Sadly, no footage seems to exist of Nilsson onstage as Brunnhilde
, but at least there is the BBC footage taken at the recording of Gotterdammerung with the Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Georg Solti.
Alwyn Mellor as Brunnhilde
and Mati Turi as Siegfried made us believe in their devotion by their gestures as well as their voices and Mats Almgren as Hagen projected such toxic badness that you almost felt like booing every time he gave vent to his rumbling bass voice.
The 1852 version brought devastation, and yet Brunnhilde
's peroration declared that "blessed in joy and sorrow love alone can be." In what came to be known as the Feuerbach ending, love endures when the unjust rule of the gods comes to an end.
The young Siegfried will do so himself and kill Fafner as well as Mime and go on to claim as his bride the Valkyrie Brunnhilde
, who lies sleeping on a mountain surrounded by magic fire.
Between the characters in the title, she considers Elisabeth and Venus in Tannhauser, Elsa and Ortrud in Lohengrin, Brunnhilde
in Der Ring de Nibelungen, Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, and Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
Karlowicz is surely the least familiar of the protagonists in this study, and yet where Downes is generous almost to the point of profligacy with music examples when discussing passages many of his readers will know by heart (the beginning and the end of Tristan, Brunnhilde
's immolation, Salome's sickening kiss), there is not a single actual score excerpt to accompany the at times very intricate descriptions of Karlowicz's music.
Appearing to then forget about it completely, he continues his adventures, which culminate in his awakening the sleeping Brunnhilde
with a kiss.
Yet its ecstatic moments are many; and when, at the end of the fourth opera, I saw the heroine Brunnhilde
ride her horse into the flames of the hero Siegfried's funeral pyre, and saw the world washed by fire and flood, and heard all the main musical themes of the tetralogy crashing against each other in waves of glorious sound, I had one of the peak experiences of my life.
Instead of the usual rock, Wotan beds Brunnhilde
on one of the washing tables, a prosaic finale.
The most obvious example is Wagner's Ring Cycle, which ends with Brunnhilde
, complete with horned helmet, spear and shield, riding into a funeral pyre.
The destruction of gods, giants, and dwarves is complete after Brunnhilde
's self-immolation (unless Alberich survives the cataclysm!).
During a duet between Siegfried and Brunnhilde
, Alberto tripped over a board and landed face first in Rita's ample corsage.
Bodies that more resemble Brunnhilde
than Martha Graham leapt and glided around the room as Siegel counted frenetic rhythm.
In Siegfried almost all the characters, save Brunnhilde
, are in loose-fitting, white pyjamas presenting strong images of sleep and dreams, a clear reference to psychological interior space.