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Work data
Original title: Lohengrin
August von Heckel Lohengrin.jpg
Shape: thoroughly composed
Original language: German
Music: Richard Wagner
Libretto : Richard Wagner
Literary source: Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach
Premiere: August 28, 1850
Place of premiere: Weimar , Grand Ducal Court Theater
Playing time: approx. 3 ½ hours
  • 1st act: approx. 1:05 hours
  • 2nd act: approx. 1:20 hours
  • 3rd act: approx. 1:05 hours
Place and time of the action: Antwerp , early 10th century
  • Heinrich der Vogler, German King ( bass )
  • Lohengrin ( tenor )
  • Elsa von Brabant ( soprano )
  • Friedrich von Telramund, Brabant Count ( baritone )
  • Ortrud , Friedrich's wife ( dramatic soprano or mezzo-soprano )
  • The King's Callers (baritone)
  • Four Brabant nobles (two tenors, two basses)
  • Four noble boys (two sopranos, two altos )
  • Duke Gottfried, Elsa's brother (silent role)
  • Choir

Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts by the German composer Richard Wagner . It is set against a historical background ( Brabant in the first half of the 10th century). The world premiere took place on August 28, 1850 in Weimar under the direction of Franz Liszt in the Grand Ducal Court Theater , with Karl Beck singing “ Lohengrin ” . The basis of the material is the figure of Loherangrîn in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Middle High German verse epic Parzival . Wagner also used the Lohengrin epic (unknown author around 1288) in the edition by Joseph Görres (1813), his prose retelling in CTL Lucas “Ueber den Krieg von Wartburg” (1838), as well as some of the brothers’s “German sagas” Grimm (1816) and other collections of legends and fairy tales.

Literary templates

The literary figure of Loherangrin appears as a side figure in the last chapter of the medieval verse epic Parzival Wolfram von Eschenbach. The Grail Knight Loherangrin, son of the Grail King Parzival, is sent on a swan to the Duchess of Brabant as a helper and protector. As a condition of his help, she must never ask his name. When she breaks his ban, he has to leave her. Wagner took up the figure and expanded the prohibition of questions to the core of a story that depicts the relationship between the divine sphere and earthly vale of misery and between early medieval Christianity and the Germanic world of gods. At the same time Wagner tried to weave elements of the Greek tragedy into the plot. He wrote about his Lohengrin plan in the messages to my friends :

Who doesn't know “ Zeus and Semele ”? God loves a human woman and approaches her in human form. The lover, however, learns that she does not recognize the lover according to his reality, and now demands that the husband should reveal himself to her in the full sensual appearance of his being. Zeus knows that the real sight of him must destroy them. He himself suffers from this consciousness, from the compulsion to have to fulfill the desires of the lovers and to spoil them with it. He executes his own death sentence when the splendor of his divine appearance destroys the beloved. Is not the man who longs for God destroyed?


With Lohengrin , Wagner created the new operatic form of the well- composed musical drama. The composition is not divided into individual numbers, but is played through act by act without interruption. Wagner sets himself apart from the conventional structure of the number opera with arias , recitatives and choral parts . Nevertheless, large aria-like or ensemble-like fragments are still preserved in Lohengrin , for example Elsa's dream story and Lohengrin's story of the Grail , which are still reminiscent of the form of the classical solo aria .

In order to be able to translate the mental life of the stage characters into clearly legible musical motifs, Wagner used leitmotifs in Lohengrin (e.g. the Grail and the prohibition of questions).


Prelude and Act One

The prelude represents the aura of the Grail . The music begins with soft, high-pitched, spherical string sounds, swells up to a powerful climax and disappears again in spherical pianissimo. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that this music was "blue, with an opiate, narcotic effect" .

At the beginning of the first act, Heinrich der Vogler sits on a meadow on the bank of the Scheldt under a court oak to hold the army show and court day in the Principality of Brabant . He announced his intention to gather an army for a war against the Hungarians , in which Brabant should also take part with soldiers.

