Josef Hoffman's design for Scene One of Das Rheingold, Bayreuth, 1876

Heading into the final countdown to the opening night of Das Rheingold, the starting point of Opera North’s four year Ring Cycle journey, here’s a handy guide to the main characters for the uninitiated (and those in need of a reminder).

Das Rheingold is the preliminary section of Richard Wagner’s epic four-part opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). Inspired by the tales of gods and heroes in Norse-Germanic myths, Wagner started work on the Ring Cycle in 1848, beginning what would turn into a 30-year labour of love before the full cycle was performed for the first time at Bayreuth in 1876.

A riveting world of gods, giants and dwarves unfolds through Wagner’s stirring, majestic music, as Alberich, one of the dwarfish Nibelungs, steals a priceless treasure from deep beneath the waters of the Rhine, forging a magical ring which will lend its bearer boundless power and wealth…

List of characters in Das Rheingold:

Woglinde, Wellgunde, Flosshilde – the Rhinemaidens – young, beautiful daughters of the Rhine, whose task it is to guard a great treasure, the Rhinegold.  Of the three, Flosshilde is a little less flighty than her sisters.

Wotan – Chief of the gods.  He gave one of his eyes to drink from the well of wisdom beneath the World Ash Tree.  He hewed a branch from the tree, shaping the spear which is the symbol of his authority; into it are carved the runes of the law, of treaties and of contracts.  The wound he inflicted on the tree caused it to wither and die and the well to dry up.

Donner – god of thunder.  Brother of Fricka, Freia and Froh.

Froh – god of spring.  Brother of Fricka, Freia and Donner.

Loge –  god of fire. A trickster with an ambivalent attitude to the other gods: ostensibly their ally, he is bitter at their high-handed treatment of him.  His cunning causes trouble for the gods; his guile gets them out of it.

Fricka – Wotan’s wife and guardian of the bonds of marriage.  Sister of Freia, Donner and Froh.

Freia – goddess of love, sister of Fricka, Donner and Froh.  Freia keeps the orchard where golden apples grow that keep the gods eternally young.

Erda – ancient earth goddess, older even than Wotan.  She is the mother of the three Norns who spin the golden rope of destiny that binds together past, present and future.  Erda has deep knowledge of the past and foresight of the future.

Fasolt – a giant.  Brother of Fafner.  Of the two brothers, Fasolt is the milder-tempered.

Fafner – a giant.  Brother of Fasolt.

Alberich – of the dwarfish Nibelungs, a race of skilled smiths who live in the subterranean realm of Nibelheim.       

Mime – brother of Alberich.  Although weak-minded, he is a master craftsman.


Das Rheingold opens at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 18 June. Further performances take place at Leeds Town Hall (1 July, 8 September), Birmingham Symphony Hall (24 June), The Sage,Gateshead (26 June) and The Lowry, Salford Quays (10 September). More details and booking information here.