Theatre / Lohengrin
is the sixth opera by Richard Wagner
, and his last conventional opera.
Antwerpen in the 10th Century. There's quite the Succession Crisis
in this place: the child-Duke Gottfried of Brabant has disappeared and his regent and uncle, Count Friederich von Telramund, accuses Gottfried's older sister Elsa of having murdered him. King Henry the Fowler
feels he cannot decide on his own, and decides that the best solution would be a Trial by Combat
- that is, if someone is
willing to be Elsa's Knight.
All of a sudden, a mystery knight appears in a boat drawn by a swan and offers to fight for Elsa - on the sole condition that she never ask him what his name is or where he comes from. He defeats Telramund and he and Elsa get married, but on their wedding night she cannot stop herself from asking the forbidden question, egged on by her own insecurities about Lohengrin's feelings for her and
by Telramund's Manipulative Bastard
of a wife, Ortrud....
Tropes appearing in this opera:
- Anti-Villain: Friedrich von Telramund, for some. Yes, he’s way too proud and stubborn and jealous of his honor, and that leads him into all his villainy. But those are just the qualities one would expect in a successful leader in a rough time, when the Danes or Hungarians might invade at any moment, and you need someone tough and super-confident to rally the troops. And up until his disgrace, the Brabantines certainly do respect his style of leadership – “Who here dares fight against my prized honor?” “Not us – we fight only for you!”
- Baleful Polymorph: Whatactually happened to poor Gottfried, at the hands of Ortrud. He is the swan that draws Lohengrin's boat, and only recovers his human form at the end of the opera thanks to Lohengrin's prayers.
- Despair Event Horizon: When everything definitely sinks in and Lohengrin must leave, Elsa collapses and falls victim to Death by Despair. The same ultimately happens to Ortrud.
- Divided We Fall: The main point of the King's first speech — we must unite against the Hungarian threat. After Telramund's disgrace, his closest men argue that the King lacks the authority to take them away from their land, and if they prevailed, Germany would fall province by province.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Ortrud and Telramund are alto and baritone respectively. They are also the villains of the piece.
- I Know Your True Name: This is the exact reason why Lohengrin must hide his identity. It's less about the name in itself and more about how his powers as the Swan Knight come from the Holy Grail, and if someone identifies him as Lohengrin, they'll be able to easily find out about his connection to Grail and he will be forced to leave. Which is what happens in the end.
- It's All About Me: The King and chorus pray for the combat to result in justice. Telaramund is praying: "O Lord, do not forsake my honor!" Ortrud understands this part of his character and uses it consistently to deceive and manipulate him.
- Just the First Citizen: In a likely homage to Godfrey de Bouillon, Lohengrin refuses the title of Duke, preferring to be called simply the "Protector of Brabant." (In Wagner's original libretto the title is "Leader of Brabant" — i.e. "Fuhrer" — but that is changed nowadays for obvious reasons.)
- Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: The bridal chorus "Treulich geführt ziehet dahin" that opens Act III is one of the two constituents of this trope.
- Pimped-Out Dress: In the 2010 production by Hans Neuenfel, Elsa and Ortrud wear the same dress to Elsa's wedding. The dresses have long High Class Gloves, a sparkling bodice, and skirts covered with feathers. The difference is Elsa's dress is white like a Fairytale Wedding Dress, and Ortrud's dress is black.
- Playing the Victim Card: How Ortrud gains Elsa's ear, after failing to have her framed and executed.
Ortrud: Will you completely disown the poor creature
Whom you have cast into the distant reaches of exile?...
"Unfortunate woman!" How right you are to call me that!
In the distant solitude of the wood
Where I was living quietly and peacefully,
What did I do to you? What did I do to you?
- (The last question has some pretty definite answers, but Elsa does not know them.)
- Reasonable Authority Figure: King Heinrich. He refuses to rule for his brave and loyal subject Telramund, no matter how strongly he's reminded of his great service. In fact he turns the case over to "God's Judgment" (i.e., trial by combat) to get his own bias out of it.
- Summoning Artifact: The eponymous Swan Knight, forced to leave his wife, gives her a horn to give to her brother if she ever sees him again, promising that the horn will bring aid in danger.
- The Old Gods: Ortrud secretly worships Wotan and Freya, and wishes to visit their vengeance on those who have forsaken them.
- Trial by Combat: The swan knight fights Telramund in judicial combat as Elsa's champion.
- Villainous Breakdown:
- In the beginning of Act II, Telramund has an epic one over losing to Lohengrin in the ordeal, which cleared Elsa of Telramund's accusations. "For my honor, my honor, my honor is gone!" — sung with extreme rage, and he comes close to attacking Ortrud out of blind rage over it.
- Ortrud in the end, when Lohengrin reverts her spell and turn the swan back into Gottfried, and she falls down dead on the spot..
- Villainous Valour: Telramund might be egotistical and gullible, but he won't back down from a fight, even if his opponent seems divinely favored. "Far better dead than a coward!"