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Huddled at the foot of the sloping path to the cathedral, Ortrud has nerved Telramund to revenge his defeat, so that they join in a hideous oath of evil destruction [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 5, 17:45-19:08]. It was not for nothing that Wagner tackled Act 2 last of the three: in this scene he writes music drama before starting to preach about it. Ortrud knows it is her task to tackle Elsa and sow in her mind seeds of doubt that will germinate towards her asking Lohengrin the fatal question. Her claim to precedence in the cathedral procession almost comes to fisticuffs between the two women; but Elsa is sufficiently rattled to leave Ortrud in the ascendant [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 16, 53:54-55:10].

Solveig Kringelborn as Elsa in 'Lohengrin'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Festspielhaus Baden-Baden/NHK/Opus Arte
Solveig Kringelborn as Elsa in 'Lohengrin'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Festspielhaus Baden-Baden/NHK/Opus Arte

After a spiffing prelude to Act 3 from Kent Nagano and the Deutsches SO, Berlin (he launches his team with a knowing smile), the curtain reveals Mr and Mrs Lohengrin in their drawing-room. The husband is at the grand piano, perhaps attempting to revise the work so that it should end less catastrophically. Poor Elsa ranges the room more and more neurotically. It is obvious she is afraid Lohengrin will disappear as mysteriously as he arrived. Knights of the grail clearly make difficult husbands, and Elsa's question seems on the face of it as harmless as Desdemona's dropped handkerchief. All that can be said for Elsa is that she probably lived miserably ever after [watch and listen -- DVD3 chapter 8, 20:45-22:09].

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Copyright © 29 March 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK

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