Synopsis of the Opera Lohengrin

The Story of Wagner's Three Act Opera

UK - Welsh National Opera's production of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
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First performed on August 28, 1850, Lohengrin is a three-act romantic period opera composed by Richard Wagner. The story is set in 10th century Antwerp. 

Lohengrin, ACT 1

King Henry arrives in Antwerp to settle various disputes, but before he can begin addressing them, he is asked to resolve a very important matter. The child-Duke Gottfried of Brabant has vanished. Gottfried's guardian, Count Telramund has accused Elsa, Gottfried's sister, of murdering her brother. Elsa argues she is innocent and recounts a dream she had the night before; she is saved by a knight in shining armor who travels by a boat drawn by swans.

She asks that her innocence be determined by the outcome of battle. Telramund, an experienced and skilled fighter, is thrilled to accept her terms. When asked who her champion will be, Elsa prays, and lo and behold, her knight in shining armor appears. Before he fights for her, he has one condition: she must never ask his name or where he came from. Elsa quickly agrees. After defeating Telramund (but sparing his life), he asks Elsa for her hand in marriage. Overcome with joy, she says yes. Meanwhile, Telramund and his pagan wife, Ortrud, sadly walk away in defeat.

Lohengrin, ACT 2

Dejected, Ortrud and Telramund hear the celebration music in the distance and begin crafting a plan to gain control of the kingdom. Knowing that mysterious knight asked Elsa to never ask of his name or where he came from, they decide that it would be best for Elsa to break her promise. They approach the castle and Ortrud spies Elsa in a window. Hoping to spike Elsa's curiosity to find out about knight's name, Ortrud begins speaking underneath the window about the knight. Instead of curiosity, Elsa offers Ortrud friendship. Angrily, she walks away.

Meanwhile, the King has enlisted the knight as the Guardian of Brabant. Telramund convinces four of his friends to join him in taking control of the kingdom, and they meet outside of the wedding hall along with Ortrud. In an effort to stop the wedding, Ortrud declares that the knight is an imposter and Telramund states that the knight practices sorcery. The King and the knight banish Ortrud and Telramund, and Elsa proceeds with the ceremony.

Lohengrin, ACT 3

Within the bridal chamber, Elsa and the knight are happy to be together. It isn't long before Elsa finally gives into doubt. Reluctantly, she asks the knight to tell her his name and where he came from, but before he can tell her, they are interrupted by Telramund who has just broken into their room with several henchmen. Without delay, Elsa hands the sword to her husband and he kills Telramund with a swift swing of the sword. The knight tells her that they will continue the discussion later and he will tell her everything she wants to know. He, then, picks up Telramund's lifeless body and takes it to the King. After filling in the King of what happened, he sadly tells the King that he can no longer lead the kingdom against the invasion of the Hungarians.

Now that Elsa has asked him his name and birthplace, he must return there. He tells them that his name is Lohengrin, his father is Parsifal, and his home is within the temple of the Holy Grail. After saying his goodbyes, he walks to his magic swan to return home. Ortrud, having learned of what has happened, bursts into the room to watch Lohengrin depart—she couldn't be happier. When Lohengrin prays, the swan transforms into Elsa's brother, Gottfried. Ortrud is a pagan witch; she is the one who turned him into a swan. When seeing Gottfried again, she dies. Elsa, stricken with grief, also dies.