Lohengrin, a Romantic German-language opera in three acts, based on a mediaeval German romance, has both music and libretto by Richard Wagner (written between 1846 and 1848). It was first performed at the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar on 28 August 1850, immediately becoming popular, and its first performance outside of the German-speaking world was in Riga on 5 February 1855. Typical performances of Lohengrin run for three-and-a-half hours or so.
Set in Antwerp in the tenth century, the opera tells the story of the Swan Knight, a mysterious rescuer who appears in a boat pulled by a swan, to defend Elsa, a damsel in distress, who is praying for help. Lohengrin offers this help with three conditions - that Elsa must never ask his name, his rank or from where he has come.
Elsa agrees to the conditions, and to Lohengrin becoming her champion and husband. Her quarrel is with Count Friedrich von Telramund, who has accused Elsa of murdering her young brother, Duke Gottfried of Brabant, in order to become Duchess of Brabant. Lohengrin defeats Telramund in combat, but spares his life.
Telramund and his wife Ortrud, a pagan witch, are banished from court. Ortrud tries to make Elsa violate Lohengrin's two conditions of offering help, by telling Elsa that, because her rescuer is unknown, he could leave at any time, as suddenly as he arrived. On Elsa and Lohengrin's wedding day, Telramund accuses Lohengrin of sorcery.
Ortrud's conversation with Elsa has made an impression, though, and on their wedding night, in the bridal chamber, Elsa asks Lohengrin the two fatal questions. At this moment, Telramund appears in the room and attacks Lohengrin, but Lohengrin kills him.
Sadly, Lohengrin asks Elsa to go with him to the king, where Lohengrin reveals his name, and that he is the son of King Parsifal, and an Arthurian Knight of the Holy Grail, who must either remain anonymous or return home. He says farewell to Elsa, and his swan and boat reappear. As he gets into the boat, Ortrud appears and announces that the swan is actually Elsa's brother, Gottfried, whom Ortrud had turned into a swan.
Lohengrin prays, Ortrud's magic is broken, and the swan turns back into Gottfried. A dove takes the swan's place, and Lohengrin departs on the boat, leaving Elsa, stricken with grief.
A selection of M&V articles about Lohengrin
Ensemble. Intrigue, Amusement and Confusion - Keith Bramich is impressed by Covent Garden's new production of Wagner's 'Lohengrin'
Ensemble. Amersterdam: Lohengrin Lite - James Sohre reports on Pierre Audi's production for Netherlands Opera
Ensemble. Forbidden Questions - A controversial 'Lohengrin' at La Scala, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Passion and Religion - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the 2012 Tyrol Festival for new productions of 'Lohengrin' and 'Tosca'
Ensemble. A Complete Delight - Wagner's 'Die Walküre' at New York Metropolitan Opera, enjoyed in HD from Arizona by Maria Nockin
CD Spotlight. Positively Spellbinding - Music for clarinet, piano and cello, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... a fine recording ...'
Ensemble. Beautifully Wrought - Wagner's 'Tannhäuser' at Covent Garden, by Robert Hugill
Ensemble. Consummate Virtuosity - Bryn Terfel, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Hindemith and Wagner, appreciated by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. True Ear Candy - Wagner's 'Lohengrin' at L A Opera, enjoyed by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Excellent Singing - Handel and Rossini from Los Angeles Opera impress Maria Nockin
CD Spotlight. Brilliantly Portrayed - Friedrich Klose's 'Ilsebill', praised by Gerald Fenech. '... a risky yet rewarding adventure ...'
A Real Find - Robert Davies made a remarkable impact when he stood in as Papageno late in the run of English Touring Opera's 'The Magic Flute'; Roderic Dunnett profiles him and celebrates the progress of other ETO cast members
Ensemble. Podium Celebrity - Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra in Florida, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
The Wandering Traveller - Kelly Ferjutz delves further into Richard Wagner and the forthcoming symposium in Ohio
DVD Spotlight. Taut Conviction - Wagner's 'Lohengrin', reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... a delight to watch.'