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Richard Wagner


LOHENGRIN de Richard Wagner

Enrique I el Pajarero - Robert Lloyd
Lohengrin - Plácido Domingo
Elsa de Brabante - Cheryl Studer
Friedrich de Telramund - Hartmut Welker
Ortrud, esposa de Telramund - Dunja Vejzovic
El heraldo del rey - Georg Tichy

Coro y Orquesta de la Ópera Estatal de Viena

Director - Claudio Abbado
Published on Aug 22, 2012

The history of Lohengrin furnishes an interesting footnote to the eternal argument over whether an opera should be given in its original language or in the language of the audience listening. Before tiie composer, who was also conductor at the Dresden Opera, could produce his new work, he had to flee from Germany on account of his revolutionary sentiments. That was in 1849, when revolution was rife in the land. His temporary home was Switzerland, where there was no chance to produce this opera, and so he turned, in hope, to France and England. But despite the fact that Wagner prided himself as much on his poetry as on his music, it never occurred to him to suggest that either of these countries should produce his operas in German. He wrote to his friend Eduard Devrient at this time: “My immediate object is to get my latest opera Lohengrin translated into English and performed in London." Nothing came of these efforts and, as a matter of fact, the first London performance of the opera, which took place over twenty years later, was in neither German nor English, but in Italian.

When the premiere of the work did finally take place a year later, it had the benefit of the original German language, far it was given for a German audience. It occurred in Weimar in 1850, while Wagner was still in exile. The orchestra boasted only five first violins and six seconds, with thirty-eight pieces in all, while the chorus numbered under thirty. Despite the best efforts of the conductor, who was Wagners great champion and father-in-law-tobe, Franz Liszt, the opera was not well received. (How could it have been with such inadequate forces?)

Liszt reported all the details to the absent composer, and the great Richard was very angry. The performance had taken something over four hours, and Wagner decided that Liszt must have played everything too slowly. However, Wagner had never heard the opera even rehearsed with an orchestra, however small; be had only played it for himself on a piano. He therefore did not realize that those long, sustained passages at the beginning of the prelude—as well as many others like them—are best played very, very slowly by an orchestra. On a piano, which cannot sustain a chord evenly for more than a moment, it would have to go faster. Eleven years later, when Wagner beard a full performance for the first time, in Vienna, he agreed that Liszt bad been right. A full performance, without cuts and not counting intermissions, takes upwards of three and a half hours. Therefore, many opera houses habitually cut passages here and there which only the genuine aficionado—and the inveterate libretto-reader—will notice.


Opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with libretto in German by the composer based largely on a medieval poem, the Wartburgkrieg

HENRY THE FOWLERKing of Germany 




ORTRUD, his wife 



Time: 933
Place: Antwerp

First performance at Weimar, August 28, 1850


HENRY THE FOWLER: Bass. Konig Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler), King of Saxony. He has gone to Brabant to persuade some of the knigits to fighit with him to defeat the Hungarian invasion of Germany. In front of the King, Lohengrin reveals his identity. Arias: Gott gruss' euch, liebe Мanneг von Brabant! ('God bless you, worthy people of Brabant!); Habt Dank, ihr Lieben von Brabant ('I thank you, dear people of Вгаbant'). Created (1850) by August Hofer.


LOHENGRIN: Tenor. He arrives on the scene as an unknown knight come to defend Elsa—she has been accused by Telramund of killing her young brother. The knight will then marry Elsa, but she must never ask him his name or want to know from where he has come. He does champion her cause and Telramund is banished from Brabant, but after their wedding Elsa can no longer withhold her questions. Lohengrin announces, in front of the King and his knights, that he will tell them who he is and will then bid them all farewell. He tells them he comes from Montsalvat where his father, Parsifal, is king of the Holy Grail and he is its knight. As he finishes speaking, a swan is seen pulling a boat down thе river and as Lohengrin says goodbye to Elsa, Ortrud appears in triumph, telling them that the swan is Eisa's brother whom she, Ortrud, cnanged by magic into the swan. Lohengrin prays, the swan turns back into Gottfried and a dove descends to guide the boat into which Lohengrin steps to be borne away. Arias: Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan! ('Thank you, my beloved swan!); Atmest du nicht mir die sussen Dufte? ('Will you not share the sweet perfumes with me?'); In fernen Land ('In a distant land').  Created (1850) by Karl Beck.

