterranean cavern
The dark red glow of fiery forges casts long shadows down narrow mine shafts. The clinking of hammers fills the air. Alberich enters, dragging his brother Mime.
ALBERICH: Hehe! Hehe! Come here, you crafty dwarf! You will be painfully pinched if you do not produce the fine ornament that I ordered you to make.
MIME: Ow! Ow! Let me go! It’s finished, just as you commanded, with much toil and sweat. Now let go of my ear! Ow!
ALBERICH: Then why did you wait to show it to me? I want it now!
MIME: I held it back, fearing some small detail might be wrong.
ALBERICH: What’s not finished about it?
MIME: Oh, this . . . and that . . .
ALBERICH: Give it to me! [takes the Tarnhelm] Ha! You rogue! It’s perfect, in every detail! Did you think that by hesitating, you might keep this trinket for yourself? Stupid thief! See, the helmet fits my head perfectly, just as I designed. Now will its magic work for me? “Night and darkness, fade from sight!” [he vanishes] Can you see me, brother?
MIME: Where are you? I cannot see you at all!
ALBERICH: Then feel my blows instead, you lazy villain! Take that for your thieving desires!
MIME: Oh! Oh! Ow! Ow!
ALBERICH: Hahahahaha! Be thankful your work turned out well. Hoho! Hoho! Nibelungs below! Bow down before Alberich the Invisible! All-seeing and everywhere, I will be watching you work. Day and night, without rest or sleep, you must toil, my subjects, my slaves forever! Hoho! Hear me, the lord of the Nibelungs is coming! HAHAHAHAHA!
His voice recedes down the caverns, greeted by the howls and screams of the Nibelungs. Mime lies cowering on the ground. Wotan and Loge enter from a secret passage.
LOGE: Here is Nibelheim. Murky darkness broken only by flashes of fire.
MIME: Oh! Oh!
WOTAN: Someone’s groaning. Who lies at our feet?
LOGE: What are you whimpering about? Hi, Mime, happy dwarf! What troubles you?
MIME: Leave me in peace!
LOGE: Gladly, I’ll even help you to your feet.
MIME: Help me? Who can help me? I’m a slave to my own brother!
LOGE: What gave him the power to bind you?
MIME: By magic Alberich fashioned a ring from the Rhinegold, which makes all the Nibelungs tremble with fear. Once our race was carefree and happy, working at our anvils, making trinkets for our women, laughing as we hammered and shaped our bright toys. But no longer. Now we serve only him! The ring shows him where hidden gold lies in the ground, and so down the shafts we slither and dig, mine and forge. Day and night we pile up the hoard to satisfy our master’s greed.
LOGE: And you were idle just now, so that he beat you?
MIME: Alas! Poor Mime’s fate is the hardest of all! He forced me to create for him a magic helmet, fashioned after his design. I guessed that some powerful spell must lie in the work, and I planned to keep it for myself in order to free myself from Alberich’s yoke, perhaps even take the ring from him, and make him my slave!
LOGE: Why did your clever plan fail?
MIME: Alas! I did not understand the spell; I could not guess how to make the sorcery work. Only after Alberich seized the helmet did I learn – too late! He taught me my lesson with invisible blows! That’s the thanks I get!
LOGE: It seems, Wotan, your task will be difficult.
WOTAN: I’m confident you will discover a way.
MIME: But why all these questions? Strangers, who are you?
LOGE: You will call us friends, once we free the Nibelung folk from their plight.
MIME: Beware! Alberich is coming!
WOTAN: We will wait for him here.
Alberich, brandishing a whip, enters from a lower cavern, driving a team of dwarves laden with silver and gold.
ALBERICH: Hither! Thither! Haha! Lazy crew, pile the hoard up there in a heap. Get to it! Work! Do you want my help, you dogs? [noticing Wotan and Loge] What? Who’s trespassing here? Mime, you scoundrel, what have you been tattling? Away, idler, back to the forge! Be off, all of you! Get me more gold from the new shafts. Mime will see that you work, or else he will feel the whip himself. What, still here? [holding out the ring threateningly] Tremble in terror, you wretched slaves! Obey the ring’s mighty lord! [Howling and shrieking, they disperse down the shafts. Alberich eyes the intruders suspiciously] What brought you here?
