VIDEO: Get A First Look At The Met's Das Rheingold With Greer Grimsley and Jamie Barton
Wagner's visionary initial installment of the Ring Cycle depicts the original sin of the theft of the sacred golden treasure, the vanity of the gods, the greed of the Nibelungen, the fratricide of the giants, and the building of Valhalla. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley sings the role of Wotan, the conflicted lord of the gods. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton sings her first Wagner role at the Met as Wotan's embattled wife, Fricka.
World Premiere: Court Theater, Munich, 1869. Conceived by Wagner as a prologue to his monumental Ring cycle, this work sets forth the dramatic and theoretical issues that play out in the three subsequent music dramas. The confrontations and dialogue in Das Rheingold are punctuated by thrilling musical and dramatic coups, and the entire work has a magnificent sweep. With Das Rheingold, Wagner fully realized his much-discussed system of leitmotifs (musical themes associated with specific things, people, or ideas). This technique is at its most accessible in this opera; in the later parts of the Ring, the number of leitmotifs multiplies, their use becoming more and more ambitious and intricate.
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was the complex, controversial creator of music-drama masterpieces that stand at the center of today's operatic repertory. Born in Leipzig, Germany, he was an artistic revolutionary who reimagined every supposition about music and theater.
The action of Das Rheingold takes place in mythic locales below and above (symbolically, at least) the earth: the depths of the Rhine, mountaintops, and the caves of the toiling dwarves. The time is an unspecified era before history, where the actions of human beings do not yet affect the universal order of things.
The score of Das Rheingold may be the least familiar of the four Ring operas, yet it contains some of the most striking music in Wagner's vast output. A number of deft touches keep recognizably human elements at the center of the Ring's philosophy, among them the bright and delightful music for the Rhinemaidens, which describes the primal innocence of nature, and the doltish giant Fasolt's lyrical music as he longs for the love of the beautiful goddess Freia. Among the highly unusual effects in the score are the cacophonously rhythmic anvils in the dramatic "descent into Nibelheim" and the six harps depicting the churning waves of the Rhine in the monumental finale.