The story of the opera is based on the Norse mythology told in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda. In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one in a group of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and which live. Die Walküre's best-known excerpt is the "Ride of the Valkyries".
It received its premiere at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich on 26 June 1870. Wagner originally intended the opera to be premiered as part of the entire cycle, but was forced to allow the performance at the insistence of his patron King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was first presented as part of the complete cycle on 14 August 1876 at Wagner's Bayreuth Festival. The opera made its United States premiere at the Academy of Music in New York on 2 April 1877.
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