SYNOPSIS of The Merry Nibelung

ACT I – A family council in Worms castle : Gunther, the King of Burgundy, has just gorged himself on dragon’s blood pudding and is tormented by fear of Br ünhilde of Iceland. He was reckless enough to add his name to her list as a suitor for the hand in marriage. She is willing to marry only the one who can defeat her in single combat, but she has struck dead most other wooers, and now requests Gunther by telegram to pick her up from the station that afternoon so that she can deal with him too. The king wants to run away before her arrival, but Hagen hopes for a less shameful rescue through Siegfried of the Netherlands, who has already defeated Br ünhilde once.

The good uncle has lured the dragon killer, and possessor of the Nibelung gold to the court of Burgundy as a good match for Kriemhild, Gunther’s sister. Siegfried introduces himself to the family as a gentleman. When the family hears that he has placed the Nibelung treasure not on a sandbank in the Rhine but in Rhenish Bank at 6% interest, the betrothal with Kriemhild is settled.

Then Brünhilde’s arrival is announced. Gunther wants to flee before her, but when he promises Siegfried half of his kingdom the hero offers to assist him in the fight, under the protection of the Tarnhelm, which will make him invisible. As soon as Gunther knows that the invisible Siegfried is at his side, he is emboldened, and after enormous preparations from the contest he overcomes her with apparent ease. This betrothal too is thereby sealed for both couples.

ACT II – The double wedding has taken place and the wedding banquet is over. Hagen advises Kriemhild to find and mark a spot on her new husband Siegfried’s clothes where, during his bath in the dragon’s blood, the hero has touched a linden leaf and hence has retained vulnerable. On her wedding night Kriemhild tries for a long time, but in vain, to worm from her husband the secret of the little spot where he is mortal. In contrast, Br ünhilde on her wedding night defeats Gunther in a wrestling match so that the weakling leavers her in peace. Siegfried wants to help him but can no longer remain invisible, for Kriemhild in her anger has taken away the Tarnhelm because he kept wearing it as a nightcap.

Under cover of darkness, Siegfried overpowers the unsuspecting Br ünhilde, jealousy seizes Gunther: he wants to intervene. Kriemhild and Br ünhilde both feel betrayed by Siegfried. During the wedding night Kriemhild had discovered the mortal spot and made it recognizable by an embroidered linden leaf, so that during the conflict Hagen, as referee, can strike Siegfried from behind.

ACT III - At breakfast the next morning no one really has an appetite and Br ünhilde is still continuing to scream for revenge. Hagen fears that the trashed hero, in his rage, could spread far and wide the story of Gunther’s painful experiences on his wedding night. The family therefore agrees that Siegfried must be assassinated and his money stay with the family. Siegfried feels uneasy, and questions a bird in the cage about the future. It for tells the attempted murder, but also knows that in an operetta such a thing has to fail. At the same time it warns Siegfried of a total market collapse of his Nibelung shares. The hero is overjoyed that there is as yet nothing on the papers about the crash of the Rhenish Bank and that he has covered himself in the nick of time through his marriage.

When Hagen learns of the crash of the shares, the motive for murder also disappears, and the two make friends. Br ünhilde still feels insulted over Siegfried, and even his offer to give over the Nibelung treasure to her cannot reconcile her, for unlike Burgundians, she already knows of the crash of the Rhenish Bank. Not until Siegfried’s promise of love does she feel her honor restored, and the two find themselves in the same love duet which previously united Kriemhild and Siegfried. When Siegfried offers the family 50% of the - worthless – Nibelung shares, harmony is complete.

Dorothea Renckhoff, author (Translated by Lionel Salter)