It starts with a murder. Hagen, half-brother to the Gibichungs and the chief of strategy at their court on the Rhine, kills Siegfried from behind while Brünnhilde looks on. – How did it come to this? Hagen remembers how his father Alberich came to him one night and whispered to him that it was his task to murder Siegfried and so recapture the ring – in other words, world domination – for his father. A bleak, traumatic scene in which Alberich openly admits that he fathered his son for this sole purpose and “raised him to implacable hate” in order to use him for his own vengeance. Hagen, the joyless one, digs deeper into his memory and consequently into the primeval mud of the story of the ring: Alberich, finally renouncing love once and for all, stole the Rhine gold to forge the ring from it. In the battle for absolute power, Alberich enslaved the Nibelungs and abused his brother Mime until he was eventually tricked by his rival Wotan and the latter’s crafty counsellor Loge who took everything from him: power, dignity and wealth. The humiliated Alberich responded with a dreadful curse: everyone will yearn for the ring, but it would bring death to whomever had it in his possession. The trail of blood left by the ring will be long.
Hagen, the son, is now expected to avenge the dispossession of his father by killing Wotan’s son Siegfried. Under the pretext of helping to find the best wife for his half-brother Gunther and the best husband for his half-sister Gutrune, Hagen hatches a terrible plot with a view to finally taking the ring from Siegfried. Gutrune is to marry “the strongest hero Siegfried” and Gunther “the most splendid woman in the world”, Brünnhilde. To accomplish this, Hagen pulls out all the stops: he lies, cheats and manipulates everyone involved. When Brünnhilde and Gunther realise that they have lost everything, even their self-respect, they swear to have their revenge and see Siegfried dead.
The story of the eternal struggle for power from the loser’s perspective unites scenes from Wagner’s Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, that is from the beginning and the end of his stage spectacle The Ring of the Nibelung.