Richard Wagner, Lohengrin
Romantic opera in three acts
First performance: August 28, 1850 in Weimar

Broadcast Schedule

Broadcast: Thessaloniki, March 21, 2013
Duration: 4 hours and 15 minutes

17:00  Act I
18:06  Intermission- 15 min.
18:21  Act II
19:50  Intermission- 15 min.
20:05  Act III
21:20  End of Broadcast

*Academic course starts 30′ prior to broadcast


The opera Lohengrin (1850) is the third of the so-called “romantic operas” by R. Wagner which were defined later as “music dramas”. Literary sources of the libretto, written as always by the composer, are the medieval poems of the Arthourian cycle, particularly the one entitled Parsifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach.Τhe story associated wuth the arrival of the knight Lohengrin, at the Duchy of Brabant in order to save Elsa from the false accusation of fratricide and his failure in doing this noble act.

It is the most bitter and pessimistic story, through which Wagner presents the mediocrity of the world and the human inability to accept and embrace the ideal of justice. Regarding musical composition, the famous Wagner’s guiding motif (leitmotiv) contributes to shaping a strictly symbolic and psychological dimension to the play.

Source: Opera oberta

Text editing/Translation: Working group



Source: Opera oberta

The creation of the play

1840 – 1841

During his stay in Paris,Wagner for the first time comes into contact with the myth of Lohengrin, after reading a study titled Uber den Krieg von Warburg  (“About the war of Warburg”) by C.T. L. Lukas.


Impressed by the dramaturgical patterns and dramatic ideals of the myth decides in July to occupy himself with Lohengrin and therefore analyses the Saga of Parsifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1813 edition, with a preface by the philologist Joseph Görres) which contains the legend of Lohengrin. However, the myth of Lohengrin, Knight With the Swan, had survived in various versions in Germany and France since the troubadour and «Minnesänger» Middle Ages (such as poems by Albrecht von Scharfenberg, Conrad von Würzburg and the French version of Chrétien de Troyes: Perceval). Notably in Bavaria had survived the so-called “Bavarian Lohengrin” because the manuscript of the poem was found there. As a source for the formation of the libretto Wagner also used the German Myths (Deutsche Sagen) by brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. In this project he found the legendary «Lohengrin in Brabant», whose case was the basis for the development of Wagner’s opera. On August 3 in Marienbad Wagner completes the first prose sketch of Lohengrin. On November 27 completes the libretto in Dresden.


The composition of Lohengrin continues at a steady pace. On July 30 Wagner finishes the music sketches and on September 9, in Dresden, begins to deal with the orchestral treatment of the third act, walking backwards, from the end to the beginning.


On March 5 the composer completes the orchestration of the third act. Between May 12 and June 8 he completes the orchestration of the first act, and from 18 June to 2 August orchestration of the second act. On August 28 Wagner completes the orchestral sketches of the overture.


On 28 April, Wagner completes the score of the opera.


On August 28, in Weimar, takes place its world premiere under the direction of Franz Liszt. Wagner was unable to attend as during 1849-1858 had fled to Switzerland and lived in exile in Zurich because of his participation in the Dresden uprising on May 1849.


Wiesbaden and Zurich premiere


Bremen, Würzburg, Mainz and Karlsruhe premieres.


Munich and Vienna premieres.


On 11 May Wagner attends Lohengrin’s premiere at Vienna’s court opera.

During the two decades 1870-1890 his opera enjoyed success and was produced in various places in Europe and USA.


By order of Ludwig II of Bavaria, Lohengrin took place again in Munich. This production served as a model for subsequent ones.


Lohengrin’s premiere at the Bayreuth festival.


 Evi Nika-Sampson, Richard Wagner-Lohengrin

 ed.  OMMA (Athens Consert Hall), 1998-1999

Translation: Working group

A summary of the play


Antwerp, the first half of the 10th century.

King Henry the Fowler has come to Brabant, in an attempt to raise an army to Hungarians face. He finds the duchy in fuss and without a leader. Above his death, Duke left his two children, Elsa and Gottfried under the supervision of Count Friedrich of Telramund, while giving him the right to marry his daughter. Elsa however rejected him, and he accused her for murdering her brother, in order to remain the only dominant in Brabant with her supposed secret lover. He even argues that for this reason he decided to marry Ortrud, the last descendant of the Radboud family, princes of the area before the spread of Christianity.

Τhe King calls Elsa on trial. She appears in a dreamlike trance state and instead of refuting the accusations, she is talking about a providential knight who will fight for her and prove her innocence. Telramund refuses to present evidence of the accusation against Elsa and demands to solve the issue with a duel. The first blare is left unanswered, but when it is repeated and while Elsa is praying along with other women, a boat appears in the river. A swan is dragging the boat and a knight in gleaming armor is standing into. The knight declares that he will duel with Friedrich to prove innocence of Elsa and he will be her husband under one condition: that Elza will never ask him what he is named and where he comes from. She accepts conditions, and the duel begins. Telramund defeated by state, but the knight gives him life. Elsa and her defender are driven to the fortress amid celebration.


