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Wagner Richard
Act I
Act II
  • Richard Wagner. Romantische Oper in three acts. 1848.
  • Libretto by the composer.
  • First performance at the Grossherzogliches Hoftheater, Weimar, on 28th August 1850.
Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler) bass
Lohengrin tenor
Elsa of Brabant soprano
Duke Gottfried, her brother silent rôle
Friedrich von Telramund, a count of Brabant baritone
Ortrud, his wife mezzo-soprano
The King's Herald bass

In 10th century Antwerp King Henry urges the support of Brabant against Hungary. Friedrich von Telramund accuses Elsa of having killed her brother in order to usurp the dukedom that he now claims for himself. The matter is to be settled by combat, and Elsa now prays for her champion to come forward in answer to the Herald's challenge. The mysterious knight Lohengrin appears, in a boat drawn by a swan, and, making Elsa promise never to ask his name or origin, defeats Telramund, sparing his life. Ortrud and Telramund now plan their revenge, planting the seeds of doubt in Elsa’s mind. The Herald announces the banishment of Telramund and the assumption of the title Protector by the unnamed knight, who will that day marry Elsa, whose doubts now grow, with Telramund accusing Lohengrin of sorcery. Finally, in the bridal chamber, she asks him the question. Telramund bursts in, and is killed by Lohengrin, who then agrees to answer Elsa's question in the presence of the people. Before the King's judgement seat he reveals his name, Lohengrin, his parentage, as a son of Parsifal, and his rôle as a servant of the Holy Grail, with power that depended on not revealing his name. He tells Elsa that her brother would have come back to her, after a year together, but now he must go, as he came. The swan that draws his boat is revealed, however, as Gottfried, bewitched by Ortrud, and restored to life again as Duke of Brabant. Elsa now falls back dead in her brother’s arms.

Lohengrin was first performed at Weimar under the direction of Liszt, after Wagner, having sided with the revolutionaries in Dresden, had taken refuge in Switzerland. The work makes use of the technique Wagner had now more fully developed of leit-motifs, leading motifs associated with ideas or characters in the drama. Here the first act prelude is based on the motif of the Holy Grail, followed, as the work goes on, by some 36 more significant motifs. These include the motif of the forbidden question. Some of the best known music is found in the prelude to the third act, leading to the very familiar Wedding March. Familiar vocal excerpts must also include Elsa's dream, Einsam, in trüben Tagen (Alone in days of trouble), in which she sees a vision of the knight who will save her, and her later thanks for his championship, Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen so traurig oft erfüllt (You breezes who answered my often sad complaints). Lohengrin's answer to the forbidden question is given in the moving In fernem Land (In distant land).


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