WOTAN: We have heard new tidings of Nibelheim’s dark land. Alberich is working mighty wonders here. Eager to see them, we have come as your guests.
ALBERICH: Eager to steal them, more likely. I know what kind of guests you are!
LOGE: So you know who I am, impudent dwarf? Tell me then, who warmed your chilly caves and lit your forges if not Loge, your kinsman, and once your friend?
ALBERICH: So Loge is hobnobbing with the light-goblins, now. What, are you their friend, deceiver, as once you were mine? Ha! Then I have nothing to fear from them.
LOGE: You trust me then?
ALBERICH: I trust in your faithlessness, you liar, but no matter. I can defy you now.
LOGE: Your strength makes you bold, Alberich. You must be very powerful indeed.
ALBERICH: Do you see that treasure which my legions piled up for me?
LOGE: An enviable sight.
ALBERICH: That is just from today. Tomorrow it will grow even higher.
WOTAN: But what good is such wealth? In joyless Nibelheim there’s nothing to buy.
ALBERICH: In these dark caves I only store my wealth. Soon I will rise out of Nibelheim and with gold I will buy the whole world!
WOTAN: How do you plan to proceed?
ALBERICH: You great ones may live in the clouds, but with my golden fist I will seize and destroy you! As I once renounced the joys of love, so all that live shall renounce them. Your greed for my gold shall enslave you. All you sky-dwellers despise those of us below, but beware! One day you will serve me, and your women also will yield to me, surrendering by force what cannot be won by love! Hahaha! I warn you now. Beware the day when the Nibelung’s gold will rise out of darkness to vanquish the world!
WOTAN: [furious] Out of my sight, you impious wretch!
ALBERICH: What’s that you say?
LOGE: [to Wotan] Keep your temper! [to Alberich] Who would not stand in awe of what Alberich has accomplished? If your brilliant plan achieves its goals, then I would have to proclaim you the mightiest of beings. The sun, moon, and stars in all their splendor would submit to your will. But, suppose that your Nibelung slaves rebel? What if someone were to catch you asleep and take the ring from your finger? How, clever one, will you protect yourself from that?
ALBERICH: Is Loge the only wise one here? Are all others stupid, needing his counsel? I do not seek your advice! With the ring’s power, I have created a Tarnhelm whose magic can transform my shape at will. If I wish, no one can see me, but I can see everyone. So don’t worry, old friend. I am protected even from the likes of you!
LOGE: I have encountered many wonders in my travels, but I have never heard of such a thing as this. I hardly believe it exists. This device would make you invincible.
ALBERICH: Do you think I lie and make empty boasts like Loge?
LOGE: Until I have proof, I refuse to believe.
ALBERICH: You fool! You will envy my power. Tell me, what shape should I take?
LOGE: Whatever pleases you. Astonish me.
ALBERICH: “Dreadful dragon, curling and coiling!” [appears as a giant dragon]
LOGE: [feigning terror] Oh, oh! Terrible monster! Don’t swallow me alive!
WOTAN: Haha! Good trick, Alberich! Splendid! Your transformation was instant!
ALBERICH: [in his own form] Hehe! You doubters, do you believe me now?
LOGE: You saw how frightened I was! Now that I have seen it, how can I doubt? But, just as you increased in size, can you become smaller? That would be the safest way to hide from an enemy, I suppose, but it seems too difficult a task.
ALBERICH: Too hard for you, perhaps, because you are too stupid! How small shall I be?
LOGE: So small that a tiny crack would hide you, where the smallest toad might take cover.
ALBERICH: Pah! That’s easy! Watch me! “Tiny toad, creeping and crawling!” [he transforms]
WOTAN: There he is! Now catch him! [Loge takes the helmet from him]
ALBERICH: [in his own form] Curses! They tricked me!
LOGE: Hold him fast until I bind him. Now quickly upwards, return home! Once there, he is ours!
