Two ensembles, one chorus and one tenor aria of LOHENGRIN by Richard Wagner

 

The opera

 

Lohengrin firmly established Wagner as an international figure of importance in the world of opera. Wagner started to work on the poem of Lohengrin while staying at Marienbad (Marianske Lazne) during the summer of 1845. By November of the same year, the libretto was finished, which he read to some of his friends. He began writing the music at Gross-Graupe in 1846 and finished it by April 1848.

 

Wagner dedicated the monumental work to Franz Liszt, his 'rarest friend' (to use his own words). Franz Liszt had helped Richard to take refuge in Switzerland because of his support for a revolution in Dresden against the royal patron. Later, thanks to Liszt's generosity, he was joined by his wife Minna, dog and parrot.

Wagner became a music prophet in his own country, where he frequently used to have the opera performed for his own gratification. The Germans, who were very tolerant to the Romantic school, opposed Lohengrin vehemently this time.

Elsewhere, however, the opera soon found a circle of admirers even in Italy, where it was performed in 1871 and received with rapture. Within a few months, it was performed in New York, Boston and at last reached England, better late than never.

 

On September 22, 1848, the first act finale of Lohengrin was performed at a concert in the Dresden's Opera Theatre, celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of the Court Orchestra. However, the Dresden Opera Theatre was not interested. Besides, due to Wagner's sympathy and association with the unsuccessful May Revolution, he had to flee the city in order to avoid arrest. It was a setback for Wagner, realising that for as long as the situation at Dresden persisted, he could not hope to see his work and ideas fulfilled.

 

The ultimate verdict on Lohengrin was, "An unbelievable music with a continuous stream of sound, where the principals, chorus and orchestra aim at a combined rather than an isolated expression. It clearly shows Wagner's genius as a musician and is most strikingly displayed."

 

The premiere took place at the Court Theatre in Weimar on 28 August, 1850.

The protagonists were:

Henry the Fowler (bass) ......................... Mr Hoefer

Lohengrin (tenor) ............................. Carl Beck

Elsa (soprano) ........................Rosa von Milde

Duke Godfrey (mute role)...................Agthe Hettstedt

Friedrich von Telramund (baritone) ...........Hans Feodor von Milde

Ortrud (mezzo-soprano)....................Ms Fastlinger

Herald (bass)........................... Mr Patsch

Four Nobles .......................... Not named

Four Pages ............................Not named

 

The conductor for the evening was Wagner's friend and future father in law, Franz Liszt. The irony is that Wagner did not see Lohengrin on stage until the Vienna performance in May 1861

.

The most beautiful music of the whole Lohengrin is probably the Overture. It is based on a very simple theme, which placidly sanctifies the Grail. It opens slowly with long, high chords of violins, flutes and works through a crescendo to a magnificent climax then goes back again to ethereal harmonies.

 

The plot line

 

The opera is set in Antwerp during the X century. King Henry the Fowler of Germany finds Brabant divided by a dispute over the ducal succession; Friedrich of Telramund claims the throne and accuses Elsa, the ruler of Brabant, of having murdered the rightful heir, her brother Gottfried. Elsa protests her innocence; the King decrees that a single combat between Telramund and Elsa's champion shall decide the issue. When no champion comes forward for Elsa, she narrates a dream of a shining knight, whereupon a boat drawn by a swan brings Lohengrin, who agrees to be her defender and consort, provided that she never inquires after his name or origin; he defeats Telramund. Banned as a traitor, Telramund conspires with his wife Ortrud to undermine the mysterious knight by planting doubts in Elsa's mind. During the wedding procession, the two publicly accuse Lohengrin of having used sorcery to defeat Telramund. Later, in the bridal chamber, Elsa's curiosity mounts until she finally breaks her promise and asks the forbidden question. Telramund bursts in to attack Lohengrin, who kills the intruder and then tells the court the answer to Elsa's fateful question: his name is Lohengrin and he is a Knight of the Holy Grail, allowed to remain among men only if his identity remains secret. He bids Elsa farewell and his swan reappears as the spellbound Gottfried, the rightful duke, now restored to human form.

 

 

Featured bits  (removed)

 

1 . Act I scene 3

Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan!

(I thank you, my dear swan!)

