In three acts by RICHARD WAGNER.
This is the most popular of all Wagner's operas. No need to say more
about its music, which is so generally known and admired, that every
child in Germany knows the graceful aria, where Lohengrin dismisses the
swan, the superb bridal chorus etc.
Wagner again took his material from the old legend, which tells us of
the mystical knight Lohengrin, (Veron of Percifal), Keeper of the "Holy
The scene is laid near Antwerp, where "Heinrich der Vogler," King of
Germany, is just levying troops amongst his vassals of Brabant, to
repulse the Hungarian invaders. The King finds the people in a
state of great commotion, for Count Frederick Telramund accuses Elsa of
Brabant, of having killed her young brother Godfrey, heir to the Duke
of Brabant, who died a short time ago, leaving his children to the care
of Telramund. Elsa was to be Telramund's wife, but he wedded Ortrud of
Friesland and now claims the deserted Duchy of Brabant.
As Elsa declares her innocence, not knowing what has become of her
brother, who was taken from her during her sleep, the King resolves to
decide by a tourney in which the whole matter shall be left to the
judgment of God. Telramund, sure of his rights, is willing to fight
with any champion, who may defend Elsa. All the noblemen of Brabant
refuse to do so, and even the King, though struck by Elsa's innocent
appearance, does not want to oppose his valiant and trustworthy warrior.
Elsa alone is calm, she trusts in the help of the heavenly knight, who
has appeared to her in a dream, and publicly declares her intention of
offering to her defender the crown and her hand. While she prays,
there arrives a knight in silver armor; a swan draws his boat. He
lands, Elsa recognizes the knight of her dream and he at once offers to
fight for the accused maiden on two conditions, first that she shall
become his wife, and second, that she never will ask for his name and
Elsa solemnly promises and the combat begins. The strange knight
is victorious, and Telramund, whose life the stranger spares is with
his wife Ortrud outlawed.
The latter is a sorceress; she has deceived her husband, who really
believes in the murder of Godfrey, while as a matter of fact she has
abducted the child. In the second act we see her at the door of the
Ducal palace, where preparations for the wedding are already being
made. She plans vengeance. Her husband, full of remorse and feeling
that his wife has led him on to a shameful deed, curses her as the
cause of his dishonor. She derides him and rouses his pride by calling
him a coward. Then she pacifies him with the assurance, that she will
induce Elsa to break her promise and ask for the name of her husband,
being sure, that then all the power of this mysterious champion will
When Elsa steps on the balcony to confide her happiness to the stars,
she hears her name spoken in accents so sad, that her tender heart is
moved. Ortrud bewails her lot, invoking Elsa's pity. The Princess
opens her door, urging the false woman to share her palace and her
fortune. Ortrud at once tries to sow distrust in Elsa's innocent heart.
As the morning dawns, a rich procession of men and women throng to the
Muenster, where Elsa is to be united to her protector. Telramund tries
vainly to accuse the stranger; he is pushed back and silenced. As Elsa
is about to enter the church, Ortrud steps forward, claiming the right
of precedence. Elsa, frightened, repents too late having
protected her. Ortrud upbraids her with not even having asked her
husband's name and descent. All are taken aback, but Elsa defends her
husband, winning everybody by her quiet dignity.
She turns to Lohengrin for protection, but, alas, the venom rankles in
When they are all returning from church, Telramund once more steps
forth, accusing Lohengrin and demanding from the King to know the
stranger's name. Lohengrin declares that his name may not be told,
excepting his wife asks. Elsa is in great trouble, but once more her
love conquers, and she does not put the fatal question.
But in the third act, when the two lovers are alone she knows no rest.
Although her husband asks her to trust him, she fears that he may once
leave her as mysteriously, as he came, and at last she cannot refrain
from asking the luckless question. From this moment all happiness is
lost to her. Telramund enters to slay his enemy, but Lohengrin, taking
his sword, kills him with one stroke. Then he leads Elsa before the
King and loudly announces his secret. He tells the astounded hearers,
that he is the Keeper of the Holy-Grail. Sacred and invulnerable to
the villain, a defender of right and virtue, he may stay with mankind
as long as his name is unknown. But now he is obliged to reveal it.
He is Lohengrin, son of Percival, King of the Grail, and is now
compelled to leave his wife and return to his home. The swan appears,
from whose neck Lohengrin takes a golden ring, giving it to Elsa
together with his sword and golden horn.
Just as Lohengrin is about to depart Ortrud appears, triumphantly
declaring, that it was she, who changed young Godfrey into a swan, and
that Lohengrin would have freed him too, had Elsa not mistrusted her
husband.--Lohengrin, hearing this, sends a fervent prayer to Heaven and
loosening the swan's golden chain, the animal dips under water and in
his stead rises Godfrey, the lawful heir of Brabant. A white dove
descends to draw the boat in which Lohengrin glides away and Elsa falls
senseless in her brother's arm.
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