While others celebrate Elsa’s innocence, Telramund and Ortrud sit on the steps of the temple. Friedrich accuses his wife for his misfortune, because it was her idea to accuse Elsa of his brother’s murder. She argues that they were defeated due to the magical powers of his opponent, which the second might lose if forced to reveal his name or has a part of his body cut. She convinces him that what is needed is a clever plan to force the knight to reveal his secret. When Elsa comes out on the balcony, Friedrich hides. Ortrud’s lament moves Elsa and gets convinced to take her into the women’s apartments. She envokes the ancient gods and asks them to help her avenge the Christians. She begins immediately undermining the faith of Elsa telling her that the knight will soon disappear in the same magical way in which he appeared.

The dawn finds people gathered in front of the temple. The preacher announces that Telramund has been banished, that marriage will be performed immediately and that the next day their army will join Brabant King’s against Hungarians under the leadership of the nameless knight. Four former followers of Telramund discuss about the new situation, when Friedrich appears in front of them and announces his intention of openly accusing his opponent of witchcraft. The four quickly hide him.

Elsa and her accompanies walk into the temple, when suddenly Ortrud intervenes and requires priority, while simultaneously slanders Elsa’s future husband. Turmoil is created which is interrupted by the King and his knighthood. Before they enter the church, Telramund shows, accuses the knight of witchcraft and demands to know his name and origin. The knight replies that only Elsa is entitled to ask this question, and the King agrees with him. Elsa struggles with doubts, but finally regains faith in the Savior and together they enter the church.


A solemn procession accompanies the couple in its bridal chamber, where they find themselves alone for the first time since they have met. The knight confesses his love to Elsa and tries to change the subject when she asks him about his origin. As she insists, he reminds her of the oath and reveals that he comes from a happy place. This reinforces the suspicion that someday he might abandon her, and because she is very troubled decides to make the forbidden question. At the same time, Telramund enters the room with his friends, sure now that since Elsa asked the question, the stranger would have lost his magical powers. The knight kills him with a sword.

The four nobles carry his body and the knight asks the women to prepare Elsa to appear before the king, where he should finally learn his name. The next day, in a meadow beside the river Sheldon, the army of Brabant is ready to depart along with the King’s army. The knight appears, explains why he killed Telramund and announces that Elsa violated her oath. He then reveals that is named Lohengrin, knight of Grail, King Parsifal’s son, and that he was sent by Grail, the famous chalice of King Arthur, to fight evil and defend right and virtue. He explains that the knights of Grail carry with them the divine power as long as they don’t reveal their name. That is why now he is forced to leave.

The promptings of the lords and supplications of Elsa do not convince Lohengrin to stay. After the prophesy he makes about the war against the Hungarians being victorious he walks toward the shore, where the swan has already led an empty boat. He promises Elsa that her brother will return, and before saying goodbye he gives her the trumpet, the sword and the ring. Ortrud appears and thanks Elsa for sending away the unwanted knight. She then reveals that the swan is in fact Gottfried, which was transformed by her and that what she did was nothing more than old gods’ revenge for abandoning them.

Lohengrin falls on his knees and prays. A dove descends from the sky and flies above the boat. The swan goes underwater and Gottfried appears in its place, released from the spell. Lohengrin makes him the Brabant leader and sails away on the boat led by the pigeon. Ortrud has a breakdown when seeing Gottfried. Elsa hugs her brother and watching Lohengrin disappear, falls lifeless on the ground.


Evi Nika-Sampson, Richard Wagner-Lohengrin

ed.  OMMA (Athens Consert Hall), 1998-1999, p 56-57

Traslation: Working group

Selected writings 

Richard Wagner about German Opera  Translation by William Ashton Ellis in “Posthumous”, vol. xii, 1899, p. 55-58

Richard Wagner about Music Drama Translation by William Ashton Ellis in “Actors and Singers”, vol. ix, 1896, p. 299-304


Thomas Mann about Lohengrin:

“Maybe we can consider as the utopia that the authors always said it was: a daydreaming”

Jean Servier

“This world has the exact degree of poverty that could ever need to exist. If even was a little worse it could not exist, so the current is the worst of all possible”

Arthur Schopenhauer

“Utopia is the truth of tomorrow”

Victor Hugo

“Utopia is a dream that cushions the Weltschmerz, the pain of the world, the pain of living”

Jean Servier

Source: Opera oberta

Translation: Working group

The cast

MUSIC DIRECTOR: Sebastian Weigle

STAGE DIRECTOR: Peter Konwitschny


LIGHTING: Manfred Voss

CO-PRODUCTION: Liceu / Hamburgische Staatsoper


KONIG HEINRICH………. Reinhard Hagen

Lohengrin.……… John Treleaven

ELSA……….. Emily Magee

TELRAMUND………. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen

ORTRUD……….. Luana Devol

A HERALD………… Robert Bork

Source: Opera oberta


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