An open space on a mountain height
LOGE: Sit down, cousin. Look around you. There lies the world you would have ruled. What little corner of your realm were you reserving for me?
ALBERICH: Knave! Thief! Let me go, or you will pay dearly for your crime!
WOTAN: You’re my prisoner now, just as you would have bound all those who live under your evil power. In order to be free again, you must pay a ransom.
ALBERICH: What a fool I was! Blinded by my own dreams! Caught by a cowardly trick! I will have my vengeance!
LOGE: Before you can avenge yourself, you must be free. Think about buying your freedom now.
ALBERICH: Then say what you demand!
WOTAN: All your shining gold.
ALBERICH: Greedy criminals! [aside] But, so long as I keep the ring, I can replace whatever treasure I lose a thousand times over. This will teach me a good lesson in wisdom, even if it costs me my hoard.
WOTAN: Will you surrender your treasure?
ALBERICH: Release my hand, and I will summon for it. [Loge unties him. Alberich kisses the ring and murmurs a command] Now the Nibelungs will come to my call. I hear them bringing the gold in obedience to their dark lord. Now set me free!
WOTAN: Not until all has been paid.
ALBERICH: Oh shameful disgrace, that my frightened servants should see me in chains! [to the Nibelungs] Set it down there, as I command. Pile up the gold in a mighty heap. Don’t look at me! Hurry! Now leave! Back to your labors. Don’t let me catch any of you idle. Your lord follows close on your heels! [they exit] There is the gold, now let me go. Also kindly return the Tarnhelm which Loge holds there.
LOGE: The helmet is part of the ransom. [throwing it on the heap]
ALBERICH: Accursed thief! [aside] Yet wait! I still have the power to make another one. Mime still serves me in fear. I hate to lose such a weapon but – Very well! I have paid the ransom. Release me, you tyrants.
LOGE: [to Wotan] Are you satisfied? Shall I set him free?
WOTAN: A golden ring remains on your finger. I consider that part of the price.
ALBERICH: The ring?
WOTAN: To win your freedom, you must yield it as well.
ALBERICH: Take my life – but not the ring!
WOTAN: Do what you will with your life. I want the ring!
ALBERICH: But if I have life, I must have the ring also! Hand and head, eye and ear, are not more a part of me than is this ring!
WOTAN: How is it yours? You raving, shameless dwarf! Where did you get the gold to make it? Did the Rhinedaughters offer you a gift, or did you take it by force?
ALBERICH: Infamous schemer! You blame me for doing what you wanted to do yourself! You lusted after the gold, but weren’t willing the pay the price. It serves your plans well that I, a lowly worthless dwarf, in a moment of rage cursed and won the fearful magic you now desire! All my unhappy suffering merely served to provide you a plaything! My curse brings you joy! Take care, cruel god! If I have sinned, I sinned only against myself, but you, immortal, are planning a crime against all that has been, is and ever will be, by laying your hand on this ring!
WOTAN: Give me the ring! No amount of babbling will prove your right to it. [he violently tears the ring from Alberich’s hand]
ALBERICH: Ah! Ruined! Defeated! The most miserable of slaves!
WOTAN: Now I hold that which makes me the mightiest ruler of all!
LOGE: Shall I release him now?
WOTAN: Let him go.
LOGE: Slither away home, then. You’re free to go.
ALBERICH: Free? Am I now free? Then hear my first words of freedom: as it came to me by a curse, my curse lies on this ring! Its power brought me wealth, but now it will bring only death! No man will enjoy its possession or be happy with what it provides. Care shall consume he who has it, and envy will consume those who don’t. All shall lust after it, but he who obtains it will find no joy. Its owner is destined to die, and fear will rule his days. Whoever is lord of the ring will be its slave. This is my blessing on the ring, until the day it returns to the hand from which you tore it. Guard it well; from its curse you cannot escape! [exits]
LOGE: Did you hear Alberich’s departing lovesong?
WOTAN: [lost in contemplating the ring] Let him have his temper tantrum!
LOGE: Fasolt and Fafner are coming this way. Soon Freia will be freed.
Fricka, Donner, and Froh enter
FROH: So you have returned.
