Die Walküre is the second opera of Wagner’s epic Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly known as ‘The Ring Cycle’. Some time after the events of Das Rheingold, Wotan is still obsessed with regaining the ring of power, made from the magic gold found in the Rhine, which he lost to the giant Fafner. He is also incredibly paranoid that the nibelung Alberich will get the ring before him, and seek vengeance for Wotan taking it from him. In the time since, he has been building an army of heroes to protect Valhalla, his kingdom, with the help of his nine Valkyrie daughters. He has also had two children with a mortal woman, intending to use his son, Siegmund, to rescue the ring from Fafner.
That is where the story of Die Walküre starts, with Siegmund meeting Sieglinde for the first time. Twins, separated at birth, and unknown to each other, they bond the moment their eyes meet, and fall deeply in love with each other. Siegmund helps Sieglinde escape from her violent marriage to Hunding, and faces him in battle. Wotan intends to help Siegmund, and sends Brünnhilde, one of his Valkyrie daughters, into battle to ensure his success. However, Wotan’s wife, Fricka, is the goddess of marriage, and is appalled at the things Wotan is allowing to happen. Fricka abhors Sieglinde and Siegmund’s adulterous and incestous relationship, and she forces Wotan to let Siegmund die.
Wotan changes Brünnhilde’s orders, and instructs her not to help Siegmund in the battle, but Brünnhilde still tries to help him. At the crucial moment of the battle, Wotan takes away the magic from Siegmund’s sword, and Siegmund falls under Hunding’s spearblow. Brünnhilde grabs Sieglinde, and runs away with her, determined to protect her and her unborn child. Brünnhilde is punished for her disobedience, and Wotan leaves her sleeping on the mountainside, as prey for any man who wants her.
This epic fantasy, with giants, dragons, gods, and mythical Valkyries that ride winged horses, is spurred on by an immense score, and includes one of the most famous scenes in all opera: the Ride of the Valkyries.