Romantic opera in three acts (four scenes)
R. Wagner’s libretto
Elsa, Princess of Brabant
Duke Gottfried, her brother
Heinrich Ptitselov, Germanic king
Friedrich Telramund, Brabant Count
Ortruda, his wife
The Royal Herald
4 Brabant Knights
Tenors and basses
Counts, knights, ladies, pages, servants, people.
The action takes place in Antwerp in the first half of
HISTORY OF CREATION
With the legend of Lohengrin Wagner met in 1841, but only in 1845 sketched a sketch of the text. The following year, work began on music.
A year later, the opera was completed in the clavier, and in March 1848 the score was ready. The premier scheduled in Dresden did not take place because of the revolutionary events. The production was carried out thanks to the efforts of F. Liszt and under his management two years later, on August 28, 1850 in Weimar. Wagner saw his opera on stage only eleven years after the premiere.
The plot of “Lohengrin” is based on various folk tales freely interpreted by Wagner. In the coastal countries, among peoples living along the banks of large rivers, poetic legends about a knight swam in a boat drawn by a swan are common. He appears at a time when a girl or a widow, all abandoned and persecuted, faces a deadly danger. The knight frees the girl from the enemies and marries her. Many years they live happily, but suddenly the swan returns, and the stranger disappears as mysteriously as he appeared. Often, “swan” legends intertwined with the stories about the Holy Grail. An unknown knight was then the son of Parsifal – the King of the Grail, who united around him heroes who guard a mysterious treasure, giving them
Legends about Lohengrin inspired many medieval poets, one of them – Wolfram Eschenbach, whom Wagner brought in his “Tannhäuser”.
According to Wagner himself, the Christian motifs of the legend about Lohengrin were alien to him. The composer saw in her the embodiment of the eternal human aspirations for happiness and sincere, selfless love. The tragic loneliness of Lohengrin reminded the composer of his own destiny – the fate of the artist, who bore high ideals of truth and beauty to people, but met misunderstanding, envy and anger.
And in other heroes Wagner’s legends attracted human features. Saved by Lohengrin Elsa with her naive, simple soul, the composer seemed to be the embodiment of the spontaneous power of the national spirit. It contrasts the figure of the vicious and vengeful Ortruda – the personification of all inert, reactionary. In some of the replicas of the actors, in the side episodes of the opera, the breathing of the era when the Lohengrin was being created is felt: in the King’s calls for unity, in the readiness of Lohengrin to defend his homeland and his faith in the coming victory, echoes of the hopes and aspirations of Germany’s leading people of the 1840s. Such an interpretation of ancient tales is typical of Wagner. Myths and legends were for him the embodiment of deep and eternal folk wisdom, in which the composer sought an answer to the questions of his time that were perturbing him.
“Lohengrin” is one of Wagner’s most complete and perfect operas. In it, with great completeness, a rich spiritual world, complex experiences of heroes is revealed. The opera vividly depicts the acute, irreconcilable clash between the forces of good and truth embodied in the images of Lohengrin, Elsa, the people, and the dark forces personified by the dismal figures of Friedrich and Ortruda. The music of the opera is distinguished by its rare poetry, exalted spiritualized lyricism.
This manifests itself already in the orchestral introduction, where in the transparent sound of violins arises a vision of the beautiful realm of the Grail – the country of an unrealizable dream.
In the first act, the free alternation of solo and choral sienes is permeated by an ever-increasing dramatic tension. Elsa’s story “I remember how I prayed, gravely grieving my soul” conveys the fragile, pure nature of a dreamy, enthusiastic heroine. The chivalrous image of Lohengrin reveals itself in a solemnly exalted farewell to the swan “Swim back, O my swan.” In the quintet with the choir there is a concentrated meditation, engulfing those present. The act ends with a large ensemble, in the joyful jubilation of which the angry remarks of Friedrich and Ortruda are drowning.
The second act is full of sharp contrasts. Its beginning is shrouded in an ominous dusk, the atmosphere of evil machinations, which is opposed by Elsa’s light characteristic. In the second half of the act there is a lot of bright sunlight, movement. Household scenes – the awakening of the castle, the bellicose choruses of the knights, the solemn wedding procession – serve as a colorful background for the dramatic clash between Elsa and Ortruda. A small arizo of Elsa “O Wind Wingless” is warmed by joyful hope, a tremulous expectation of happiness. The subsequent dialogue emphasizes the dissimilarity of the heroines: Ortruda’s conversion to pagan gods has a passionate, pathetic character, Elza’s speech is permeated with cordiality and warmth. The unfolded ensemble scene of the dispute between Ortruda and Elsa at the cathedral – Ortruda’s virulent slander and Elza’s hot, agitated speech – impresses with dynamic changes of mood.
In the third act there are two pictures. The first is entirely devoted to the psychological drama of Elsa and Lohengrin. In the center of her love duet. In the second large place is occupied by mass scenes. Brilliant orchestral intermission introduces into the busy atmosphere of the wedding feast with bellicose cliques, the ringing of weapons and simple-hearted tunes. Glee is full of the wedding chorus “Joyful Day”. Dialogue between Lohengrin and Elsa “Miraculous fire glows the heart gently” is one of the best episodes of the opera; wide flexible lyrical melodies with amazing depth convey a change of feelings – from ecstasy with happiness to collision and catastrophe.
The second picture opens with a colorful orchestral intermezzo, built on the roll of pipes. In the story of Lohengrin “In the Land of Strangers, in a distant mountain kingdom”, a transparent melody depicts the majestic bright image of the messenger of the Grail. This feature is supplemented by a dramatic farewell “About My Swan” and a mournful, impulsive appeal to Elsa.