As the Ring cycle was conceived by Wagner in reverse order of performance, Die Walküre was the penultimate of the four texts to be written, although Wagner composed the music in performance-sequence. The text was completed by July 1852, and the music by March 1856. Wagner largely followed the principles related to the form of musical drama which he had set out in his 1851 essay Opera and Drama under which the music would interpret the text emotionally, reflecting the feelings and moods behind the work, using a system of recurring leitmotifs to represent people, ideas and situations rather than the conventional operatic units of arias, ensembles, and choruses. Wagner showed flexibility in the application of these principles here, particularly in Act 3 when the Valkyries engage in frequent ensemble singing.
The story of Die Walküre is based on the Norse mythology told in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda. In this version the Volsung twins Sieglinde and Siegmund, separated in childhood, meet and fall in love. This union angers the gods who demand that Siegmund must die. Sieglinde and the couple's unborn child are saved by the defiant actions of Wotan's daughter, the title character, Valkyrie Brünnhilde, who as a result faces the gods' retribution.
Siegmund - Jon Vickers
Hunding - Martti Talvela
Wotan - Thomas Stewart
Sieglinde - Gundula Janowitz
Brunnhilde - Regine Crespin
Herbert von Karajan - conductor
DG - 1967