Sun, 19. Nov 2023, 17:00
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
Soon after the failure of the 1848 revolution, the political refugee Richard Wagner wrote his LOHENGRIN: an opera about a hero who tries in vain to pacify a divided people. Kasper Holten's production deliberately leaves open whether this leader fights by fair means ... Conductor: James Conlon; Director: Kasper Holten; With Ryan Speedo Green, David Butt Philip, Jennifer Davis, Jordan Shanahan, Yulia Matochkina, Dean Murphy a.o.
About the workKing Henry I, “the Fowler”, is in Brabant to hold the Assizes and assert the nobles’ duty to provide militias to assist in military campaigns. Since the death of the Duke of Brabant, however, the succession has been a source of conflict. His children, Gottfried and Elsa, are wards of Count Telramund, but Gottfried has vanished and Telramund suspects Elsa of having killed him. A duel between her accuser and Elsa’s champion is organised to decide the issue. At the last moment a knight appears in a boat drawn by a swan, ready to defend Elsa’s honour. He is also prepared to take her as his wife on condition that she never ask him his name or where he hails from. Elsa agrees and the knight defeats Telramund.
It was Ortrud, wife of Telramund and daughter of Radbod, the last Frisian prince, who poisoned her husband’s opinion of Elsa, with a view to regaining the position she had once held. Now she sets about blocking Elsa’s marriage to the stranger and sowing mistrust in her mind. But Elsa remains steadfast and refuses to ask her husband-to-be where he comes from. But once in their bridal chamber, she regrets that she doesn’t know his identity and expresses her desire to be able to speak his name. Swearing to keep his secret, she asks the forbidden question. Telramund bursts into the room with his noblemen and is promptly killed by the knight, who then formally reproaches Elsa for breaking her oath. He announces that he is Lohengrin, a knight of the Holy Grail and son of Parsifal, and now has to leave, since his secret has been revealed. Ortrud is convinced that she has got what she wanted, but then Gottfried, Elsa’s absent brother, turns up, having been kidnapped by Ortrud and turned into …a swan. Lohengrin appoints Gottfried as heir to the throne and the swan bears Lohengrin away again. Elsa dies of a broken heart.
For a considerable period LOHENGRIN remained Wagner’s best received opera worldwide. That the opera has been the subject of so many different stage interpretations is doubtless not only down to the tragic love story involving Elsa and the Swan Knight but also because the material throws up social and political issues that remain acutely relevant today – not only the yearning of a traumatised nation for a charismatic leader but also the inability of human beings to attain and retain a utopia.
About the productionIs the Swan Knight really what he claims or is Lohengrin’s heroism just for show? Director Kasper Holten loses no time in presenting a nation under severe duress that is desperate for a redeemer – and as history often has it, Wagner’s romantic opera, too, provides us with a character who exploits the citizens’ need and sets himself up as a figurehead. Not only Elsa is won over by the new saviour; the people of Brabant are also convinced by the newcomer – even though he has used dubious tactics to defeat his adversary.
Romantic opera in three actsFirst performed on 28th August, 1850 at WeimarPremiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 15th April 2012
recommended from 15 years on