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The Valkyrie: Page 339
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The Valkyrie: Act Two, Scene Two - A mountain pass: Wotan and Bruennhilde

Wagner tells us that this scene, with Bruennhilde’s confession to Wotan, is the most important in the whole Ring:

[P. 351] “In disconsolate and dispassionate hours [P. 352] what I was most afraid of was Wodan’s great scene, and especially the revelation of his fate to Bruennhilde … . (…) This is the most important scene for the development of the whole of the great four-part drama … .” [639W-{10/3/55} Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 351-352]

We’ll examine this confession in detail to search out why Wagner granted it such supreme importance.

[V.2.2: A]

Bruennhilde’s sympathy for Wotan’s divine plight, his “Noth,” reflecting both his desperate need for a hero freed from the gods’ laws who can redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and his newfound conviction that such a hero is an impossibility, is what finally prompts him to confess his most terrible fears to her. After Fricka has walked away in triumph, Bruennhilde expresses her deep concern for her father, and longing to have him tell her what troubles him:

Bruennhilde: The quarrel, I fear, must have ended badly if Fricka laughed at the outcome. (#81) What is it, father your child must learn? Sad you seem and downhearted. (#81)

 

Wotan: (dropping his arm in a gesture of helplessness and allowing his head to sink on his breast) (#81:) In my own fetters I find myself caught: - I, least free of all things living (:#81)!

 

Bruennhilde: Never have I seen you so! What is it that gnaws at your heart?

 

(from this point onward, Wotan’s expression and gestures grow in intensity, until they culminate in the most terrible outburst)

 

Wotan: ([[ #82: ]]; #51:) O righteous disgrace! O shameful sorrow (:#82; :#51)! (#79 or #58b?:) Gods’ direst need [“Goetternoth”]! Gods’ direst distress [“Goetternoth”] (:#79 or #58b?)! (#40:) Infinite fury! Grief neverending (:#40)! (#37:) The saddest am I of all living things (:#37)!

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