Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epicmusic dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel" (stage festival play), structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend ("preliminary evening"). It is often referred to as the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.
Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to 1874. The four parts that constitute the Ring cycle are, in sequence:
Although individual works of the sequence have occasionally been performed separately, Wagner intended them to be performed in series. The first performance as a cycle opened the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, beginning with Das Rheingold on 13 August and ending with Götterdämmerung on 17 August. Opera stage director Anthony Freud stated that Der Ring des Nibelungen "marks the high-water mark of our art form, the most massive challenge any opera company can undertake."
Wagner's title is most literally rendered in English as The Ring of the Nibelung. The Nibelung of the title is the dwarf Alberich, and the ring in question is the one he fashions from the Rhine Gold. The title therefore denotes "Alberich's Ring". The "-en" suffix in "Nibelungen" can occur in a genitive singular, accusative singular, dative singular, or a plural in any case (in weak masculine German nouns), but the article "des" immediately preceding makes it clear that the genitive singular is intended here. "Nibelungen" is occasionally mistaken as a plural, but the Ring of the Nibelungs (in German Der Ring der Nibelungen) is incorrect.