DONNER: Welcome home, brother.
FRICKA: Do you bring good news?
WOTAN: Our task has been accomplished by cunning and by force; there lies Freia’s ransom.
DONNER: The giants must now release her.
FROH: See how the air seems fresh and sweet again. Our eternal youth returns with Freia, goddess of love and delight.
Fasolt and Fafner enter bringing Freia
FRICKA: Dearest sister!
FASOLT: Wait! Do not touch her! Freia is still ours. At Riesenheim’s rocky heights we rested. We guarded her and kept our word faithfully. Though sore at heart, I now return her. But first, pay us what you owe.
WOTAN: Behold, there’s ransom enough; measure it well.
FASOLT: To lose this woman saddens me greatly. To put her out of my mind, heap up the gold until I can no longer see her beautiful form.
WOTAN: Then set the treasure before her.
FAFNER: We’ve planted our staves on each side of her; now pile the gold up to her height.
WOTAN: Hurry with this business. Oh, this is shameful!
LOGE: Help me, Froh!
FROH: I hasten to end Freia’s disgrace.
FAFNER: You’re piling it much too loosely! Pack it tight! Look, I can still see her through the cracks. Stop them up!
LOGE: Stand back, you ruffian! Remove your hands!
FAFNER: Here! Another crack! Fill it up!
WOTAN: Deep in my breast, I burn with shame!
FRICKA: As you should; Freia’s disgraceful predicament is all your doing!
FAFNER: Still more! More over here!
DONNER: Enough of this! Come here, dog! If you must measure, measure yourself against me!
FAFNER: Quiet, Donner! Roar when it may profit you – here your thunder is in vain!
DONNER: It is enough to crush you!
WOTAN: Peace now! Freia seems to be hidden from sight.
LOGE: Good! That’s all of the gold.
FAFNER: Wait! I can still spy her golden hair. [pointing to the Tarnhelm] There is more treasure; put it on the stack.
LOGE: What, the helmet too?
FAFNER: Give it here!
WOTAN: Let them have it!
LOGE: So now, are we finished? Are you satisfied?
FASOLT: I no longer see Freia the fair. Is the ransom paid then? Must I lose her? Ah, her glance still pierces my heart. Here, through this tiny crack, I see her lovely eyes. I cannot give her up!
FAFNER: Close up the chink!
LOGE: Never contented! Can’t you see our treasure is gone?
FAFNER: Not quite! On Wotan’s finger gleams a golden ring which will fill up the hole.
WOTAN: What? The ring?
LOGE: You don’t understand. This gold belongs to the Rhinedaughters. Wotan intends to return it to them.
WOTAN: What are you talking about? What I have won I will keep for myself!
LOGE: But my promise to the maidens . . .
WOTAN: Is not binding on me. The ring is mine!
FAFNER: But now you must pay it as ransom.
WOTAN: Demand whatever you will, and I will grant it. But not for the whole world will I surrender this ring!
FASOLT: Then keep your gold and keep the ring; Freia will stay with us forever!
FREIA: Help! Oh help!
FRICKA: Cruel god, give it to them!
DONNER: Pay them the ransom! Surrender the ring!
WOTAN: Leave me in peace! I will not lose the ring!
Wotan turns away. The stage becomes dark. A bluish light breaks from a cleft in the rock as Erda, goddess of the earth, rises from below to half her height.
ERDA: Yield, Wotan! Fly from the ring’s curse! Utter ruin and disaster lie in the ring.
WOTAN: Who are you to warn me thus?
ERDA: I know all that once was, all that is, and all that shall be. The primeval one of the endless world, Erda the all-wise bids you beware. My three daughters, the Norns, nightly shape my visions of the future. Drawn by dread, I today have come. Take heed, take heed! All things that exist shall perish. A day of doom dawns for the immortals. I warn you, give up the ring!
WOTAN: Your mysterious words intrigue me; stay and tell me more.
ERDA: You have heard my warning. You know enough. Reflect in fear on these things. [she sinks back into the earth]
WOTAN: Wait! If I must fear, tell me all!
FRICKA: Husband, calm yourself.
