Richard Wagner's" Flight of the Valkyries": history and interesting facts about the legendary opera

Ride of the Valkyries (1851) - Richard Wagner - Die Walküre

Richard Wagner is a German composer who left as a legacy 14 operas and many other works in various musical genres, and had a huge impact on the entire world of musical art.

Today, few people listen to classical music, but among the works of Wagner there is one that is familiar not only to lovers of the classics, but to every person in general: “Ride of the Valkyries” is a beautiful and majestic work that has firmly entered our lives.



The Ride of the Valkyries is not an independent work, but part of the third act of the opera called The Valkyrie, which in turn is included in the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen. Therefore, the history of this composition must be considered in the context of all three works.

Like any creation, the opera "Valkyrie" tells us a little about its author. After graduating from the University of Leipzig, Richard Wagner began to research Germanic myths and legends. It is from them that he draws inspiration for his music. In the 1940s, Wagner created such legendary-inspired operas as The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. Later, continuing to delve more and more into the world of myths, Wagner plans to write not one, but three operas that would make up a cycle called "Ring of the Nibelung". One of these operas was supposed to be the Valkyrie that interests us.

But at this stage, history, namely the beginning of the revolution, roughly intervened in Richard's plans. Wagner was an active participant in those events. The suppression of the uprising, police raids and executions - all this directly affected Wagner. Like many rebels, he was convicted in absentia as a rebel and sentenced to death. With the help of his faithful friend Franz Liszt, the composer flees to Switzerland, to Zurich, where he manages to hide for a while.

Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner

The ten years that followed were extremely difficult for Wagner. His financial situation was close to poverty, in addition, publishing houses refused to publish his works, and theaters refused to stage operas. But no difficulties could break the creative nature of Wagner. In music, he found rest from what was happening in reality. It was at this moment that he decides to take on the "Ring of the Nibelung" he had conceived.

By 1952, work on the text component of the work was completed, and Wagner began writing music for the first opera in the cycle, The Rhine Gold. It took the author two years to create the score for this opera, but on the wave of inspiration he immediately wrote the second opera, Valkyrie. In this opera, he was able to embody a melody that he had conceived a few years before, in 1851. This was the famous Ride of the Valkyries. Work on the opera was completed in 1856.

This was followed by an amnesty and Wagner was able to return to his homeland, to Germany. However, it didn't get any easier. Wagner was still in a difficult financial situation. To somehow earn a living, Richard Wagner began to act as a conductor. Like many creative people, Wagner had a burning desire to share his creations with the public. To do this, he transformed individual parts of operas that he wrote abroad into concert numbers. In 1862, Ride of the Valkyries premiered at the Theater An der Wien in Vienna. Wagner put a lot of work into it, especially in that part of it, in which an octet of female voices sounds.

The success was resounding. There were a hundred musicians in the orchestra, the solemn and heartfelt melody delighted the audience. Just a few days later, at the urgent request of the audience, Wagner's composition was performed again. The first publication took place in Leipzig.

However, Wagner did not want Ride of the Valkyries to be performed as a standalone work, he conceived it as part of an opera. Therefore, until 1976, when the premiere of the entire tetralogy "Ring of the Nibelungen" took place, a ban was imposed on the publication of "Ride of the Valkyries". True, this did not prevent the Schott Music publishing house from publishing it one more time, for which the author made claims to the publishing house ... Wagner was so adamant that when in 1870 the opera Valkyrie was performed before King Ludwig II (separately from the tetralogy) Wagner did not attend the premiere.


So, "Ride of the Valkyries" is an introduction to the third act of the opera "The Valkyrie".

An orchestral prelude accompanies a scene showing four Valkyries flying on winged horses and greeting each other with a war cry. Then four more of their sisters join them and they stop on a mountain plateau to wait for the last, ninth Valkyrie Brunnhilde.

This whole composition is dedicated to the majestic scene of a race in the air and is performed in the key of B minor. At the culmination of this composition, violins and violas, trumpets and trombones sound, conveying the scale and fantasticness of this heavenly race.

Real horses were involved in the scene. Once, when the opera was staged in Vienna, horses from the stable of Emperor Franz Joseph I acted as winged horses. Since they were of the wrong color, all the horses were painted black ...

The history of this great work continued even after the death of the author. During the Second World War, Wagner's music was strongly associated with the Third Reich, the composer was admired by Adolf Hitler, which made listening to Wagner's music unpopular. Fortunately, over time, this notoriety is a thing of the past. Later, the melody was used by the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola in his film Apocalypse Now. The melody of "Ride of the Valkyries" is often used as an accompaniment to circus acts. There is no doubt that Ride of the Valkyries, like all the work of Richard Wagner, had a great influence on the whole world.

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