After his entry into Valhalla, Wotan has conceived nine Valkyries by different women, who are now recruiting fallen heroes from every battlefield to create a powerful private army. He intends to use this army against against Alberich, from whom he elicited the powerful ring and who is now seeking revenge. Alberich too has a son with whose help he wishes to destroy the gods. The brooding power of the Valkyrie prelude conveys the pressure that time exerts on Wotan. Only a new and innocent generation will be able to found a new world order. Wotan stakes his hopes on the love between the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. However, Wotan’s wife Fricka demands Siegmund’s death because as the patroness of marriage and the family she cannot tolerate adultery and incest.
The point on which the ‘Walküre’ revolves is the disobedience of Wotan’s favourite daughter Brünnhilde. Out of sympathy with the young couple she acts against her father and is able at least to rescue Sieglinde and her unborn child. In doing so Brünnhilde is fulfilling her father’s secret wish, even if he has to punish her for her actions by placing her in an eternal sleep on the Valkyrie mountain. ‘Die Walküre’ concludes with a hopeful major chord alluding to Siegfried – Sieglinde’s son – who should be capable of freedom without parents or the protection of the gods.
Following the failed revolution of 1848, Richard Wagner (1813–1883) found himself in a deep life crisis in exile in Zurich. As in the earlier ‘Rheingold’, he portrays existing society as the product of the lack of empathy in the egotistical use of power and celebrates pure love in defiance of any rules as the measure of a new order.