The Ring Cycle Libretto

Ring Cycle Libretto Publications

Since the first private publication of the text for all four operas of Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” in 1853 there have been numerous republications, translations, and dual language versions published. The original English translations are a bit difficult for some readers to understand due to the style of English used and the methodology of the translators. There are modern English translations available however that are much easier to read and understand.

Brunnhilde with her horse

Brunnhilde with her horse

Early versions were heavy leather bound editions in the style of the day and written in German but it took twenty years for English translations to appear, the first being privately published in 1873 by Alfred Forman making it the first translation of the work into any language. Forman then released a public version “The Nibelung’s Ring a Festival Play for Three Days and a Fore-Evening” by Schott and Co. in London in 1877 that had English words to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the alliterative verse of the original.


One of the most popular translations that is sought after by collectors today is the 1910 and 1911 Heinemann publication in two volumes by Margaret Armour. Volume 1 contains the first two operas, Das Rheingold & Die Walküre and Volume 2 the remaining two operas, Siegfried & Götterdämmerung. A large part of the popularity of these two volumes is due to the stunning color illustrations by Arthur Rackham who was a leading illustrator of the day. There are about 64 color illustrations in total plus numerous black and white drawings that are still used for reference by producers and costume designers of modern Ring Cycle productions. German language versions using Rackhams illustrations were published by Rütten & Loening, Frankfurt in 1910 and 1911 also.

Rhinegold & Valkyrie Cover - Volume 1 The Ring of the Nibelung

Rhinegold & Valkyrie Cover from 1939

Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods Cover

Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods Cover from 1939


The German language “Der Ring des Nibelungen” by Fr. Kifner & F. W. Siegel, was published in Leipzig in 1924. It contained 40 full page color plates by Hugo L. Braune.

Special numbered editions of The Ring Cycle in limited quantities (sometimes in boxed sets) have been released from time to time to satisfy the collector market and good quality copies that come on the market appear to be appreciating in price. The quality of the bindings and materials used as well as the quality of the illustrations and the fame of the illustrator affect the price as much as rarity.

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