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Exploring Das Rheingold through Images


aerial view of Dalhalla

Aerial View of Dalhalla

Draggängarna, a former limestone quarry in the county of Dalarna in central Sweden, opened in 1994 as a summer music venue with 4,000 seats and spectacular acoustics. It was the vision of former Opera Singer and Radio Producer Margaret Dellefors, who had long been looking for a festival venue for summer use. The name was changed to Dalhalla, in reference to Wagner's Valhalla. With its magnificent natural setting of water and rock, the amphitheatre is a perfect stage for Das Rheingold, which was presented there in 2013, the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth.

View a video from the Dalhalla production of Das Rheingold.


Das Rheingold at Dalhalla, 2013

Photo of the 2013 Dalhalla production of Das Rheingold.



Walhalla: Hermann Burghart's design for the 1878 staging of Das Rheingold, showing Valhalla and the rainbow bridge.


Valhalla and Rainbow bridge

Another image of Valhalla and the rainbow bridge. This is from Otto Schenk's production of Das Rheingold for the Metropolitan Opera. The Otto Schenk production of the Ring Cycle was staged at the Metropolitan Opera from 1986 until 2009. It was inspired by drawings for an 1897 staging at Bayreuth and followed Wagner's original stage directions very closely.

Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera. Source: Opera News.


Valhalla and Rainbow bridge

Entrance of the gods into Valhalla from Robert Lepage's 2010 production of Das Rheingold for the Metropolitan Opera.

Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera. Source: CBC News


Valhalla and Rainbow bridge

Entrance of the gods into Valhalla from a striking production by the Catalan theatre company La Fura dels Baus. This was a 2007 co-production between the Palau de les Arts de Valencia and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (an annual arts festival in Florence, Italy). The stage director is Carlus Padrissa. This production was also staged by Houston Grand Opera in April 2014.

Source: Mostly Opera Blogspot


Valhalla in What's Opera, Doc?

Valhalla in the classic 1957 cartoon, What's Opera, Doc?. Fudd, playing Siegfried, has fallen madly in love with Brünnhilde (Bugs Bunny in disguise). When Bugs' disguise slips, an enraged Fudd smites the Wabbit, but then remorsefully carries Bugs, who is apparently dead, up to Valhalla.

Watch What's Opera Doc?

Source: Wabbitology


Illustrations for Das Rheingold

The Rhine Maidens teasing Alberich

The Rhine Maidens teasing Alberich: one of Arthur Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie, 1910

View the book online


Loge and the Dragon

Loge and the Dragon: Ohé! Ohé! Horrible dragon, O swallow me not! Spare the life of poor Loge!. Alberich has used the Tarnhelm to turn himself into a dragon, and Loge pretends to be terrified. One of Arthur Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie, 1910



Donner: To my hammer's swing Hitherward sweep Vapours and fogs! Hovering mists! Donner, your lord, summons his hosts!. Donner uses the power of his hammer to gather the mists into a great cloud and with thunder and lightning to sweep the fog away and clear the air so that the gods may enter Valhalla. One of Arthur Rackham's illustrations to Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. From The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie, 1910


Sources for Das Rheingold

For Das Rheingold and for the entire Ring Cycle, Wagner drew on many elements from Norse mythology. The major source for Das Rheingold is the 13th century Icelandic Eddas – the Poetic or Elder Edda and Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda. Nearly everything we know of Norse mythology, including the gods after whom the days of the week are named (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday), comes from these stories.



Wotan is based on Odin, the Norse ruler of the gods, who sacrificed an eye in order to drink from the waters of wisdom that flow from the roots of the world Ash Tree.

Wotan rode a wondrous 8-legged horse called Sleipnir. Wagner does not mention Sleipnir, although the birth of Sleipnir is part of the Builder's tale from Snorri's Edda, a story that inspired part of Das Rheingold

In the Builder's Tale, Loki brokers a deal with a giant, who will build a magnificent stronghold for the gods by the first day of summer, helped only by his horse – surely an impossible task. The giant's payment is to be the goddess Freyja, plus the sun and the moon. But the horse proves very strong, and the builder makes astounding progress. The gods threaten Loki with a horrible death if he doesn't prevent the giant from fulfilling his task. Loki shape-shifts into a mare which distracts the stallion, and the two horses race around all night. The enraged builder cannot finish the job, and Thor (Donner) kills him with his hammer. Sometime later, Loki gives birth to a foal, the magnificent eight-legged Sleipnir, who became Odin's steed, "the best of all horses".

Above: The one-eyed god Odin on his 8-legged horse Sleipnir from a 1760 Icelandic manuscript by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson. Danish Royal Library, Copenhagen. View the entire manuscript online


Heidrun grazing on the roof of Valhalla

Like Wotan in Das Rheingold, Odin ruled in a splendid fortress called Valhalla – the hall of dead heroes – where warriors who have died in battle fight all day and feast all night in preparation for the final battle before Ragnarök, the end of the world of gods and men (Götterdämmerung or the Twilight of the Gods, which takes place in the final opera of the Ring Cycle).

Above, Odin's goat Heiðrún (Heidrun) grazes on the roof of Valhalla. Instead of milk, she produces mead for all those thirsty warriors. From the 1760 Ólafur Brynjúlfsson manuscript.


Loki and the giant Thjazi

In Das Rheingold, Freia grows the apples that keep the gods youthful. When the giants take her away, the gods begin to age and weaken. In Norse myth, the goddess Idun (Idunn / Iðunn) is the keeper of the apples of immortality.

Snorri tells the story in his Edda: When Loki is seized by the giant Thjazi, in the form an eagle, Loki must promise Idunn in exchange for his freedom. He lures Idunn to a wood where Thjazi flies off with her. The gods become hoary and old and threaten to kill Loki if he does not bring her back. Wearing the plumage of a hawk, Loki flies to the giant's home, turns Idunn into a nut, and flies back with her, pursued by Thjazi. The other gods light a fire which burns the giant's feathers, and they kill him.

Above, Loki battles Thjazi, who has taken the form of a great eagle. From the 1760 Icelandic manuscript by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson.


Page from Facsimile of Manuscript C  of Das Nibelungenlied

Das Nibelungenlied: A page from Manuscript C of The Song of the Nibelungs

This German epic poem was written about 1200 by an unknown Austrian and was one of the main sources for the final opera in Wagner's Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). There are 35 known manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied, most of them incomplete. In 2009, the three main manuscripts (which have been labelled A, B, and C) were inscribed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in recognition of their historical significance.

The Manuscript is at the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe and can be viewed online. The web page is in German; clicking on the links that start below the subtitle Handschrift digital will allow you to see the pages of this very beautiful manuscript


Snorri's Hot Tub

Snorri's Hot Tub at Reykholt, Iceland

Snorri Sturluson loved to soak for long hours in his hot tub while sipping ale. This 4 metre wide geothermally heated pool is fed by an ancient stone aqueduct from a nearby hot spring. It is one of the oldest structures in Iceland, along with a connecting tunnel that led to the basement of Snorri’s farmhouse, where Snorri was assassinated in 1241 by order of King Håkon IV of Norway.

Maureen Woodall

Unless otherwise specified, all images are public domain, from Wikimedia Commons

Pacific Opera Victoria: Das Rheingold

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