Lohengrin - Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan
Published on Sep 6, 2012
Cheryl Studer as Elsa, Paul Frey as Lohengrin,
Peter Schneider conducting the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

ELSA OF BRABANT: Soprano. Ward of Telramund and sister of Gottfried, the heir to the Brabant throne. Telramund suspects her (wrongly) of murdering her brother. Telramund is in love with her and offended by her refusal to marry him. He accuses her and she stands trial before King Heinrich, refusing to defend herself. She describes a dream in whch a knight offered to protect her. In answer to her prayers Lohengrin appears, ready to fight in her defence and declare her innocent He asks her to marry him and when she agrees tells her that she must never ask him his name or whence he came, a condition to which she consents. Ortrud, now Telramund’s wife, preys on Elsa’s innocence to make her doubt Lohengrin's integrity, but later attacks her, forcing her to have doubts about her heroic knight. After their wedding, Elsa is unable to contain herself and starts to question Lohengrin about where he comes from and what she should call him. Despite all his warnings to her to trust him, she persists in her questioning. They are interrupted by the arrival of Telramund and his men, ready to fight. Lohengrin kills him. He then accuses Elsa, in front of the king, of betraying his trust and they all condemn her. Lohengrin announces his name and as he does so the boat and swan appear and Elsa realizes that, by her curiosity and insistence, she has lost the man she loves. The swan turns into her brother Gottfried, released by Lohengrin from Ortrud's spell, and as Lohengrin sails away, Elsa collapses in her brothers arms. Aria: Einsam in truben Tagen ('When all my hopes departed'); duet (with Lohengrin): Fuhl ich zu dir so suss mein Herz entbrennen ('Here in my heart a flame is brightly burning'). Created (1850) by Rosa Agthe.

Lohengrin: Einsam in trüben Tagen (Elsa's Dream)

FREDERICK OF TELRAMUND: Baritone. Count of Brabant. He was appointed by the dying Duke of Brabant to be guardian of the Duke's children, Elsa and Gottfried, the heir to the throne. Telramund is anxious to marry Elsa and share her inheritance. But she refuses him and he marries Ortrud instead and the two of them set about trying to gain the throne themselves. Gottfried has disappeared and Telramund accuses Elsa of murdering him, not knowing that Ortrud, who practises sorcery, has turned Gottfried into a swan. Telramund fights Elsa's champion, Lohengrin, and is defeated. Despondent, he is only too glad to let Ortrud plan the next step in their campaign and agrees with her suggestions for undermining Elsa's faith in Lohengrin. He is prepared, as part of this scheme, to accuse Lohengrin of sorcery. At the cathedral where Elsa and Lohengrin are to be married, he tells Elsa that he will visit them that night and wound Lohengrin, who will then reveal his identity. But when he comes into their bridal chamber Elsa warns Lohengrin, who kills Telramund. Aria: Dank, Konig, dir ('Thank you, my lord'); Durch dich musst'ich verlieren ('It's you who have destroyed me').  Created (1850) by Feodor von Made.

Dank, König, Dir - Thomas Gazheli als Telramund in Richard Wagners LOHENGRIN

ORTRUD: Mezzo-soprano. Wife of Telramund, who married her only after Elsa refused him. It is their ambition to gain the throne of Brabant from Elsa's brother Gottfried. She worships pagan gods and practises sorcery. She has turned Gottfried into a swan, which pulls the boat which carries Lohengrin. Ortrud is a strong character, who dominates Telramund. She plots to undermine Elsa's faith in Lohengrin. She convinces Elsa that she has her welfare at heart, but at the wedding of Elsa and Lohengrin, Ortrud shows her true vicious nature, demanding the throne. When Elsa refuses, she declares that Lohengrin also uses sorcery, placing further doubts in Elsa's mind. However, she is flnally defeated when Lohengrin's prayers are answered and Gottfried is released from Ortrud's power and returns to claim his throne. Ens. (with Elsa and chorus): Zuruck, Elsa! ('Go back, Elsa!'). Created (1850) by Josephine Fastlinger.

LOHENGRIN - Oper von Richard Wagner

Es spielt das Orchester der Tiroler Festspiele Erl unter der Leitung von Gustav Kuhn

Regie - Gustav Kuhn
Kostüme - Lenka Radecky

Ortrud - Mona Somm
Elsa - Susanne Geb

THE KING'S HERALD: Baritone. The King's herald. He summons Lohengrin to come and champion Elsa's cause. This is a small role in which many a baritone destined for fame has made his mark,including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Eberhard Wachter, Tom Krause, Ingvar Wixell, Bemd Weikl, and Anthony Michaels-Moore. Created (1850) by Herr Patsch.




The well-beloved prelude is based almost entirely upon the theme of the Holy Grail and was romantically and quite accurately described by Wagner himself in these words:

"Out of the clear blue ether of the sky there seems to condense a wonderful yet at first hardly perceptible vision; and out of this there gradually emerges, ever more and more clearly, an angel host bearing in its midst the Holy Grail. As it approaches earth, it pours out exquisite odors, like streams of gold, ravishing the senses of the beholder. The glory of the vision grows and grows until it seems as if the rapture must be shattered and dispersed by the very vehemence of its expansion ...The flames die away, and the angel host soars up again to the ethereal heights in tender joy..."

