A-Z of Wagner: A is for Alberich

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Stephen Moss writes as follows: This year is the bicentenary of Richard Wagner's birth, and to celebrate our new series takes an alphabetical tour of the composer, updated fortnightly. In our first stop, A stands for Alberich, antisemitism and Apocalypse Now.

A is for Alberich, the vertically challenged, sex-crazed villain whose theft of the gold at the beginning of Das Rheingold – the prelude to the Ring Cycletriggers a train of deranged events, which concludes four evenings and 15 hours later with the destruction of the realm of the gods, the creation of a new world of imperfect humanity, and the restoration of the gold to the Rhinemaidens.

The character is based on the dwarf of the same name in the German medieval epic poem The Song of the Nibelungs, overlaid with elements from the Norse sagas. Alberich is a Nibelung and dwells in Nibelheim, which most modern productions locate somewhere in the West Midlands. He has a brother called Mime, who is easily the most boring character in the Ring Cycle (Das Rheingold is followed in the sequence by Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung). Whenever Mime appears, take a toilet break.

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