“Whether east or west, that applies equally to everyone.
Whatever German land is, provide battle troops.
Then probably nobody will abuse the German Reich any more. "

He also learned that a dispute over the succession had broken out in the ruling house. He therefore calls Friedrich von Telramund to testify in court. This is the tutor of Elsas and Gottfried , the children of the late Duke of Brabant. Telramund says that Gottfried disappeared on a walk with his sister in the forest. He therefore accuses her of fratricide, even though she was actually promised to be his bride. He himself married Ortrud , the last descendant of the Frisian prince Radbod . Therefore, he also claims the dignity of Brabant:

“I speak of this country rightly for myself,
since I am the closest to the Duke's blood.
My wife in addition from the sex that
once gave these lands their princes. "

Opera Oslo 2015
Lohengrin 8420-Peralta.jpg
Lohengrin 7706-Peralta.jpg
Lohengrin 9123b-Michelides.jpg
Lohengrin 7731-Peralta.jpg
Lohengrin 9341b-Michelides.jpg
Director: Johannes Erath , stage: Kaspar Glarner , costumes: Christian Lacroix

When asked about the act by the king, Elsa only says “My poor brother” . She explains that a knight appeared to her in a dream who would protect and defend her (Elsa's dream story: "Lonely in gloomy days" ).

King Heinrich orders a court fight as a divine judgment , basically a farce, because the knights present refuse to fight Telramund (“We fight only for you”) . When asked who should represent her in battle, Elsa says that she will be supported by the divinely sent warrior whom she saw in a dream.

At first no fighter for Elsa answers the royal call of the fighters. Only when she is praying does a boat appear that is being pulled by a swan. A strange knight in light armor stands on it. This not only wants to fight for Elsa, but also asks for her hand. However, both are linked to a condition:

"You should never ask me,
nor worry about knowing
where I came from,
nor what my name and type."

The knight announces to the assembled that Elsa of Brabant is innocent. A duel ensues in which the stranger defeats the Count of Telramund. The stranger refrains from killing Telramund ("Through God's victory your life is now mine - I will give it to you, may you consecrate it to repentance") . To general cheers, Elsa sinks into her savior's arms.

second elevator

The day after the duel dawned. Outside the palace, Count Friedrich von Telramund laments the loss of his honor and accuses his wife of having seduced him into making false statements against Elsa. Ortrud denounces him cowardice towards the foreign knight, in whom she by no means sees a hero sent by God, but a being "who is strong through magic" . Ortrud convinces the reluctant Telramund ("You wild seer, how do you mysteriously enchant my spirit") that he was wronged and that the stranger could only win the duel with the help of a spell. The two decide to trick Elsa into asking her hero the forbidden question about “Nam 'and Kind” . In the event that this fails, Ortrud advises the use of force against the alien hero ("Jed 'being, who is strong through magic, is only torn from the smallest member of his body, must soon show himself passed out as it is!") .

Shortly afterwards they see Elsa on the balcony of their bower. Telramund withdraws at the urging of his wife. Ortrud appears to be remorseful towards Elsa, who is about to get married, and manages to arouse Elsa's pity and to be admitted into the palace. Triumphantly she appeals to the "profaned gods" Wodan and Freia for their support. Elsa is innocently willing to forgive everyone, including Ortrud. In a confidential conversation in front of the gate, Ortrud suggests that it could be a dark fate out of which the stranger is forced to hide his name. Elsa rejects all doubts and takes Ortrud into the palace.

A musical interlude leads to the break of day. Trumpets sound from the towers. The king's warriors summon the people of Brabant and announce that Telramund, as required by the law, "because he dared to fight God unfaithfully" , had been put under a spell. The “strange man sent by God” is to be enfeoffed with the Duchy of Brabant: “But the hero does not want to be called a duke; you shall call him 'protectors of Brabant' ” . The warrior announces that the stranger will marry Elsa on the same day in order to lead the Brabantians the next day and follow King Heinrich on the campaign.

On the fringes of the scene, four Brabant nobles express their displeasure over participation in Heinrich's campaign against a distant threat. Telramund appears and announces that he can prevent the stranger from taking part in the campaign and that he has falsified the judgment of God with a spell. The four nobles drag Telramund into the church.

The bridal procession with Elsa moves out of the castle towards the cathedral. He has just reached the steps in front of the portal when Ortrud is standing in for Elsa and demands that she go first on the grounds that she comes from a respected gender, while Elsa is not even able to give her husband's name. Elsa rejects her, referring to the imperial ban to which her husband has succumbed. King Heinrich appears with the stranger, and Ortrud has to back away from him.

The wedding procession rearranges itself; then the outlawed Telramund appears and accuses the stranger of magic, but the complaint is dismissed. The outlaw persuades Elsa to ask the forbidden question, but Elsa struggles to reaffirm her confidence in her hero. The wedding procession moves into the cathedral with the stranger and the unsettled Elsa.

third elevator

The newly wed couple move into the bridal chamber while singing (bridal march Treulich led ). The two of them have their first confidential conversation. Elsa says that she would stick to the unknown husband even if Ortrud's suspicions were correct. He wants to reassure her and points out his high origin, which he gave up for her ( "The only thing that deserves my sacrifice, I have to see in your love" and "I come from splendor and delight" ), which makes Elsa even more fearful of not being enough for him and of losing him one day. And so she asks the knight for his name. At that moment Telramund enters the room. A fight ensues in the course of which Telramund is slain by the stranger.

