Lohengrin (opera): Wikis

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Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself inspired by the epic of Garin le Loherain. It is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition.

The opera has proved inspirational towards other works of art. Among those deeply moved by the fairy-tale opera was the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria. 'Der Märchenkönig' ('The Fairy-tale King') as he was dubbed later built his ideal fairy-tale castle and dubbed it "New Swan Stone," or "Neuschwanstein," after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig's patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to build a theatre for, compose and stage his epic cycle, the Ring of the Nibelung.

The opera is full of 'hits' performed as concert set-pieces, namely:

  • Act I, Prelude.
  • Act I, 'Einsam in trüben Tage' (Elsa's Narrative)
  • Act I, Scene 'Wenn ich im Kampfe für dich siege'
  • Act II, 'Euch lüften, die mein Klagen' (Elsa)
  • Act II, Scene 4 opening, arranged as "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral"
  • Act III, Prelude
  • Act III, Bridal Chorus "Treulich geführt" arranged as "Here Comes the Bride"
  • Act III, 'Das süsse Lied verhallt' (Love duet)
  • Act III, 'Höchstes Vertrau'n' (Lohengrin's Declaration to Elsa)
  • Act III, Entry of King Henry
  • Act III, 'In fernem Land' (Lohengrin's Narration)
  • Act III, 'Mein lieber Schwan... O Elsa! Nur ein Jahr an deiner Seite' (Lohengrin's Farewell)

Contents

Performance history

The first production of Lohengrin was in Weimar, Germany on 28 August 1850 at the Staatskapelle Weimar under the direction of Franz Liszt, a close friend and early supporter of Wagner. Liszt chose the date in honour of Weimar's most famous citizen, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born on 28 August 1749.[1] It was an immediate popular success.

The opera's first performance abroad was in Riga on 5 February 1855. The Austrian premiere took place at the Burgtheater on 19 August 1859 with Róza Csillag as Ortrud. The work was produced in Monaco for the first time at the National Theatre on 16 June 1867 with Heinrich Vogl in the title role and Mathilde Mallinger as Elsa. Malinger sang Elsa again for the work's premiere at the Berlin State Opera's on 6 April 1869. The Belgium premiere of the opera was given at La Monnaie on 22 March 1870 with Étienne Troy as Friedrich of Telramund and Feliciano Pons as Heinrich der Vogler.[2]

The United States premiere of Lohengrin took place at the Stadt Theater at The Bowery in New York City on 3 April 1871.[3] Conducted by Adolf Neuendorff, the cast included Theodor Habelmann as Lohengrin, Luise Garay-Lichtmay as Elsa, Marie Frederici as Ortrud, Adolf Franosch as Heinrich and Edward Vierling as Telramund.[4] The first performance in Italy took place seven months later at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 1 November 1871 in an Italian translation by operatic baritone Salvatore Marchesi. It was notably the first performance of any Wagner opera in Italy. Angelo Mariani conducted the performance which starred Italo Campanini as Lohengrin, Bianca Blume as Elsa, Maria Löwe Destin as Ortrud, Pietro Silenzi as Telramund, and Giuseppe Galvani as Heinrich der Vogler.[2]

Lohengrin's Russian premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theatre on 5 February 1873 in a double billing with the premiere of three scenes from Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (the Inn Scene, Scene in Marina's Boudoir, and Scene in the Garden of Mniszech's Castle). Eduard Nápravník conducted the performance which featured Fjodor Petrovich Kommissarievskij as Lohengrin, Julia Fjodorovna Platonova as Elsa, Darhija Mikhajlovna Leonova as Ortrud, and Osip Afanasievich Petrov as Heinrich der Vogler. La Scala produced the opera for the first time the following month on 30 March with Campanini as Lohengrin, Gabrielle Krauss as Elsa, Philippine von Edelsberg as Ortrud, Victor Maurel as Friedrich, and Gian Pietro Milesi as Heinrich.[2]

The United Kingdom premiere of Lohengrin took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 8 May 1875 using the Italian translation by Marchesi. Auguste Vianesi conducted the performance which featured Ernesto Nicolini as Lohengrin, Emma Albani as Elsa, Anna D'Angeri as Ortruda, Maurel as Friedrich, and Wladyslaw Seideman as Heinrich. The opera's first performance in Australia took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Melbourne on 18 August 1877. The Metropolitan Opera mounted the opera for the first time on November 7, 1883 during the company's inaugral season. Sung in Italian, Campanini portrayed the title role with Christina Nilsson as Elsa, Emmy Fursch-Madi as Ortrud, Giuseppe Kaschmann as Telramund, Franco Novara as Heinrich, and Auguste Vianesi conducting.[2]

