is the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagners Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). It was originally written as an introduction to the tripartite Ring, but the cycle is now generally regarded as consisting of four individual operas.
In the depths of the Rhine, the three Rhinemaidens guard the Rhinegold, a treasure of immeasurable value. The Nibelung dwarf Alberich is dazzled by the sight of it. The girls explain that whoever wins the gold and forges it into a ring will gain power over the world, but must first renounce love. Frustrated by his unsuccessful attempts to catch one of the girls, Alberich curses love and steals the gold.
Wotan, lord of the gods, is reproached by his wife Fricka: he has promised to give Freia, goddess of youth, to the giants Fasolt and Fafner in return for their building a fortress for the gods. When the giants demand their reward, Loge, the god of fire, suggests an alternative payment: the ring Alberich has forged from the Rhinegold, and his other treasures. The giants agree, and Wotan and Loge leave for the Nibelungs’ underground home.
Here they meet Alberich’s brother Mime, who has forged the Tarnhelm, a magic helmet that transforms its wearer into any shape. Mime tells Wotan and Loge how Alberich has enslaved the Nibelungs to work for him. Alberich appears and mocks the gods. Loge asks for a demonstration of the Tarnhelm and Alberich turns himself into a dragon, then into a toad, which the gods capture. Dragged to the surface, the dwarf is forced to summon the Nibelungs to heap up the gold. Wotan wrests the ring from his finger. Shattered, Alberich curses the ring: ceaseless worry and death shall be the destiny of its bearer.
The giants return and agree to accept the gold. The gods have to give up even the Tarnhelm, but Wotan refuses to part with the ring. Erda, goddess of the earth, appears and warns him that possession of it will bring about the end of the gods. Wotan reluctantly gives the ring to the giants, and Alberich’s curse claims its first victim as Fafner kills his brother in a dispute over the treasure. As the voices of the Rhinemaidens are heard, lamenting the loss of their gold, the gods walk toward their new home, which Wotan names Valhalla.
The Rhine maidens are daughters of father Rhine: Flosshilde, Wellgunde and Woglinde. The Rhinemaidens guard the Rhinegold. The Rhinegold originates from the primal creation and is therefore pure in nature. The Rhinemaidens are innocent creatures with a playful character.
Flosshilde is the senior and wisest,she reprimands her younger sistersfor not taking proper care of theRhinegold
Wellgunde tells Alberich, thathe who forges a ring from thegold, will obtain immensepower.
Woglinde adds that onlyhe, who curses love, acquiresthe magic to forge the ring.
Wotan is chief of the Gods, comparable to Zeus from the Greek mythology. Two important things are notable about Wotan for someone who does not know the tale. Wotan misses one eye and he carries a spear.
Loge is the god of fire, and Wotans counselor. By his trick Wotan comes in possession of the ring. Loge has a changeable character and a strong urge to be free. Loge is an outsider among the Gods. He is denied Freias golden apples, which give eternal youth.
Donner is god of the weather. With his hammer he lets the thunder roll. He has a quick temper.
Froh is the god who creates the rainbow, as a path to Walhall.
Fricka is the goddess of wedlock and Wotans wife. She agrees to the construction of the citadel, hoping her husband will stop wandering and be faithful to her. She symbolises virtue.
Goddess of love. She tends her golden apples, which give eternal youth. Walhall, the citadel of the gods, must be paid with Freia. When the giants come claim her as payment, Wotan backs out, because the gods will lose their eternal youth. Wotan offers them the treasure of Alberich instead. Fortunately, the giants accept, and Freia remains in Walhall.
Erda is the primordial mother earth, watching over the world. When Wotan refuses to give up the cursed golden ring in exchange for Freia. Erda rises from the depths, and warns Wotan for his end.
Alberich robs the rhinegold of the Rhinemaidens and forges a ring from the gold by means of the magic, he obtained by abjuring love. Using the ring, Alberich binds his people, the Nibelungs, in slavery. Alberichs aim is world power.
Mime belongs to the people of the Nibelungs and is the brother of Alberich. He is an excellent blacksmith. Mime makes the Tarnhelm for Alberich. He wants to take possession of Alberichs ring. He tries to use the Tarnhelm, but he does not have the magic to use it. After the ring has gone to Fafner, who as a dragon guards the ring, he works out a new plan. He educates Siegfried, who must kill the dragon for him. Mime will then take the ring and with it dominate the world.
The giant Fasolt with his brother Fafner has built Walhall, the citadel of the Gods. Fasolt is sensitive and rather keeps Freia than the treasure, which has been mined by the enslaved Nibelungs.
With his brother, the giant Fafner lives in Riesenheim. Fafner, in contrast to his brother Fasolt, is the calculating type. He prefers the treasure of Alberich over the goddess Freia. The greed of Fafner makes him kill his brother for the ring. The curse of the ring strikes for the first time.
The Rheingold The three Rhine-daughters guard the gold that alternately "sleeps" and "wakes" on the bottom of the Rhine. They claim that one who forswears all love may forge a Ring from this Gold - and that the one, who keeps this Ring can win all riches and powers of the earth. Walhall is the new residence of the Gods - a castle they still have not moved into. According to Wotan, this castle will protect the gods honour and secure their power. Wotans Spear The king of Gods, Wotan rules through treaties. These treaties are as runes carved into his Spear - thus the Spear shall protect these treaties. Golden Apples Freia alone grows these Apples - and she shares generously with the other gods. The golden Apples of Freia secure the gods eternal life and eternal youth. Tarnhelm This is a magic helmet, forged by Mime by order from his brother, Alberich. He that wears Tarnhelm can be invisible or take on any form or figure.