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The Ring

p l o t / s y n o p s i s

The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich from gold he stole from the Rhinemaidens in the river Rhine. Several mythic figures struggle for possession of the Ring, including Wotan, the chief of the gods. Wotan's scheme, spanning generations, to overcome his limitations, drives much of the action in the story. His grandson, the hero Siegfried, wins the Ring, as Wotan intended, but is eventually betrayed and slain. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Siegfried's lover and Wotan's estranged daughter, returns the Ring to the Rhinemaidens. In the process, the Gods and their home, Valhalla, are destroyed.


Setting: River Rhein
Location in theatre: Orchestra Pit
Designer: Seung Yeon Nam
Adapted from: RG Sc I
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Rheinmaidens - then stolen by Alberich
Our story begins with the three Rhine maidens, Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde, playing together at the bottom of the River Rhine. Alberich, the Nibelung dwarf, appears and tries to woo them. Struck by Alberich's ugliness, the Rhine maidens mock his advances and he grows angry. As the sun begins to rise, the maidens praise the golden glow atop a nearby rock; Alberich asks what it is. The Rhine maidens tell him about the Rhine gold, which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic Ring which will let its bearer rule the world, but only by someone who first renounces love. They think they have nothing to fear from the dwarf, but Alberich, embittered by their mockery, curses love, seizes the gold and leaves the river, leaving them screaming in dismay.


Setting: Valhalla
Location in theatre: Stage
Designer: Jason Airey
Adapted from: RG Sc II
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Alberich
Wotan, ruler of the Gods, and his wife Fricka, admire the castle (Valhalla) that has recently been built for them by the giants Fasolt and Fafner. In exchange for their hard work Wotan has offered the giants, Fricka's sister Freia, the goddess of youth and beauty and feminine love. Wotan is confident that they will not have to give Freia away, because he has dispatched his clever servant Loge to search the world for something else to give the giants instead.
The giants demand payment for their finished work. Hoping Loge will arrive with the alternative payment he promised, Wotan tries to stall.
When Loge finally shows up, his report is discouraging: there is nothing that men will accept in exchange for feminine love, and, by extension, nothing the giants would accept in exchange for Freia. Loge tells them that he was able to find only one instance where someone willingly gave up love for something else: Alberich the dwarf has renounced love, stolen the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. Fafner the giant makes a counteroffer: the giants will accept the Rheingold in payment, instead of Freia. In order not to give up Freia, Wotan resolves to go down to Nibelheim in pursuit of the gold.


Setting: Nibelheim
Location in theatre: Workshop
Designer: Vered Pick
Adapted from: RG Sc III
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Alberich
In Nibelheim, Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves with the power of the ring. He has forced his brother Mime, the most skillful smith, to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm's power by making himself invisible, the better to torment his subjects. (The Tarnhelm can also change the wearer's shape, and teleport him long distances.)
Wotan arrives and happen upon Mime, who tells them about Alberich's forging of the ring and the misery of the Nibelungs under his rule. Alberich returns, driving his slaves to pile up a huge mound of gold. When they have finished, he dismisses them and turns his attention to his visitors. He demonstrates the power of the tarnhelm, by transforming into a small animal, a toad. While he is a toad, the Wotan quickly seizes him, tie him up, and drags him back to Valhalla.


Setting: Valhalla
Location in theatre: Stage
Designer: Jason Airey
Adapted from: RG Sc IV
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Alberich, then Wotan, then Fafner
On the mountaintop, Wotan and Loge force Alberich to exchange his wealth for his freedom. They untie his right hand, and he uses the ring to summon his Nibelung slaves, who bring the hoard of gold. Wotan demands the ring. Alberich refuses, but Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. Alberich is crushed by his loss, and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it returns to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will live in anxiety and will eventually be killed and robbed of it by its next owner.
Erda the earth goddess, a primeval goddess older than Wotan, appears. She warns Wotan of impending doom and urges him to give up the cursed ring. Troubled, Wotan calls the giants back and surrenders the ring and the gold. The giants release Freia.

Many years pass - during which time:

Fasolt and Fafner got their gold – and the ring – and the Tarnhelm. But Alberich’s curse ensured that it did not bring happiness The giants fought over it and Fafner killed Fasolt. In order to protect the gold from others, Fafner used the Tarnhelm to turn himself into a fearsome Dragon and went to live in a cave.
Wotan could not bring himself to take the ring back from Fafner for fear of going back on his word. He set out to create a hero who, not dependent on him, not acting as his agent, could kill Fafner and win the ring back in his stead;
Wotan went down to earth and fathered two children: a pair of twins, who, in turn, gave birth to the hero Siegfried. Siegfried learned to play the horn. He also made the great sword ‘Nothung’;
Wotan paid visits to Erda the earth goddess who had warned him that there was to be an apocalyptic battle for world domination between the gods and Alberich's army. So, with her, he fathered 8 daughters, 8 warrior Valkyries charged with assembling an army to defend Valhalla. You will meet Brunnhilde the Valkyrie banished for insubordination by Wotan to a high place surrounded by fire;
Meanwhile, Alberich the dwarf has allied himself with a race of humans called the Gibichungs and fathered a son Hagen. Together with his step-sister Gutrune and his step-brother Gunther, Hagen is planning to win back the ring.


Setting: Dragon's Cave
Location in theatre: Bottom and Top level car park
Designer: Gina Lee
Adapted from: SF Act II iii
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Fafner (Dragon) then Siegfried.
As Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear, he plays a tune on his horn, which wakes Fafner up. After a short exchange, they fight, and Siegfried stabs Fafner in the heart with his sword Nothung. In his last moments, Fafner learns Siegfried's name, and tells him to beware of treachery. When Siegfried draws his sword from the corpse, his hands are burned by the dragon's blood, and he instinctively puts them to his mouth. On tasting the blood, he finds that he can understand the woodbird's song. Following its instructions, he takes the Ring and the Tarnhelm from Fafner's hoard. The woodbird sings of a woman sleeping on a rock surrounded by magic fire. Siegfried, wondering if he can learn fear from this woman, heads toward the mountain.


