In its structure and choice of tonalities, Das Rheingold reflects and presages the overall form of the Ring tetralogy. In this ‘prelude’ in four scenes, the characters introduced are still divided into strictly-delineated groups: gods, giants, dwarfs and water nymphs; we only meet the mortals later in the saga. The first scene is already explicit in spelling out the main themes of love and power. At the bottom of the Rhine, three Rhine Maidens guard a lump of gold, out of which a ring is cast and whose wearer will wield colossal power. The god Wotan manages to procure the ring, albeit briefly. The ring’s curse manifests itself in the death of the giant Fasolt; likewise, the gods’ peaceful move to their new fortress Valhalla proves to be a false promise.

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