Richard Wagner – Lohengrin

Alexander Jacob, Piano

lohengrinWagner’s “Romantic” opera Lohengrin was completed in 1848 but was not performed until 1850, under the direction of Franz Liszt, since Wagner himself had been forced to flee Germany after his participation in the unsuccessful May Uprising of 1849 in Dresden.

The story of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin is derived from the account of Parsifal’s son, Loherangrin, in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s mediaeval romance Parzival. Lohengrin, as the son of the Guardian of the Grail at Montsalvat, is called upon to assume the rule of Brabant, where the duke has died without a male heir and his daughter Elsa fears for its future. Lohengrin’s marriage to Elsa is undertaken on the condition that she should never ask about his origin. When, after several years, she breaks her promise, Lohengrin leaves her to return to Montsalvat. In Wagner’s operatic treatment of this subject the drama is focussed on the tension between human love and divine.

The work was a favorite of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who planned his castle in Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein, as “a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world” (Letter to Richard Wagner, May 1868) and decorated it with scenes from Lohengrin and other representations of the Grail legend.

Of all Wagner’s operas Lohengrin is indeed the most lyrical and its exquisite elaboration of solo and ensemble melodies bears comparison with that of contemporary Italian bel canto opera, although the melodies themselves, as well as the numerous choral passages, have a distinctively German character.

 The entire opera was transcribed for solo piano around 1900 by F.H. Schneider.

Alexander Jacob obtained his doctorate in Intellectual History from the Pennsylvania State University. His scholarly publications include Nobilitas: A Study of European Aristocratic Philosophy from Ancient Greece to the Early Twentieth Century, University Press of America, 2001, De Naturae Natura: A Study of Idealistic Conceptions of Nature and the Unconscious, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1992 (2nd ed. Arktos Media Ltd.,  2011) and The Grail: Two Studies, Numen Books, 2014.

Dr. Jacob holds a Licentiate Diploma in Piano from the Trinity College of Music, London.