Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


I’M LISTENING to Richard Wagner’s Siegfried, the third opera of his epic Ring Cycle. Early on, in Scene 2, the Wanderer (actually top god Wotan in disguise) tells an interminable backstory to the Nibelung dwarf Mime, Siegfried’s foster father.

But wait! There was also a car called the Wanderer. Indeed, in 1932 four German automakers merged to form Auto Union. These were Horch; Audi (a Latinized Horch, as in “listen,” after August Horch left his euphonious firm to start another company); DKW (Das Kleine Wunder); and Wanderer. Auto Union’s four-ring logo is still used by Audi.

Wanderer got me thinking: What other opera characters share their names with automakers?

My two automotive sources in this are The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars, 1885 to the Present and The Encyclopedia of Motor Sport. Brit automotive historian Nick Georgano assembled teams from around the world to put together these two standards totaling 1290 pages.

Given heldentenor prestige, it’s no surprise there was a Siegfried automobile too. This car, marketed under the name Reissig as well, was produced in Germany between 1912 and 1914.

There was also the Fafnir, an accepted spelling for one of the two giants in the Wagner Ring Cycle. The Fafnir automobile was built in Aachen, Germany, between 1908 and 1926.

1922 Fafnir Type 471 8/50PS. Image from The Complete Encyclopedia of Motor Cars.

The famous German Grand Prix driver Rudolf Caracciola drove a Fafnir in his first race, on the Berlin Avus circuit in 1922.

In Das Rheingold, the Ring’s first opera, Fasolt and Fafner are the giants stiffed by Wotan after they built his Valhalla. (Imagine that!) Before Das Rheingold is over, all in one long! act, Fasolt gets clubbed to death by Fafner, who eventually returns to get his by Siegfried during, you guessed it, Siegfried.

Fafner, in his dragon form, about to battle Siegfried. Illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Tomorrow, we’ll encounter more automotive/operatic links, one with a very familiar name, another involving Jack the Ripper. The opera, not the car. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

One comment on “OPERATIC CARS PART 1

  1. carmacarcounselor
    March 26, 2018

    Coincidence? I think not! A good friend just challenged me with an image of a 1960s car I could not identify. How mortifying! It turned out to be a DKW variant, the GT Malzoni, also sold under the name Puma. It gave me the opportunity to pass on the Auto Union story to him, as the blue Malzoni DKW in the Wikipedia image has four rings on the grille.

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