In the last scene the people are gathered to bid farewell to the assembled army and King Henry. The four nobles bring Telramund's body to the king. The stranger accuses Telramund of ambush and Elsa of infidelity. She asked him the forbidden question about his name and his origin, and he now had to answer it. He could therefore remain in Brabant neither as husband nor as a military leader. Then he describes his origin. He tells of the Grail Palace of Montsalvat and the divine power that is given to the guardians of the Grail as long as they fought for justice without being recognized. But if they were recognized, they would have to leave those protected by them. He himself is the son of the Grail King Parzival , and his name is Lohengrin:

“In a distant land, aloof from your steps,
lies a castle called Monsalvat;
a bright temple stands there in the midst,
so precious as nothing is known on earth;

inside a vessel of miraculous blessings
is guarded there as the highest sanctuary.
It was
brought down by a host of angels to cultivate the purest of human beings .

Every year a dove approaches from heaven
to strengthen its miraculous power again:
It is called the Grail , and blessedly pure faith
gives itself through it to its knighthood.

Who is now chosen to serve the Grail, he will
arm with supernatural power;
him every evil deception is lost, when he sees it, it gives way to the night of death;

even whoever sends him to a distant country and is
named a champion for the virtue of justice
will not be deprived of his holy power, he
will remain unrecognized as his knight there.

As noble as it is, the grail's blessing,
revealed it must flee the lay eyes;
therefore you should not have doubts of the knight
, if you recognize him - then he must pull away from you.

Now hear how I pay for a forbidden question:
From the Grail I was sent to you:
My father Parzival wears his crown,
his knight I - am called Lohengrin. "

The king would defeat the Hungarians even without him.

"Yes, great King, let me prophesy to you: You pure is bestowed a great victory."

Turning to Elsa, Lohengrin reports that it would have only taken one year and Gottfried would have returned to Brabant.

Despite Elsa's pleading and the king's urging, Lohengrin cannot stay. The swan with the boat returns and takes Lohengrin with it. Ortrud exclaims in terrible triumph that she must have recognized the swan as the missing Gottfried, whom she herself enchanted.

"From the little chain that I wound around him, I could see who that swan was: it is the heir of Brabant!"

At Lohengrin's prayer, Gottfried is already being redeemed before the end of the year. The boat in which Lohengrin is leaving, infinitely sad (stage direction), moves away. Ortrud sinks dead to the ground with a scream, Elsa dies of mental exhaustion, the people (chorus) express their horror “Woe! Oh! " Known.


The Lohengrin House in Graupa

The first idea for the opera came to Wagner in Paris in 1842: Through a treatise by CTL Lucas on the war of singers at the Wartburg , he also became aware of the Lohengrin epic and the associated Parzival poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Wagner also took individual features of the work from other sources. The conflict between Elsa and Ortrud in front of the cathedral is modeled on the quarrel between the two queens in the Song of the Nibelungs and the prohibition of questions is borrowed from Greek mythology (Zeus, Semele). In the summer of 1845, during a spa stay in Marienbad , Wagner wrote down the draft for the opera and immediately began working on the textbook. In May 1846 he started his musical work, the composition sketch had already been completed by the end of July, and the full score of the work was completed on April 28, 1848. In order to have some peace and quiet for the composition, Wagner, who at that time was still court music director in Dresden , withdrew for a few weeks to the Schäfer'sche Gut , a typical Saxon large farmhouse of the time, in Graupa near the town of Pirna . During carefree hikes in nature, u. a. in nearby Liebethal , he found peace and distraction from his material worries. In Graupa, the Schäfer'sche Gut has been converted into a Richard Wagner Museum and the largest Wagner monument has been erected in nearby Liebethaler Grund .

