On the bed of the Rhine, the Nibelung dwarf Alberich steals the Rhinegold from its guardians, the Rhinemaidens. Alberich then forges the Rhinegold into an all-powerful ring, but he has had to renounce love to achieve this.
Wotan, leader of the Gods, is encouraged by the mercurial fire god Loge to descend to Nibelheim and steals the gold – including the ring and the mysterious Tarnhelm which has the power to transform or conceal the wearer at will – from Alberich. Wotan needs the gold to pay off two giants – Fasolt and Fafner – who've built his new palace, Valhalla, and to ransom Freia, goddess of youth, who has been held by the giants as surety for the debt.
However, Alberich has cursed the powerful ring – all those who possess it (mortals and gods alike) are doomed. The Gods enter Valhalla in triumph, but Wotan's weakness and deceit will make it a hollow triumph.
© Graeme Kay/BBC