are the three water-nymphs (Rheintöchter
or Rhine daughters
) who appear in
's opera cycle
Der Ring Des Nibelungen
. Their individual names are Woglinde, Wellgunde
, although they are generally considered as a single entity and act together accordingly. Of the 34 characters in the Ring
cycle, they are the only ones who do not originate in the Scandinavian
. Other legends and myths on which Wagner drew, notably the
, include stories that involve water-sprites
or mermaids, and it is likely that he created his Rhinemaidens from these sources. The key concepts associated with them in the Ring
operas—their flawed guardianship of the Rhine gold, and the condition (renunciation of love) through which the gold could be stolen from them and transformed into a means of world power—are wholly Wagner's own invention, and are the elements that initiate and propel the entire drama. The Rhinemaidens are the first and the last characters to be seen in the operas, appearing both in the opening scene of
, and in the final climactic spectacle of
when they rise from the Rhine waters to reclaim the ring from
's ashes. The various musical themes associated with the Rhinemaidens are regarded as among the most lyrical in the whole Ring
cycle, bringing to it rare instances of comparative relaxation and charm. It is reported that Wagner played their famous lament at the piano on the night before he died in 1883.
Act 1 costume for Wally as seen in the original production of
The opera is best known for its
aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" ("Well, then? I'll go far away") from act 1, in which Wally decides to leave her home forever).
It also features a memorable death scene in which the heroine throws herself into the
that has just killed her lover after he called out to her. It is seldom performed, partly because of the difficulty of staging this scene, but Wally's principal aria is still sung frequently.