The musical work of Richard Wagner is composed of operas or “musical dramas” ranging from “Fairies” (Die Feen) to “Parsifal”. A detailed presentation of each of these major works is associated here with a set of thematic articles, placing them not only in the context of his personal life but also in his social, economic and cultural context. This section also includes all the musical works (excluding opera) and his literary work.

Siegfried, WWV86C

Siegfried, WWV86C

Third of the four dramas
from Richard Wagner’s cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen

16 August 1876, Bayreuth (Festspielhaus),
led by Hans Richter


MIME (tenor)
ALBERICH (high bass)
FAFNER (bass)
ERDA (contralto)
BRÜNNHILDE (soprano)
The Voice of a Woodbird (soprano)

Duration: 3hrs.30

Siegfried, WWV 86C, is the third of the four music dramas that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), by Richard Wagner. It premiered at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of The Ring cycle.

Jean de Reszke in the title role of Wagner’s Siegfried

The libretto of Siegfried was drafted by Wagner in November–December 1852, based on an earlier version he had prepared in May–June 1851 and originally entitled Jung-Siegfried (Young Siegfried), later changed to Der junge Siegfried. The musical composition was commenced in 1856, but not finally completed until 1871.

The libretto arose from Wagner’s gradual reconception of the project he had initiated with his libretto Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death) which was eventually to be incarnated as Götterdämmerung, the final section of the Ring cycle. Having grappled with his text for Siegfrieds Tod, and indeed having undertaken some musical sketches for it during 1851, he realized that it would need a ‘preface’. At this point he conceived that the prefatory opera, Der junge Siegfried, could act as a comic foil to the tragedy of Siegfrieds Tod.

Preliminary musical sketches for Der junge Siegfried in 1851 were however quickly abandoned, although Wagner had written to his friend Theodor Uhlig that “the musical phrases are making themselves for these stanzas and periods, without my even having to take pains for them. It’s all growing out of the ground as if it were wild.” Shortly afterwards he wrote to Uhlig that he was now planning to tell the Siegfried story in the form of “three dramas, plus a prologue in three acts”—a clear prefiguring of the Ring cycle.

Full work was finally commenced on the music of Siegfried, as the composer henceforth referred to it, in 1856, when Wagner prepared concurrently two drafts, a complete draft in pencil and a version in ink on up to three staves in which he worked out details of instrumentation and vocal line. The composition of Acts 1 and 2 was completed by August 1857. Wagner then left off work on Siegfried to write the operas Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger. He did not resume work on Siegfried until 1869, when he composed the third act. The final revision of the score was undertaken in February 1871. Performance was withheld until the first complete production of the Ring cycle, at Bayreuth in August 1876 (read more…)

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