Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung

Richard Wagner had a vision. In the creation of the four operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung, known collectively as Der Ring des Nibelungen, he "sought a kind of totality, a way by which music, words, story, singing, acting, production, and all other factors involved might blend into one ultimate cohesion" (Culshaw, 69).

Wagner's goals were monumental and highly successful. Few composers throughout history have earned enough money to fund the construction of a new theater just to produce their own work. Furthermore, even fewer artists ever live long enough to see their dreams realized. Yet, in 1876, Richard Wagner accomplished both of those things: upon the stage of his newly-built theater in Bayreuth, he witnessed the first complete performance of the entire cycle of The Ring of the Nibelung.

The creation of the Ring was by no means a quick, simple task. By 1876, Wagner had spent over thirty years conceptualizing, composing, writing and thinking his operas. Due to their cohesion of dramatic storyline and musical presentation, the four works comprising the Ring are often called "opera-dramas" instead of only "operas." Within the Ring opera cycle, music weaves the fabric of the drama together; and yet, at times, the drama seems to create the music--for almost every sound is connected to some element or action of the stage-play.

In The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner blended old stories with his own ideas of what he thought opera should be. He borrowed extensively from the myths of the ancient Teutons. However, before delving into Wagner's usage and expression of Teutonic mythology, here are a few definitions and some background explanation about Wagner, opera, and the reasons the Ring is a part of this site.

I. What is The Ring of the Nibelung?

II. What is opera?

III. Who is Richard Wagner?

IV. What did Wagner do differently with opera than, say, Mozart or Puccini?

V. What does Teutonic Mythology have to do with music and Wagner's Ring?


Click here for info about the background of this page.

Map of the Teutonic Cosmos

Table of Contents

Wagner and The Ring

Teutonic Mythology
and Wagner's Ring

Symbols in
Wagner's Ring

Symbols in
Teutonic Mythology

Bibliography of Books and Links

Comments or questions?

This site created by Jessica K. McShan on December 17, 1997.