Lohengrin was first publicly performed in France at the Eden-Théâtre in Paris on 30 April 1887 in a French translation by Charles Nuitter. Conducted by Charles Lamoureux, the performance starred Ernest Van Dyck as the title hero, Fidès Devriès as Elsa, Marthe Duvivier as Ortrud, Emil Blauwaert as Telramund, and Félix-Adolphe Couturier as Heinrich. There was however an 1881 French performance given as a Benefit, in the Cercle de la Méditerranée Salon at Nice, organized by Sophie Cruvelli, in which she took the role of Elsa.[5] The opera received its Canadian premiere at the opera house in Vancouver on 9 February 1891 with Emma Juch as Elsa. The Palais Garnier staged the work for the first time the following 16 September with Van Dyck as Lohengrin, Rose Caron as Elsa, Caroline Fiérens-Peters as Ortrude, Maurice-Arnold Renaud as Telramund, and Charles Douaillier as Heinrich.[2]

The first Chicago performance of the opera took place at the Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University on 9 November 1891. Performed in Italian, the production starred Jean De Reszke as the title hero, Emma Eames as Elsa, and Édouard De Reszke as Heinrich.[2]

Instrumentation

The instrumentation is quite extensive for an orchestra of 1850. The work calls for:

3 flutes and 1 piccolo (also 3rd flute) 3 oboes and English horn (also 3rd oboe) 3 clarinets and bass clarinet (also 3rd clarinet) 3 bassoons

4 horns 3 trumpets 3 trombones 1 tuba

Violins (1 and 2) Violas Cellos Double basses Harp

2 pairs of timpani cymbals triangle tambourine

There are also parts for offstage and onstage instruments. They are as follows: Act 1 – 4 trumpets Act 2 – Scene 1 – piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpano, and cymbals 3rd scene – 4 trumpets 4th scene – 4 trumpets 5th scene – 10 trumpets, organ Act 3 – Scene 1 – 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, triangle, harp 2nd scene – 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 3rd scene – 12 trumpets, tenor drums

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 28 August 1850
(Conductor: Franz Liszt)
Lohengrin tenor Carl Beck
Elsa of Brabant soprano Rosa von Milde-Agthe
Ortrud, Telramund's wife mezzo-soprano Fastlinger
Friedrich of Telramund, a Count of Brabant baritone Hans von Milde
Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler) bass Höfer
The King's Herald baritone August Pätsch
Four Noblemen of Brabant tenors, basses
Four Pages sopranos, altos
Duke Gottfried, Elsa's brother silent Hellstedt
Saxon, Thuringian, and Brabantian counts and nobles, ladies of honor, pages, vassals, serfs

Synopsis

Place: Antwerp, on the Scheldt.
Time: 10th century
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Act 1

Illustration from the London première

King Henry the Fowler has arrived in Brabant where he has assembled the German tribes in order to expel the Hungarians from his dominions. He also needs to settle a dispute between Count Telramund, regent and guardian for the child Duke Gottfried of Brabant, and the young Duke's sister, Elsa. Gottfried has mysteriously disappeared and Telramund, incited by his wife Ortrud, accuses Elsa of murdering her brother and demands that she give Telramund the dukedom.

Elsa appears, surrounded by her attendants. Knowing herself to be innocent, she declares that she will submit to God's judgement through ordeal by combat. Telramund agrees enthusiastically. When the King asks who shall be her champion, Elsa describes a knight she has beheld in her dreams (Narrative: "Alone in dark days") and sinks to her knees, praying for God to send her relief.

Twice the Herald sounds the horn in summons, without response. Then Elsa herself makes the call. A boat drawn by a swan appears on the river and in it stands a knight in shining armour. He disembarks and dismisses the swan before respectfully greeting the king and asks Elsa if she will have him as her champion. Elsa kneels in front of him and places her honour in his keeping. He asks but one thing in return for his service: she is never to ask him his name or where he has come from. Elsa agrees to this.

Telramund's people advise him to withdraw because he cannot prevail against magic, but he proudly refuses and the combat area is prepared. The company prays to the one "Herr und Gott" for victory for the one whose cause is just. Ortrud, a pagan woman, does not join the prayer of the monotheists. The combat commences. The unknown knight defeats Telramund but grants him his life. Taking Elsa by the hand, he declares her innocent and asks for her hand in marriage. The crowd exits, cheering and celebrating, and Ortrud and Telramund are left to lament their defeat.

Act 2

Johanna Jachmann-Wagner as Ortrud, ca. 1860

It is night in the courtyard outside the cathedral. Telramund and Ortrud, banished, listen unhappily to the distant party-music. Ortrud, a pagan witch (daughter of Radbod Duke of Frisia), tries to revive Telramund's courage, assuring him that her people (and he) are destined to rule the kingdom again. She plots to induce Elsa to violate the mysterious knight's only condition.