FROH: Hold back, Wotan. Erda is holy; do as she says.
DONNER: Come back, you giants! Be patient. You will get your ring.
FREIA: Dare I hope that Freia is worth such a ransom?
WOTAN: [after much deliberation] Come to me, Freia! You are free once again; let our youth return to us once more. Giants, take your ring!
Brandishing his spear as a sign of divine decision, he throws the ring on the heap of gold. The giants release Freia, and she runs to the others who greet her with delight. Fafner spreads out an enormous sack and begins to gather up the hoard.
FASOLT: Wait, you greedy one! Give me my share too. We should divide the ransom fairly between us.
FAFNER: You cared more for the woman than for the gold, you love-sick fool. If you had won her, would you have shared her with me? With difficulty I persuaded you to agree to this exchange. Since I negotiated the bargain, it’s only proper for me to take the greater portion of gold for myself!
FASOLT: You despicable scoundrel! You insult me thus? I appeal to you gods as judges; divide the treasure between us fairly. [Wotan turns away]
LOGE: Let him keep the treasure; all you need is the ring!
FASOLT: Back, you thief! The ring is mine! I won it for Freia’s glance!
FAFNER: Take your hands off! I own the ring! [they struggle; Fasolt seizes the ring]
FASOLT: Ha! I have it, I shall keep it!
FAFNER: Hold it tight, in case you let it fall! [he strikes Fasolt a deadly blow with his staff] Now dream of your Freia’s glance! You will not see the ring again!
Taking the ring of his dead brother’s hand, Fafner quietly continues to pack up the treasure, while the gods stand by horrified.
WOTAN: How terrible now do I find the power of the ring’s curse to be!
LOGE: What luck, Wotan! You gained much by taking the ring, but even more by losing it. For now your enemies kill each other on account of the gold.
WOTAN: Yet dark fears consume me. To Erda I must descend to learn more of the future for the gods.
FRICKA: What troubles you, Wotan? See, our home beckons you in splendor as it stands waiting to welcome its noble lord.
WOTAN: I have paid a terrible price for this work!
DONNER: Mist hangs heavy in the air. Summoning the storm, I’ll gather the clouds together to sweep the gloom from the sky. [swinging his hammer above his head] Heda! Heda! Hedo! Come, mist! Vapors, I summon you, Donner, lord of thunder! [lightning flashes] Brother, show us the bridge to the hall! [the clouds lift, revealing a rainbow bridge stretching across the cavern to the castle]
FROH: The bridge leads us homeward. Light, yet firm to the foot, boldly tread on its shining path.
WOTAN: In the evening light the lingering sun smiles on this splendid stronghold. Between this morning’s light and now, dark deeds have been done to pay for it. The night approaches, when we need its refuge and shelter. [very resolutely, as if seized by a grand thought] I greet the hall, safe from all fear and dread. Follow me, wife; dwell with me in Valhalla.
FRICKA: What does the name mean? I have never heard it before.
WOTAN: If what I am dreaming about comes to pass, when victory is mine, its meaning will be clear to you.
LOGE: [remaining behind] They hasten toward their end, they who believe themselves invincible. I’m almost ashamed to have any part of their dealings. I feel tempted to transform myself once again into consuming fire and destroy those who thought they had tamed me! Rather this than blindly following the blind to their demise. It’s something to think about. Who knows what I’ll do? [starting to exit, he hears the call of the Rhinedaughters]
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Rhinegold! Rhinegold! How pure and bright did you once shine on us! For you we mourn! Oh gods! Give us the gold, give us its glorious light again!
WOTAN: What wailing is that I hear?
LOGE: The Rhinedaughters are lamenting the theft of the gold.
WOTAN: Troublesome sprites! Stop their tiresome crying!
LOGE: You down there, why do you complain to us? Hear Wotan’s decree. Though the gold no longer shines on you, bask in the new-found radiance of the gods! [laughing, the gods cross the bridge to Valhalla]
RHINEDAUGHTERS: Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Return to the deep, let us bathe in your pure light again! Goodness and truth dwell only in the deep; false and base are those who dwell above!
End of Part One