Act 1

Henry the Fowler, tenth-century ruler of Germany, arrives at Antwerp beside the river Scheldt. He addresses the assembled nobles of Saxony and Brabant, telling them of renewed war with the Eastern hordes, and they agree to follow him in battle. But, adds Henry, there is trouble locally, and he calls on Frederick, Count Telramund, to recite his complaint. Telramund steps forward and, with growing excitement, tells a strange story. The boy, Godfrey of Brabant, has disappeared. His sister, Elsa, whom Telramund had once intended to marry, had taken him into the woods, and the boy had never returned. There is but one explanation: she must have murdered him. Telramund has therefore married someone else— Ortrud of Friesland; and now, in the name of his wife, he claims to be the rightful ruler of Brabant. Elsa is then called upon and comes in, the picture of innocence, all dressed in white. She sings her famous aria, Elsa's Dream, in which she tells of having seen a handsome knight who promised to come to her in time of need. The issue, it is agreed, must be tried in the good medieval tradition of trial by combat. But who will fight for Elsa? The Herald solemnly calls for a candidate once, but no one offers. He calls again. Again, no answer.

Then Elsa and her handmaidens pray earnestly, and lo, in the distance, appears a knight in a boat, drawn up the river by a swan. The knight in shining armor lands. In a simple aria he thanks the swan, then turns to greet the King and to offer his 
services to Elsa. But first she must make two promises: she must agree to marry him, should he prove victorious, and she must agree never to ask his name or where he has come from. To both terms she consents. The fighting ground is measured оff by the nobles; the Herald recites the rules of the combat; and the King leads the entire assemblage in an impressive prayer.

The fight itself is very brief. Telramund is struck to the ground; the stranger knight magnanimously spares his life; and the act concludes with general melodious rejoicing—a chorus of praise to the champion with the unknown name. I hardly think I am violating a secret if I say that the name of the unknown knight is Lohengrin.

Act 2

Although Telramund's life has been spared, both he and his wife, Ortrud, are in disgrace. They have spent the night bickering on the steps of the cathedral of Antwerp, where Elsa and her rescuer are to be married in the morning. Before dawn Elsa appears on the balcony over the square, and Ortrud, pretending friendship, is invited in, and is given an honorable place at the wedding.

Dawn begins to break; the knights and others gather in the courtyard; and the Herald makes two important announcements: Elsa and her champion are to be married that very morning, and the expedition against the Hungarians is to begin soon after under the new leader of Brabant—that is, of course, Lohengrin.

Then begins the long and beautiful Bridal Procession. All the knights and ladies gather and sing their blessings on the handsome couple. But suddenly Ortrud interrupts, taunting Elsa for not knowing the name or origin of her fiance. Elsa is frightened, out she is rescued by the appearance of the King and her warrior. Ortrud is ordered away, and the procession begins again, only to be interrupted once more, this time by Telramund. Standing on the cathedral steps, and backed by four followers, he presses his charges even more strongly than Ortrud did. He demands that the King himself put the questions of name and origin to the stranger. Now the knight himself speaks up. He will answer no one, he says, but Elsa herself. Does she wish to question him? Well—Elsa is only human, and very, very feminine. For a longer time than any heroine really should she wavers. Then (but only after a very fine concerted number) she proceeds with the ceremonial without asking the fateful questions. Telramund manages to whisper to her that he will be standing by at night; but she dismisses him, and the procession moves on, joyously, to the cathedral.

Then, just as they are about to enter, Ortrud appears ominously once more. The music always associated with the fatal questions thunders out of the orchestra, and the act closes on a skillfully mixed note of doubt and joy.

Act 3

Scene 1  The exciting prelude to the third act leads, with a few bars of modulation, tight into the celebrated Bridal Chorus. The attendants sing this to the happy couple on the night of their wedding, and then they leave them in their bridal chamber. Elsa and her still-unnamed knight—now her husband—sing a lovely duet, but then her doubts again begin to assert themselves. Her husband tries to allay them with an aria that compares her to the sweetest fragrances of nature. Yet the doubts wffl not down. Sternly he reminds her of the trust she owes him, and he repeats his protestations of love. But the poison that Ortrud and Telramund have poured into Elsa's ear continues to work. She imagines she sees the swan returning to take her husband from her side. A madness seizes upon her, and over the protest of her husband she finally asks the fatal questions: "Tell me thy name. . . Whence dost thou come? ... Where is thy home?”

Before he can answer (for answer he must), Telramund and four knights burst into the chamber. Swiftly Elsa hands over the sword, swiftly Lohengrin slays Telramund—with one supernatural stroke of his sword. “Now all our happiness is gone,” he sadly sighs, and he orders the corpse to be carried before the King and Elsa herself to appear in the royal presence.

