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The Ring of the Nibelung, ranked act by act (Part 2 of 4)

Previously: ranks 13 through 10

9. Die Walküre, Act Two. I know, it’s the emotional center of the entire cycle. And I actually like Wotan’s monologue fine. But it’s just too long to enjoy (as you may have noticed, this is a recurring issue with me). By the time Wotan has dictated his instructions to Brünnhilde, been relentlessly henpecked by Fricka, and then taken an entire new scene telling Brünnhilde he’s taking it all back, I’m too exhausted to deal with the only action of the whole act when Siegmund and Sieglinde finally show up. Then, when you finally think it’s payoff time, the climactic battle with Hunding that we’ve been waiting for the whole time lasts around 30 seconds.

8. Das Rheingold, Scene Four. Despite it coming at the end of a few hours of continuous music, the final scene always keeps my interest. Alberich’s rant is gripping, the treasure-piling keeps the pace up, and the rainbow bridge sends things out on a high note. Only Erda’s attempt to throw a wet blanket on the proceedings slows things down.

7. Die Walküre, Act Three. I don’t care how much it’s overused, the Ride of the Valkyries is pretty excellent. And although it sounds like a recipe for tedium, Wotan’s long dressing-down of Brünnhilde works well enough to get you through to the rightfully famous Magic Fire music. I actually like the fact that this is basically an act-long epilogue; the important stuff all happened in the first two acts, and this is just cleaning up the fallout. And despite the lack of action, there are plenty of spine-tingling musical moments.

Next: ranks 6 through 4

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