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History Of Music:
George Frederic Handel
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Romantic Composers
Development Of The Piano
Famous Operas And Their Composers
Wagner And His Music Dramas
Tristan And Isolde
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Lohengrin is the most popular of Wagner's operas. The scene is laid in Germany, near Antwerp; time, the tenth century. The old Duke of Brabant at his death left two children: a daughter, Elsa, and a son, Godfrey, who is to inherit his father's throne. Elsa is engaged to marry Count Telramund. One day, when she and her brother are out walking, the latter mysteriously disappears, and all accuse Elsa of having killed him. Telramund, with the others, believes her guilty and renounces her to marry Ortrud, a sorceress. In vain does Elsa declare her innocence, for all believe that none other could have perpetrated the crime.
Finally the King, Henry the Fowler, who believes the fair girl to be guiltless, resolves to let a duel decide the question. Telramund makes ready for the fray, but no one is willing to champion Elsa. At last a heavenly knight appears to her, all in silver armour and his boat conveyed by a white swan. He offers to fight for her on two conditions: that she will become his wife and that she never ask his name or descent. Elsa agrees and the combat is fought, resulting in a complete victory for the strange knight, and Telramund and Ortrud are outlawed.
Act II. shows Telramund in a great rage at his wife, for she admits she has tricked him into bringing dishonor upon his knightly calling. Ortrud, it appears, had herself transformed Godfrey into a white swan, in hopes that her husband might inherit his possessions. But Ortrud says there is yet a chance, for her knowledge of sorcery has revealed to her what to do. First of all, she says, they must sow distrust in Elsa's heart, and lead her to doubt her champion's veracity. In his rage, Telramund consents to the trickery, and when Elsa appears at her wedding the evil work is begun.
Ortrud stops Elsa's bridal procession as it enters the church, saying that her husband has been deceived and refuses to acknowledge the defeat until the mysterious knight proves his nobility. She intimates that he has grave reasons for keeping
his past hidden from his bride. In vain does Elsa try to stop this torrent of slander; nothing but the approach of the king puts an end to the tirade. The procession again starts and is about to enter the church when Telramund in his turn stops the bridal party and presents his accusations against the bridegroom, in the presence of the King. He demands the name and origin of the strange knight, but this the bridegroom refuses to reveal. Only Elsa, he claims, can draw the answer from him, and she still trusts him sufficiently not to ask the fatal question. The ceremony is at last performed, but the evil seed has taken root in Elsa's heart; once again, on the return from the church, Telramund demands the stranger's name, and once again Elsa's love stands the test.
But in the third act, when the lovers are left alone, she becomes possessed by the fatal idea and asks for the knowledge which she has promised never to seek. Hardly has she pro nounced the words when Telramund rushes in to slay his enemy, but is killed with one stroke of his adversary's sword. Elsa's husband then leads her before the King and announces to the astounded hearers that he is none other than Lohengrin, son of Parsifal and Keeper of the Holy Grail, and that he is allowed to stay with mortals only so long as his identity is unknown. The swan then appears to carry him away, when Ortrud enters and admits that she changed Godfrey into a swan. On hearing this, Lohengrin loosens the swan's chain, whereupon the bird dips into the water and in his place rises Godfrey. A white dove then draws Lohengrin's boat away, as Elsa swoons in her brother's arms.