A champion comes to Elsa’s rescue but she must not ask his name. When it looks as if Elsa may have found happiness, forces of darkness conspire against her.
This epic fairytale contains some of Wagner’s most beguiling and beautiful music. It’s the perfect place to start for those new to the composer’s operas. For Wagner fans this rarely performed, spectacular opera is a must-see.
Supported by the WNO Lohengrin Syndicate
Co-production with Theatr Wielki, Warsaw
"In his anniversary year we present Wagner's 'Romantic Opera' Lohengrin - a sublime confrontation between good and evil in which some of Wagner's most famous musical gems - notably the Bridal Chorus - are set within a tapestry of epic symphonic scale."
"It's a mountain - you'll never reach the top, but every step changes your world view."
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The opera takes place in and near Antwerp, during the first half of the tenth century. The Hungarian army is threatening Germany, and King Heinrich of Saxony (known as Heinrich der Vogler, or Henry the Fowler) has come to Brabant to recruit forces to defend his territory. He finds Brabant in turmoil, and asks for an explanation. Friedrich von Telramud, the regent, explains that he has been granted custody of Elsa and Gottfried, children of the late duke of Brabant. Gottfried has vanished. Friedrich accuses Elsa of murdering him. Friedrich had hoped to marry Elsa, but believed her to be in love with another, unknown man, and married Ortrude, daughter of the Prince of Friesland, instead. Friedrich claims the throne of Brabant. Elsa tells the King that she has dreamed of a knight who will come to protect her against false accusations. Friedrich is certain that the knight is Elsa’s lover, and challenges him to a duel. A swan approaches, drawing a boat which carries a knight in shining armour. The knight is Lohengrin. Elsa greets him with rapture. Lohengrin accepts the challenge to the duel, and asks Elsa if she will marry him if he wins. He makes conditions: she must never ask about his origins, his lineage or his name. Lohengrin wins the duel and spares Friedrich’s life. Ortrud broods on the identity of the knight who has thwarted her plans.
Night. The citadel of Antwerp. Friedrich and Ortrud have been shut out. Celebrations for the wedding of Elsa and the unknown knight are taking place. Friedrich accuses Ortrud of lying to him about Elsa’s alleged murder of Gottfried. Otrud tells Friedrich that his cowardice dishonours him, and that to regain his honour he must poison Elsa’s mind against Lohengrin by accusing the knight of sorcery. If that fails, Lohengrin must be maimed to remove his magical powers. Elsa sings of her happiness. Ortrud calls on Elsa’s pity, and when Elsa goes to the gate to let Ortrud into the citadel, Ortrud invokes the pagan gods to give her back her power. Ortrud tells Elsa that the unknown knight could vanish as mysteriously as he appeared. A herald announces that Friedrich is banished; Lohengrin is now protector of Brabant; the wedding between Elsa and Lohengrin will take place that day; and the next day Lohengrin will lead the Brabant forces against the Hungarians. Otrud interrupts the procession to the minster to ask for Lohengrin’s identity to be revealed. Friedrich accuses Lohengrin of sorcery, then whispers to Elsa that she must break Lohengrin’s magical power by cutting off his fingertip. Lohengrin leads his bride to the minster. Ortrud is certain of her victory.
The bridal chamber. An orchestral introduction leads into the famous Bridal Chorus. The happiness of Elsa’s wedding turns to suspicion as she asks Lohengrin his name and origin. Friedrich and four knights break in and attack him. Lohengrin kills Friedrich and orders the knights to carry his body to Heinrich. At daybreak, Elsa’s questions will be answered. The scene changes to the meadow beside the Schelt, outside Antwerp, as in the first act. Lohengrin tells the people that he cannot lead the army into battle. He explains how he came to kill Friedrich, and how Elsa, poisoned by treachery, has broken her promise. He reveals that in a castle far away there is a holy cup, brought to earth by an angel. Once a year, a dove comes to renew its strength. It is the Holy Grail, and it gives its power to the knights who attend it. The Grail sends its knights abroad to do deeds of chivalry, but they must return to the Grail castle once their identity is known. Lohengrin is the son of Parsifal, King of the Grail. The swan returns. Lohengrin tells Elsa that if he had been able to stay for a year, he would have returned Gottfried to her, alive and well.
Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director & Designer Antony McDonald
Lighting Designer Lucy Carter
Movement Director Philippe Giraudeau
Associate Director Helen Cooper
Associate Lighting Designer Neill Brinkworth
Associate Movement Director Lizie Saunderson
Lighting realised on tour by Ian Jones
Chorus Master Stephen Harris
Assistant Conductor Thomas Blunt
Musical Preparation Stephen Wood
Staff Director Caroline Chaney
Language Coach Jacqueline Pischorn
Stage Manager Julian Johnson
Production Manager Robert Pagett
Herald Simon Thorpe
Heinrich der Vogler Henry the Fowler, the German King Matthew Best
Friedrich von Telramund Frederick of Telramund, a Count of Brabant John Lundgren
Elsa von Brabant Emma Bell
Lohengrin Peter Wedd
Ortrud wife of Telramund Susan Bickley
Noblemen Alastair Moore, Philip Lloyd Holtam, Laurence Cole, Simon Crosby Buttle
Bridesmaids Anitra Blaxhall, Fiona Harrison, Louise Ratcliffe, Amanda Baldwin
Gottfried Elsa’s brother Thomas Rowlands, Daniel Williams
All performances start at 5.30pm (except 26 May at 3pm)
Sung in German with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)
Running time approximately 4 hours 30 minutes including two 30 minute intervals
Lohengrin Director & Designer, Antony McDonald talks about Wagner: the music and the man.
Listen to our Lohengrin playlist.
Early set designs to give you a sense of Antony Mcdonald’s 1840s setting. Lohengrin set design by Anthony McDonald.
Take a look at Antony McDonald's costume designs for Lohengrin.