Lohengrin, Konig, Elsa, chor ......5:36

6/1/06

 

2 . Act I scene 3

Durch Gottes Sieg ist jetzt dein Leben mein

(Through God's victory your life is now mine)

Lohengrin, Konig, Elsa, Ortrud, Friedrich, chor

...................4:47

9/1/06 

3 . Act 3 scene 1

Treulich gefuhrt ziehet dahin

(Faitfully guided, draw near)

Chor .................... 5:51

18/1/06 

4 . Act 3 scene 3

In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten

(In a far-off land, inaccessible to your steps)

Lohengrin, Konig, chor...................... 6:03

20/1/06 

 

 

Major soloists:

Ben Heppner The Canadian heldentenor is celebrated as the finest dramatic tenor and one of the best Lohengrin's of his generation, some say .the best Lohengrin ever. He is a naturally gifted singer, an incomparably beautiful voice, has perfect German diction, intelligent musicianship, sparkling dramatic sense, dream like fortissimo and Lohengrin's touch. His magnificent voice's colour is changing without effort from rounded and dark to soft and warm sounds. A heldentenor with lyrical quality. Ben Heppner is very convincing as the Knight of the Holy Grail and his Lohengrin's performance is always followed by immense applause.  

Jan-Hendrik Rootering

The bass-baritone is from Munich, Germany. In 1986 he was awarded with honorary title of 'Bayerischer Kammersanger'. His Henry the Fawler is sung extremely well, a treat for the ear. He is a marvelous interpreter of Wagner.

Sharon Sweet

The American Sharon Sweet is a world renowned soprano. This role requires vocal quality like power but at the same time sweetness of expression which she performs quite well. A secure and powerful soprano.

Sergei Leiferkus

The Russian baritone emits a rock solid sound from top to bottom. It is a robust voice with strong theatrical instincts.

Eva Marton

The Hungarian soprano is considered to be one of the great dramatic sopranos of her day. Here, in the role of Ortrud, she displays a large, thrilling and powerful soprano voice, suitable for Wagner's roles.

Bryn Terfel

The Welsh bass-baritone. His sonorous voice is full, rich and vibrant throughout its range. A dark but velvety like sound. Terfel demonstrates that Wagner benefits from attention to beauty of tone.

 

Reference:

 

Conductor : Sir Colin Davis

Performers : Lohengrin - Ben Heppner

Henry the Fowler - Jan-Hendrik Rootering

Elsa von Brabant - Sharon Sweet

Friedrich von Telramund - Sergei Leiferkus

Ortrud - Eva Marton

The King's Herald - Bryn Terfel

Chorus : Chor des Bayerischen Staatsoper, Chor des Baterischen Rundfunks

Orchestra: Symphonie orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Year: 1994

CD: RCA Victor - Red Seal

 

 

The first production in England :

Lohengrin was first produced in England - London 1875 (in Italian)

Henry The Fowler .................................... Seideman

Lohengrin ................................ Ernest Nicolini

Elsa ..................................... Emma Albani

Duke Godfrey (mute role) ............................... not named

Friedrich von Telramund ........................... Victor Maurel Ortrud ...................... Anna D'Angeri Capponi

Four Nobles ...............Rossi, Manfredi, Fallar, Raguer Four Pages .........................8 names in cast - Parry, Pocchini, Estele,

                               Portaluppi, Ferrari, Vianello, Abraham, Mardini

Conductor : Auguste Vianesi

 

In London, after the premiere, Lohengrin was regarded as one of the most interesting musical events of the season. 

The first production in America :

Lohengrin was first produced in America - London 1871 (in German)

 

Henry The Fowler ............................ Adolf Franosch

Lohengrin ........................ Theodor Habelmann

Elsa ................................. Louise Lichtmay

Duke Godfrey (mute role) ............................... not named

Friedrich von Telramund ........................ Joseph Vierling

Ortrud .................................. Marie Friderici

Four Nobles ..................................... not named

Four Pages ...................................... not named

Conductor : Adolf Neuendorff

 

 

 

Throughout the years, Lohengrin has been performed in almost every good opera house and sung by many top singers, for example, Nilsson, Kaschmann, Campanini, Matzenauser, Sembach, Whitehill, Steber, Konya, J. de Reszke, Burian, Slezak Urlus, Melchior, Albani, Eames, etc.. In later performances by Lorengar, Kollo, Giaiotti, Svanholm, Jerusalem, Domingo, Flagstadt, Varnay, Rysanek, Traubel, Crespin, Marton, Tomowa-Sintow, van Rooy, Ancona and Schorr.

 

 

Neuschwanstein

 

(l.s.)

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 


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The Panel
s.f. Salvatore Fisichella

y.l.c. Yves Le Coz

l.s. Lynn Samohel              m.m. Michèle Muller              j.f. Joseph Fragala
g.m. Geoff Mallinson
a.t. Andrei Turcu
k.s. Keith Shilcock
d.t. Dragos Tomescu           m.b. Mihai Bogdan