I understand perfectly when a musician says today, “I hate Wagner, but I can no longer endure any other music.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Ein Bühnfestspiel für drei Tage und einen Vorabend (“A Theater Festival Play for Three Days and a Preliminary Evening”) was composed over a period of twenty-six years. Four operas constitute the work: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung (“The Twilight of the Gods”). As suggested by the subtitle, Wagner intended the work to be presented over four days.

Though composed in sequence musically, the libretto of The Ring was written in reverse order. By November 1848, the composer had completed a long poem he called Siegfrieds Tod (“Siegfried’s Death”), more or less...

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