Historical background and notes on interpretation

Lohengrin is Wagner's last work to be called “Romantic Opera”, and only in it do history and myth collide directly with one another. The mythical event is embedded in a historical framework and can be dated precisely to the year 933, when King Heinrich I defeated the Hungarians near Ritteburg an der Unstrut. Heinrich's address in the first act refers to the speech of the king to the Saxon people handed down by Widukind von Corvey. Wagner relocated it to Antwerp in order to be able to connect the historical events with the legend of the swan knight, which originated in the Lower Rhine region. At that time there was no duchy of Brabant. Since Heinrich I was able to unite all the quarreling East Franconian tribes during this campaign, he was revered by the liberal-democratic national movement as a pioneer of a unified German empire during Wagner's time and was brought into position against the reactionary policies of Metternich . Wagner even anachronistically calls Heinrich "German King", as a stage character he speaks of the "German Empire", both titles that did not yet exist in 933, Heinrich I was rather "King of the Eastern Franks".

Since Wagner took part in the revolution in Dresden on the radical democratic side in 1848/49 , this connection is a key to the interpretation of the opera, as is Wagner's theoretical writings, which were written at the same time as Lohengrin. The mixture of myth and history can already be found in the book “Die Wibelungen. Weltgeschichte aus der Sage ”(1848), in which Wagner received the then current Indo-European linguistic research. In the “Wibelungen” mythical traditions do not serve as a starting point for the reconstruction of historical events, but the historical events are, conversely, only the raw material with which Wagner wants to penetrate the timeless, mythical core of the “pure human”. In addition, he tries to demonstrate a paradoxical, namely “cosmopolitan” nationalism among the Germans: in the Germans the supranational, the “purely human” has been preserved most purely, which is why Wagner promised himself the regeneration of Europe from the Germans in the run-up to the revolution.

Furthermore, Wagner's draft for the play "Jesus of Nazareth" belongs to Lohengrin's conceptual environment, because here the "historical Jesus" is separated from the "Christ of Faith" and given a revolutionary touch. Ludwig Feuerbach's materialistic writing The Essence of Christianity and David Friedrich Strauss ' The Life of Jesus were his key words here. The Christian symbolism of Lohengrin must be seen from this perspective : Wagner places Christian symbols (e.g. the Grail) alongside pagan myths on an equal footing, they are archetypes of humanity as a whole , as in Feuerbach's projected longing . In 1853, Wagner explained the Lohengrin prelude and the origin of the Grail myth accordingly as a projection surface for human desires "from the dreary concern for profit and property, the only organizer of all world traffic ..."

All of this, the romantic Indology , Feuerbach's materialistic criticism of religion , the alleged special role of the German "primitive people" (as it was already said by Fichte and "Turnvater" Jahn ) and the criticism of capitalism from Vormärz (Wilhelm Weitling, Marx and Engels) go to Wagner a strange mixture: capitalism, egotistical power-state thinking and Christianity, deformed by historical developments, led to a situation in Wagner's writings from this period, the equivalent of which in Lohengrin is the political crisis, which the audience at the beginning of the opera in the leaderless found duchy of Brabant. It requires the political intervention of Henry I and the mythical intervention of the Swan Knight. The latter is not an all-round positive figure for him and fails - like the popular hero Rienzi before him - because of an intrigue engineered by Ortrud. This suggests the political pessimism of the future revolutionary Wagner. Ortrud, with her archaic belief in gods, may represent a symbol of the political reaction in the Vormärz, Elsa's or Lohengrin's failure anticipates the failure of the political utopias of 1848/49.

Duration (using the example of the Bayreuth Festival)

At the Bayreuth Festival it was customary to document the length of the individual lifts, but not all years were recorded there. The type of voice and the temperament of the singers also influenced the duration. The times mentioned here only include performances for which all three acts were documented.

Overview (1891 to 1973)
Lohengrin 1st act 2nd act 3rd act Total duration
Hours. conductor Hours. conductor Hours. conductor Hours. conductor
Shortest duration 0:58 Alberto Erede
Silvio Varviso
1:13 Wolfgang Sawallisch 0:55 Alberto Erede 3:07 Alberto Erede
Longest duration 1:16 Felix Mottl 1:29 Heinz Tietjen 1:12 Felix Mottl
Heinz Tietjen
3:52 Heinz Tietjen
Span * 0:18 (31%) 0:16 (22%) 0:17 (31%) 0:45 (24%)

* Not always representative due to the staging of different versions. Percentages refer to the shortest duration.