When Elsa appears on the balcony in the twilight before dawn she hears Ortrud lamenting and pities her. While Elsa descends to open the castle door, Ortrud prays to her pagan gods, Wodan and Freija, for malice, guile, and cunning, in order to deceive Elsa and restore pagan rule to the region. When Elsa appears, Ortrud warns her that since she knows nothing about her rescuer, he could leave her any time, as suddenly as he came.

The sun rises and the people assemble. the Herald announces that the king has offered to make the unnamed knight the Duke of Brabant; however, the Knight has declined the title, and prefers to be known only as "Leader of Brabant".[6] The Herald further announces that the Knight will lead the people to glorious new conquests. Four knights quietly express misgivings to each other. Telramund appears, and, concealing himself from the crowd, draws these four knights aside and assures them that he will regain his position and stop the Knight, by accusing him of witchcraft.

As Elsa and her attendants are about to enter the church, Ortrud appears, clad in magnificent attire, and challenges Elsa to tell who her husband is, and to explain why anyone should follow him. Telramund also enters. He pleads to the king that his defeat in combat was invalid because the Knight did not give his name; trial by combat is traditionally open only to established citizens. The Knight refuses to reveal his identity and claims that only one person in the world has the right to know his origin – Elsa and Elsa alone. Elsa, though visibly shaken and uncertain, assures him of her confidence. The King supports him too, and the Knight and Elsa enter the church together.

Act 3

Joseph O'Mara in the title role, 1894–1895

The bridal chamber. Elsa and her new husband are ushered in with the well-known bridal chorus, and the couple express their love for each other. Ortrud's words, however, are impressed upon Elsa, and, despite his warning, she asks her husband the fatal question. Telramund and his four recruits rush into the room in order to attack the strange knight. Instead it is Telramund who is slain. The Knight sorrowfully turns to Elsa and asks her to follow him to the king, to whom he will now reveal the mystery.

Change of scene: On the banks of the Scheldt, as in Act I. The troops arrive equipped for war. Telramund's corpse is brought in and the stranger defends his slaying of Telramund. One thing remains – he must now disclose his identity to the king and Elsa. He tells the story of the Holy Grail, and reveals himself as Lohengrin, Knight of the Holy Grail and son of King Parsifal. The time for his return has arrived and he has only tarried to prove Elsa innocent.

As he sadly bids farewell to his beloved bride, the swan reappears. Lohengrin prays that Elsa may recover her lost brother; and indeed, the swan dives into the river and appears again in the form of young Gottfried, Elsa's brother, who had been turned into the swan by Ortrud's magic arts.

A dove descends from heaven, and, taking the place of the swan at the head of the boat, leads Lohengrin to the castle of the Holy Grail. Elsa is stricken with grief, however, and falls to the ground dead, longing for her beloved.

Parody

In 1907, Victor Herbert produced a one-act parody of Lohengrin called The Magic Knight (q.v.)

Recordings

Score

Full score downloadable at IMSLP

References

  1. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., 1954
  2. ^ a b c d e f Performance History of Lohengrin at amadeusonline.net
  3. ^ Gustav Kobbé, The Complete Opera Book (Putnam, London 1929 printing), p. 117. The first Academy performance was 23 March 1874 with Christine Nilsson, Cary, Italo Campanini and Del Puente (ibid.). See 'Wagner in the Bowery', Scribner's Monthly Magazine 1871, 214-16. New York Times for the Stadt Theater season 1871: [1]
  4. ^ New York Times 8 April 1871. [2]. See also Opera Gems.com, [3].
  5. ^ Elizabeth Forbes, 'Sophie Cruvelli' (short biography), [4]
  6. ^ The title Führer von Brabant is often altered to Schützer in performances since 1945, because the former title had acquired meanings unforeseen by either Lohengrin or Wagner. Führer formerly meant 'Leader' or 'Guide'.

Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

External links


Simple English


Lohengrin is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. Wagner wrote both the words and the music. The story comes from an old German legend.

Some of the music has become very famous, especially the music from Act III where Elsa & Lohengrin enter the bridal chamber. This music is called the Bridal Chorus. It is also popularly known as Here comes the Bride. It is very often played on the organ at the beginning of weddings.

Contents

Origins of the story

Lohengrin is a story written by an unknown German author. It is related to other stories that belong to the Knight of the Swan tradition.

Wagner’s opera is like a fairy tale. It immediately became very popular. The young King Ludwig II of Bavaria built a fairy-tale castle in the south of Germany and called it "Neuschwanstein," meaning: “New Swan Stone”. The King was very fond of Wagner’s music and gave him a lot of money to help him with his next operas, especially for the cycle known as the Ring of the Nibelung.