Scene 2  With no pause the scene changes to the kingly presence, as it was in Act I. Telramund's body is carried in, and his slayer explains what he has had to do. Then Elsa comes in; and now the knight prepares to answer her questions. Quietly, but tensely, he tells of his home on the wondrous Mont Monsalvat, where a band of knights guards and serves the Holy Grail. Once every year a dove descends from heaven to renew its powers, and all its knights are guarded by it in their fights for innocence and truth. His father, says the knight, is Percival, king of all the knights of the Grail, and his own name is—Lohengrin. But now, he adds, since his secret is known, he must return. And however much he regrets it, he must leave, not only his bride, but King Henry.

Suddenly a cry is heard from those nearest the shore. The swan is seen returning, with the boat. Lohengrin goes to greet it and then turns once more to Elsa. Had she but waited a year, her young brother Godfrey would have been restored to her. Now, should he return, she must give him Lohengrin's sword, horn, and ring; and with a final farewell he turns to the swan. Then a miracle occurs. The swan sinks into the river, and in his place comes the young Duke of Brabant— Godfrey! Bitterly the sorceress Ortrud relates how she had transformed the boy into a swan. Lohengrin, thereupon, falls upon his knees and prays. A dove is seen descending from the sky and, with a chain, carries off the knight in his boat. Elsa cries after him, "My husband, my husband!" and then sinks lifeless into Godfrey's arms as the curtain falls.

Legend of Lohendrin

Lohengrin is a character in German Arthurian literature. The son of Parzival (Percival), he is a knight of the Holy Grail sent in a boat pulled by swans to rescue a maiden who can never ask his identity. His story, which first appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, is a version of the Knight of the Swan legend known from a variety of medieval sources. Wolfram's story was expanded in two later romances. Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin of 1848 is based upon the legend.


Lohengrin first appears as "Loherangrin", the son of Parzival and Condwiramurs in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival. Wolfram's story is a variation of the Knight of the Swan tale, previously attached to the Crusade cycle of medieval literature. Loherangrin and his twin brother Kardeiz join their parents in Munsalväsche when Parzival becomes the Grail King; Kardeiz later inherits their father's secular lands, and Loherangrin remains in Munsalväsche as a Grail Knight. Members of this order are sent out in secret to provide lords to kingdoms that have lost their protectors and Loherangrin is eventually called to this duty in Brabant, where the duke has died without a male heir. His daughter Elsa fears the kingdom will be lost, but Loherangrin arrives in a boat pulled by a swan and offers to defend her, though he warns her she must never ask his name. He weds the duchess and serves Brabant for years, but one day Elsa asks the forbidden question. He explains his origin and steps back onto his swan boat, never to return.


The Knight of the Swan story was previously known from the tales of the ancestry of Godfrey of Bouillon, the first ruler of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. The story appears in the two versions of the tale Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne, which describes the Swan Knight Elias arriving to defend the dispossessed Duchess of Bouillon. They marry and have a daughter, Ida, who becomes the mother of Godfrey and his brothers. The Knight of the Swan is not the only altered version of a popular story Wolfram uses in his narrative; he makes Prester John the son of his character Feirefiz.

Later versions

The story was picked up and expanded in the late 13th-century Lohengrin by a certain "Nouhusius" or "Nouhuwius", who changed the character's name and tied the romance's Grail and Swan Knight elements into the history of the Holy Roman Empire. The story follows Wolfram closely but adds certain details – notably, Princess Elsa's questioning of her husband occurs only after prodding by an antagonist who spreads rumors that Lohengrin is not of noble blood – that extends the material into a full romance. In expanding the material, the author drew on several other medieval German literary works, including the Sächsische Weltchronik, the Jüngerer Titurel, and the Wartburgkrieg.

In the 15th century, the story was taken up again for the anonymous Lorengel. This version does not include the taboo against asking the protagonist about his mysterious origin and Lorengel and his princess can live happily ever after.


In 1848, Richard Wagner, drawing on the contemporary work of Ludwig Lucas, adapted the tale into his popular opera Lohengrin, arguably the work through which Lohengrin's story is best known today. While King Henry the Fowler tries to assemble forces in Brabant to combat the Hungarian invasions, Lohengrin appears on the Scheldt River to defend Princess Elsa from the false accusation of killing her younger brother Gottfried (who turns out to be alive and returns at the end of the opera). According to Wagner, the Grail imbues the Knight of the Swan with mystical powers that can only be maintained if their nature is kept secret; hence the danger of Elsa's question. The most famous piece from Lohengrin is the "Bridal Chorus" ("Here Comes the Bride"), still played at many Western weddings.

Lohengrin by Ferdinand Leeke, 1916

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