Brunnhilde's Immolation - Arthur Rackham
Brunnhilde's Immolation in the classic illustration by Arthur Rackham -- posted here in tribute to Margaret Medlyn's valiant performance of the piece with the NZSO in Wellington on Friday night.
The piece depicts Brunnhilde's immolation of the Gods (and herself) by fire, freeing the earth of the Gods' in the only way she can -- a somewhat Tuetonic form of the Prometheus myth: sending a flaming torch to tear down Valhalla's vaults, and bring on the Twilight of the Gods.
Musically, coming at the end and culmination of the four-day Ring cycle (four days of opera!) it feels as if a great cleansing wind is sweeping away the malignance of superstition and other-wordly darkness, leaving the beneficence of love and nature of the bounty of earth's promise -- an earth free for what humans can make of it. Heil der Sonne!
Thus ends a creation myth in which the Gods create humans to do their bidding, but human free will proves resistant to their meddling, eventually rendering them impotent and ultimately meaningless.
You might get some sense of it all from this 1982 Bayreuth production at YouTube. Turn your speakers up to eleven!