“Sigurd,” an opera in four acts with music by Ernest Reyer and text by Du Locle and Blau, was produced at the Théâtre Monnaie, Brussels, Jan. 7, 1884. Its hero is the hero of the Nibelungen myths. Although written previous to the presentation of Wagner’s ” Ring,” many of the scenes are similar to scenes in that great cycle.
Sigurd. Gunther, King of the Burgundians. Hagen, a warrior, Gunther’s companion in arms. A priest of Odin. A bard. Envoys from Attila. Brunhilde, a Valkyrie, banished by the gods. Hilda, Gunther’s sister. Uta, Hilda’s foster-mother. Burgundian warriors and people, Icelandic people, priests, servants.
The action opens in Gunther’s palace, where the women are making ready the standards and armor of the King and his followers, who will, on the morrow, go forth to undertake fresh conquests. The pensive Princess Hilda reveals to her foster-mother, Uta, her ‘love for Sigurd, an heroic warrior, who a short time before aided her brother against his enemies and rescued her from captivity, although evincing no further interest in her fate. The older woman has divined her secret and has sent to Sigurd a magic message which will insure his coming. She also has prepared a philtre potent to change his indifference into love.
Soon Gunther enters to receive the ambassadors sent by the King of the Huns to sue for the hand of his sister. He informs them that because of Hilda’s desire not to wed, the suit is vain. She is, nevertheless, presented with a bracelet as a gage of love, which, if sent by her to Attila, will insure his coming to aid or avenge her.
A bard sings the legend of Brunhilde banished from heaven for disobedience and condemned to lie sleeping in a palace in Iceland surrounded by fire and demons until awakened by a warrior capable of encountering them. Gunther is so fired by the tale that he declares he will start at morn to rescue her. Sigurd arrives and Gunther, discovering that his visitor is the warrior who rescued him from the Burgundians, offers him the half of his kingdom. Eternal friendship is sworn between the two men. The love-philtre is administered and Sigurd becomes at once enchanted with Hilda. He offers to accompany Gunther to Iceland on condition that upon their return he be granted any reward he may ask.
The priests who know the danger which threatens Sigurd and Gunther, reluctantly present them with the magic horn of Odin as an aid in the enterprise. They warn them that none can gain Brunhilde’s fastness save one who is perfectly pure. Sigurd knows that he alone is fitted for the task. But he promises that should he win the lovely Valkyrie he will resign her to Gunther, with whom he exchanges helmets.
After a series of contests with valkyries, kobolds and phantoms he crosses the lake of fire and enters the enchanted chamber of Brunhilde. Lowering his visor, he awakens her. She offers him her love and gratitude and then falls asleep again. Her couch becomes a barque and with Sigurd’s sword between them they are drawn away by norns who have assumed the form of swans.
The third act opens in Gunther’s garden at Worms, where the two warriors meet and Sigurd renounces his lovely prize. At the first gleam of dawn, Brunhilde’s sleep slips from her. Assured that it was Gunther who set her free, she consents to be his bride. Hilda is full of joy because she sees in Sigurd’s transferral of the Valkyrie to her brother, an evidence of his love. But Uta foresees disaster. Sigurd demands, as a reward, to be wedded to Hilda and Brunhilde is asked to join their hands. As hers touches Sigurd’s a peal of thunder is heard, but blind to the omen, the double marriage procession goes forth to the grove of Freya.
In the last act, the people deplore the continued melancholy of their Queen, Brunhilde, and in a soliloquy she laments the decree of Odin that she should wed Gunther instead of Sigurd. Hilda, perceiving her brother’s bride tremble at the name of Sigurd, reveals in a passion of jealousy that it was Sigurd who set her free, taunting her with the fact that he gave her up and showing her the Valkyrie’s belt, given as a love-token. Brunhilde accuses her of sorcery, and when Gunther comes, she denounces his baseness and throws her crown at his feet. He is about to kill himself when Hagen assures him that Sigurd is the greater culprit. The two watching, see Brunhilde join him and dispel the influence of the love-charm, and listening, they hear them swear eternal fidelity. Sigurd is ultimately slain. The Valkyrie’s spirit follows him, and they are seen soaring through the clouds to the paradise of Odin.
” Sigurd,” although a work of undoubted power, has borne the ungrateful fate of frequent comparison with the Wagnerian music clothing the same story.
Prominent passages in the score are the chorus of women engaged in embroidering the standards, ” Brodons des étendards et préparons des armes ” (” We broider the standards “) ; Uta’s interpretation of Hilda’s dream, ” Jesais des secrets merveilleux” (” I know of secrets wonderful”); the bard’s story of Brunhilde, “C’était Brunhilde, la plus belle” (” Twas Brunhilde”); Sigurd’s song at his entrance, “Prince de Rhin, au pays de mon père” (” Rhineland’s King, the country of my sire”); his song in the forest, “Les bruits des chants s’éteint dans le forêt” (“Mid Forests vast”); Brunhilde’s aria of awakening, “Salut, splendeur de jour” (” Hail, thou glory of the day”); and the duet after the love-spell is broken, “Avec ces fleurs que l’eau trâine en courant” (” With every flower”).