Fragment from the opera "Lohengrin" by Wagner on the day of its premiere at the Weimar Court Theater
"Lohengrin" – is a Romantic opera in three acts composed by Richard Wagner. The composer wrote the libretto as well. The premiere of the opera “Lohengrin” took place on 28 August 1850 at the Court Theater in Weimar under the direction of Franz Liszt. In Russia, the opera premiered in 1868 at the Mariinsky Theater. It takes three and a half hours to perform the whole opera, without abbreviations and without taking into account intermissions. Wagner became interested in the plot in 1842, when he was in Paris. The Grail Knights are mentioned in many sources familiar to the composer - in the epic of Wolfram von Eschenbach "Parzival" (Lohengrin is the son of Parzival), in the "German Legends" by the Grimm brothers, medieval novel about the knight-swan, etc. Being captured by the medieval legends and Germanic myths, Richard Wagner wrote the opera “Lohengrin”. He amalgamated various legends about one of the Grail Knights. This mysterious hero always appeared in the shining armor on boat drawn by a swan to protect the guiltless people. Basing on segmented legends, Wagner created a freestanding work, the central conflict of which was based on the encounter of the Christian philosophy and survived paganism characteristic of the early Middle Ages. The libretto was written in 1845, the music was composed in 1846-48 (the score was completed on April 28).
The most known passage from “Lohengrin” is “The Wedding Choir” from the closing act, which is performed at many ceremonial weddings. In English-speaking countries, it is often referred to as "The Wedding March" or "Here Comes the Bride".
The musical part of the performance is distinguished by extraordinary lyricism, which is usually called exalted. To characterize the personages, Wagner widely used the system of leitmotifs in this opera. Along with this, he implements Leith timbres as well. Woodwind instruments track the Elsa personality, the theme of evil is conveyed by cellos and bassoons, but the exalted theme of the Grail - by stringed. The most remarkable thing is that these themes not only contrast, but interpenetrate as well, and influence each other. Musical researchers note that in this opera, Wagner sought to demonstrate the state of mind of the characters, as well as to outline psychological conflicts. Moreover, such violation of the balance between internal and external becomes a distinctive feature of the Wagnerian style.
"Lohengrin" is considered one of the most perfect operas of the brilliant composer, in which the mentality of heroes, their stressful experiences and emotions are strongly pronounced. The dominant idea of the opera is the exile of the protagonist that left the homeland of his divine ancestors, the idea of a lost paradise, which we have to leave in order to live through the earth days of struggle, bitterness and taste of defeats. The tragic loneliness of Lohengrin reminded the composer of his own fate - the life of an artist that spread lofty ideals of truth and beauty, hence met with misunderstanding, envy and animosity.
The opera “Lohengrin” is highly appreciated by the professionals and amateurs of music that are attracted not only by the mysterious legend of the medieval knight, but by the otherworldly style of the composer as well. The music of this opera is very poetic, the text - is pure and sublime. The outlining of bright images and positive forces is marked by cordiality and warmth, sometimes by dignified grief.
Richard Wagner used to say that the legend about Lohengrin shows how "the beau ideal becomes a real support for a soul that is seeking passionately for it. Hence, as soon as it begins to doubt and question for its origin, the ideal disappears, since a miracle is born by the power of faith, and doubt destroys it".
The opera closing act testifies that Elsa did not understand the knight in the shining armor, and he did not find ideal love. Consequently, the development of the drama determines the internal, psychological conflict between Lohengrin and Elsa, in which the tragedy of Lohengrin is emphasized. Thus, Elsa becomes a symbol of the crowd powerless to rise up and reach a genius, she personifies disbelief. The legend of knight Lohengrin narrates about human kindness, the power of faith, nobility, all key concepts necessary to understand and explain the world around us.
A fragment from the opera "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner to commemorate the day of its premiere at August 28, 1850, is posted in our Music Library.
Wagner R. Selected works / Enter. Art. A.F. Losev. Moscow: Art, 1978.
N.F. Soloviev. Wagner, Richard // Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary: in 86 volumes (82 volumes and 4 additional). - SPb., 1891. - T. V.
Wagner's Opera Lohengrin | Classic-music.ru