It was first performed in Weimar, Germany on 28 August 1850 with Franz Liszt conducting. Liszt chose to conduct it on that particular day because 28 August was the birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who had lived in Weimar.

Wagner did not hear the first performance. In May 1849 he had run away from Germany because he had been involved in a revolution. He fled to Switzerland. He did not hear his opera Lohengrin until 15 May 1861 when he saw a performance in Vienna.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 28 August 1850
(Conductor: Franz Liszt)
Lohengrin tenor Carl Beck
Elsa of Brabant soprano Rosa von Milde-Agthe
Ortrud, Telramund's wife mezzo-soprano Fastlinger
Friedrich of Telramund, a Count of Brabant baritone Hans von Milde
Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler) bass Höfer
The King's Herald baritone August Pätsch
Four Noblemen of Brabant tenors, basses
Four Pages sopranos, altos
Duke Gottfried, Elsa's brother silent Hellstedt
Saxon, Thuringian, and Brabantian counts and nobles, ladies of honor, pages, vassals, serfs

The story

Place: The story takes place in Antwerp (in today’s Belgium), on the river Scheldt.
Time: 10th century

Act 1

The opera starts with a prelude played by the orchestra. It describes an angel coming down from the sky with the Holy Grail.

King Henry the Fowler has arrived in Brabant. He is sitting by the banks of the river Scheldt. Around him are Counts and nobles of the Saxon army. Opposite them are Counts and nobles of Brabant. King Henry explains that he had been fighting Hungarians who came to invade his country. They had agreed not to fight for nine years, but these nine years were now coming to an end and his men would have to fight again. The King wants the Brabantines to help them. He asks one of their bravest knights, Friedrich von Telramund, to explain why the Brabantines are arguing amongst themselves.

Count Telramund explains that the Duke of Brabant had recently died. As he lay dying, he had asked Telramund to look after his daughter Elsa and his son Gottfried. One day the two children had gone into the forest and Elsa had returned alone. The Duke tried to find out what had happened to Gottfried. The Duke’s wife Ortrud persuades the Duke to accuse Elsa of murdering her brother. The duke then makes himself the king of Brabant.

Elsa knows that she is innocent and asks God to be her judge. She needs a knight to fight for her. Telramund agrees to fight him.

The second time that the Herald calls the unknown knight, a miracle happens. A boat, pulled by a swan, appears. A knight in shining armour stands in the boat. He gets out of the boat, tells the swan that it can go, and then he greets the king. He asks Elsa if he can be her knight. Elsa kneels in front of him and asks for his help. He says that he will serve her, but he asks one thing: that she should never ask him what his name is or where he comes from. Elsa agrees. Everyone, except for Ortrud, prays and the fight starts. The unknown knight wins, but then he spares Telramund’s life. The unknown knight now takes Elsa’s hand and asks her to marry him.

Act 2

The action takes place in the courtyard outside the cathedral. It is night. Telramund and Ortrud have been told to go away. Ortrud is a heathen witch, the daughter of Radbod, the Duke of Frisia. She tries to make Telramund brave again. She is going to persuade Elsa to ask the unknown knight what is name is.

When Elsa comes onto the balcony in the morning she sees Ortrud and feels sorry for her. An announcement is made that the king has decided to give the unnamed knight the title of Duke of Brabant. He says he does not want the title, and prefers to be known just as "Guardian of Brabant."

The King, the Knight, Elsa and her attendants are about to go into the church. Ortrud, beautifully dressed, appears and says that the knight is a magician. Telramund appears and says that the result of the fight he had did not count, because the knight has not told his name. The knight still refuses to tell his name.

Act 3

The bedroom of the young couple. Elsa and her new husband enter to the well-known music called the Bridal Chorus. The couple say they love one another. However, Elsa still remembers how Ortrud was pressing her to ask the Knight his name. She asks him who he is. Telramund and four of his friends rush into the room to attack the knight, but Telramund is killed instead. The Knight is very sad and tells Elsa they will now go to the King and he will tell him who he is.

The scene changes to the banks of the river, as in Act I. The army is ready for war. Telramund’s dead body is carried in. The Knight explains why he killed Telramund. He tells the story of the Holy Grail and says that he is Lohengrin, Knight of the Holy Grail and son of King Parsifal. He says that he now has to return to his home. He had only stayed so long so that he could prove that Elsa was innocent.

Sadly he says goodbye to his young wife. The swan comes again. Lohengrin prays that Elsa may get her lost brother back. The swan dives into the river and appears again in the form of Gottfried, Elsa’s brother. He had been turned into a swan by the evil magic of Ortrud.

A dove comes down from heaven, and takes the place of the swan at the head of the boat. It takes Lohengrin to the castle of the Holy Grail. Elsa is so upset that she dies.

References

"Wagner Nights" by Ernest Newman (1949)


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