Amalie Materna as Ortrud, Vienna around 1885
Playing time with individual conductors of the Bayreuth Festival (in hours)
year conductor 1st act 2nd act 3rd act Total duration
1894 Felix Mottl 1:10 1:22 1:09 3:41
1:08 1:25 1:12 3:45
1:11 1:23 1:06 3:40
1908 Siegfried Wagner 1:09 1:23 1:08 3:40
1:07 1:20 1:05 3:32
1936 Wilhelm Furtwängler 1:01 1:19 1:05 3:25
1937 Heinz Tietjen 1:11 1:29 1:12 3:52
1953 Joseph Keilberth 1:06 1:22 1:07 3:35
1954 Eugene Jochum 1:04 1:21 1:05 3:30
1:02 1:20 1:03 3:25
1958 André Cluytens 1:02 1:15 1:00 3:17
1959 Lovro from Matačić 1:04 1:21 1:03 3:28
Heinz Tietjen 1:03 1:21 1:03 3:27
1960 Ferdinand Leitner 1:03 1:15 1:03 3:21
Lorin Maazel 1:02 1:17 1:01 3:20
1962 Wolfgang Sawallisch 0:59 1:13 0:58 3:10
1967 Rudolf Kempe 1:02 1:23 1:00 3:25
Berislav Klobučar 1:00 1:20 0:59 3:19
1968 Alberto Erede 0:58 1:14 0:55 3:07
1971 Silvio Varviso 0:58 1:19 1:01 3:18

Recordings (selection)

In addition, the most famous excerpts from well-known conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler , Hans Knappertsbusch , Herbert von Karajan and Karl Muck were recorded.


Johann Nestroy wrote the parody Lohengrin , which premiered on March 31, 1859 at the Carltheater in Vienna . This parody disappointed audiences and contemporary critics, and modern interpretations tend to view it as one of Nestroy's weakest works.

The opera is the namesake of a chocolate bar that is very well known in Norway . The bar is one of Norway's longest selling confectionary and was declared a national treasure in 2009 . In 1911, the company Freia , whose name goes back to a character from the opera Das Rheingold , agreed an exclusive contract with the theater on the occasion of a production of the opera at the Oslo National Theater. The chocolate was offered to the audience at the Norwegian premiere on December 7, 1911 and used as a prop on the stage. According to the contract, the candy was only sold at the National Theater until 1914 and only then went into general trade.

A satirical description of an experience of the opera in the Mannheim Nationaltheater - "How Wagner Operas Bang Along" - is often quoted by Wagner opponents - comes from Mark Twain from his travelogue Stroll through Europe published in 1880 .

Heinrich Mann satirized the reception of the opera by a German-national audience in the late 19th century in the fifth chapter of his novel Der Untertan (1918). "[...] Wagner's popularity has never been revealed more deeply than here in a 'Lohengrin' performance, which is full of funny connections to German politics," wrote Kurt Tucholsky on March 20, 1919 in the Weltbühne (No. 13, p. 317).

Charlie Chaplin uses the prelude to Wagner's Lohengrin as background music for two famous scenes in his film The Great Dictator (1940): when the dictator Hynkel dances with the globe, and during the final address of the hairdresser (also played by Chaplin). When dancing with the globe, the overture breaks off suddenly before the climax and the globe balloon bursts. In the closing address, however, the overture reaches its climax and comes to a musically satisfactory conclusion.

See also

Web links

Commons : Lohengrin  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Lohengrin in the digital archive of the Thuringian State Archives
  2. The performance material of the world premiere is now in the University Archives / Thuringian State Music Archive Weimar (deposit: German National Theater, DNT 359)
  3. ^ Ludwig Eisenberg : Large biographical lexicon of the German stage in the XIX. Century . Published by Paul List , Leipzig 1903, p. 70
  4. A complete list of all of Wagner's sources in Martin Lade: Redeeming contradictions. Mythical reason and cosmopolitan nationalism of the young Wagner. Publication by the Cologne Opera on Richard Wagner's “Lohengrin”, directed by Klaus Maria Brandauer. Cologne Opera 2006, p. 14.
  5. ^ Digital text by Wolfram von Eschenbach: Parzival , Book XVI
  6. Martin Lade, ibid., Oper Köln 2006, p. 7ff.
  7. Martin Lade, ibid., Oper Köln 2006, pp. 37–45.
  8. Quoted from Martin Lade, ibid., Oper Köln 2006, p. 11.
  9. ^ Egon Voss: The conductors of the Bayreuth Festival, 1976, Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg; Documentation on Tannhäuser : p. 101
  10. So justified in Egon Voss (ibid.)
  11. Lohengrin ermer enn used address notification , March 16, 2009
  12. Lohengrin - chocolate. In: Store norske leksikon. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (Norwegian).
  13. Hanser edition vol. 6, p. 58 ff .; English version , online here Chapter X .