Setting: Brunnhilde's Rock
Location in theatre: Workshop
Designer: Harriet Wilcox
Adapted from: SF Act III iii
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Siegfried then Brunnhilde
Siegfried arrives at Brünnhilde's rock. Siegfried enters the ring of fire, emerging on Brünnhilde's rock. At first, he thinks the armoured figure is a man. However, when he removes the armour, he finds a woman beneath. At the sight of the first woman he has ever seen, Siegfried at last experiences fear. In desperation, he kisses Brünnhilde, waking her from her magic sleep. Hesitant at first, Brünnhilde is won over by Siegfried's love, and renounces the world of the gods. Together, they hail "light-bringing love, and laughing death." Siegfried gives the ring to Brünnhilde.


Setting: Hall of the Gibichungs by the Rhein
Location in theatre: Car Park - upper and lower level
Designer: Milda Lembertaite
Adapted from: GD Act II v
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Brunnhilde then Siegfried
Background: The action begins in the Hall of the Gibichungs, dwelling on the marshy banks of the River Rhine. Gunther, lord of the Gibichungs, sits enthroned. His half-brother and executive servant, Hagen (son of Alberich), advises him to find a wife for himself and a husband for their sister Gutrune. He suggests Brünnhilde for Gunther's wife, and Siegfried for Gutrune's husband. He reminds Gutrune that he has given her a potion that she can use to make Siegfried forget Brünnhilde and fall in love with Gutrune; under its influence, Siegfried will win Brünnhilde for Gunther. Gunther and Gutrune agree enthusiastically with this plan.
Drinking the potion, Siegfried loses his memory of Brünnhilde and falls in love with Gutrune instead.

In his drugged state, Siegfried offers to win a wife for Gunther, who tells him about Brünnhilde and the magic fire. Siegfried goes back to Brünnhilde’s rock disguised as Gunther using the Tarnhelm, and claims Brünnhilde as wife. Though Brünnhilde violently resists, Siegfried overpowers her, snatching the ring from her hand and placing it on his own.
Noticing the ring on Siegfried's hand, Brünnhilde realizes she has been betrayed—that the man who conquered her was not Gunther, but Siegfried in disguise. She denounces Siegfried and accuses Siegfried of having seduced her himself. Deeply shamed by Brünnhilde's outburst, Gunther agrees to Hagen's suggestion that Siegfried must be slain for Gunther's standing to be regained. Brünnhilde, seeking revenge for Siegfried's manifest treachery agrees. Hagen and Gunther decide to lure Siegfried on a hunting-trip and murder him. They sing a trio in which Brünnhilde and Gunther vow in the name of Wotan, "guardian of oaths", to kill Siegfried, while Hagen repeats his pledge to Alberich: to acquire the ring and rule the world through its power.


Setting: Woods
Location in theatre: Lower car park   
Designer: Emily Lyons
Adapted from: GD Act IIIi & IIIii
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Siegfried
In the woods by the bank of the Rhine, the Rhinemaidens mourn the lost Rhine gold. Siegfried happens by, separated from the hunting party. Siegfried waits for his fellow hunters Gunther and Hagen in the woods by the Rhein.
The Rheinmaidens appear and urge him to return the ring and avoid its curse, but he laughs at them and says he prefers to die rather than to bargain for his life. He dismisses them.
Gunther and Hagen appear and Siegfried tells them of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains that since Siegfried admitted loving Brünnhilde, the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false, therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. His body is carried away in a solemn funeral procession.


Setting: Hall of Gibichung
Location in theatre: Auditorium
Designer: Lisa Dayan
Adapted from: GD Act III iii
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Siegfried
Back in the Gibichung Hall, Gutrune awaits Siegfried's return. Hagen arrives ahead of the funeral party. Gutrune is devastated when Siegfried's corpse is brought in. Gunther blames Siegfried's death on Hagen, who replies that Siegfried had incurred the penalty of his false oath, and further, claims the ring on Siegfried's finger by right of conquest. When Gunther objects, Hagen appeals to the vassals to support his claim. Gunther draws his sword but Hagen attacks and easily kills him. However, as Hagen moves to take the ring, Siegfried's hand rises threateningly. Hagen recoils in fear. Brünnhilde makes her entrance and takes charge of events. Brünnhilde issues orders for a huge funeral pyre to be assembled.


Setting: Rhein
Location in theatre: Auditorium, Orchestra Pit, Stage
Designer: Chloe Cornell
Adapted from: GD Act III iii
Who has the Ring/Gold?: Siegfried, then Brunnhilde, then Rheinmaidens
Brünnhilde takes the ring and tells the Rhine maidens to claim it from her ashes, once fire has cleansed it of its curse. After singing the praises of the dead hero, Brünnhilde rides into the flames of the funeral pyre.
The fire flares up, and the hall of the Gibichungs catches fire and collapses. The Rhine overflows its banks, quenching the fire, and the Rhinemaidens swim in to claim the ring. Hagen tries to stop them but they drag him into the depths and drown him. As they celebrate the return of the ring and its gold to the river, a red glow is seen in the sky. As the people watch, deeply moved, the interior of Valhalla is finally seen, with gods and heroes visible. Flames flare up in the Hall of the Gods, hiding it and them from sight completely. As the gods are consumed in the flames, the curtain falls.