What is the story?
In Die Walküre, it is human emotion that takes centre stage. Above all, there is the great confrontation between the god Wotan and his favourite daughter, Brünnhilde – the Valkyrie of the title – who love each other deeply, yet whose relationship has been irreparably broken by her disobedience.
The story of Die Walküre is based on Norse mythology. Deriving from an Old Norse word, a valkyrie is a ‘chooser of the slain’ — they have power to choose who lives and who dies, and afterwards bring the souls of their chosen fallen heroes to Valhalla. This plays an important part in the opera, as the valkyrie of the title, Brünnhilde, is ordered by her father Wotan to ensure that his son Siegmund dies in his conflict with Sieglinde’s husband Hunding (confused yet?). However, when Brünnhilde sees Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde, she chooses to disobey her father and grant victory to Siegmund instead of Hunding.
Die Walküre features the first appearance of the Ring’s famous sword: Nothung. It is revealed that an old man plunged the sword into an old ash tree which no-one has ever been able to remove since. Realising that this old man must have been Wotan himself, Siegmund knows his destiny and finds that (surprise surprise!) it is he who is able to draw the blade out of the tree.