Current stagings of the "Ring" tend to make the audience believe that the
time frame between the end of "Siegfried" and the prologue of
"Gotterdammerung" is only one night. I believe this is erroneous. Wagner
does not specify a time, but in his Act III narrative tells about his
"youthful" exploits. I bring this up in light of the current discussion.
Brunnhilde's explosive behavior in Act II over a one night stand is difficult
to understand. Her relationship with Siegfried is emotionally one of true
commitment - so much so that she refuses to give up the cursed ring to
Waltraute. In her mind those "years" of a relationship with Siegfried are so
vivid that she feels she is absolutely correct in what she says in Act II.
Siegfried with no memory of a past relationship with her also speaks the
truth from his perspective. He knows only that he received the ring from a
dragon and only admits his relationship with B after his memory is restored.
I am sure that nothing occured in the cave and that he was faithful to his
Siegfried had no knowledge of the power of the ring. He gladly gave it to B
as a token of his love and later almost gave it back to the Rhindaughters.
It was only when they told him he would die that he became arrogant and
decided to keep it. It certainly was not with any thought of future power.
He was a pawn in a corrupt society. This can happen to one with or without a
catalyst. But he was vindicated in the end by the wisdom which B learned
from the Rhindaughters and from Gutrune. The text in Act II is like the
potion - a confused set of statements by the protagonists. In one production
I saw, the director had Siegfried gradually regain fragments of his memory -
like that of amnesiac - throughout the opera. He seemed to struggle
throughout via his stage actions. One could sense the inward struggle of a
man completely being manipulated - and in a direction which was contrary to
his basic instincts.
The character of Siegfried has taken a beating over the last 50 years and for
many reasons, but I believe that he was a naive, fun loving lad raised by a
foster father who wanted to kill him - transformed into a heroic man by the
love of a woman - and sent out into the real world of deceit and treachery.
I see him as a flawed tragic hero, who was manipulated, but who in the end
died because of a character flaw - his arrogance in the scene with the
Rhinedaughters. Had he returned the ring, he might have lived to untangle
the web of lies and deceit woven into the fabric of life. But then, we would
not have had that marvelous musical ending to the drama. Jean