Richard Wagner: Lohengrin

Romantic opera in three acts

Richard Wagner

28 August 1850, Weimar (Grand Ducal Court Theatre)

HENRY THE FOWLER, King of Germany (Bass)
FREDERICK OF TELRAMUND, a count of Brabant (Baritone)
ORTRUD, his wife (Soprano or Mezzo soprano)
KING'S HERALD (Baritone or Bass)
FOUR NOBLE PAGES (Soprano/Contralto)

Saxon and Thuringian counts and nobles, Brabantine counts and nobles,
noblewomen, pages, vassals, women, servants





A meadow on the banks of the Scheldt near Antwerp.

King Henry, Saxon and Thuringian Counts, nobles and horsemen, who form the royal armed levy. Brabantine Counts and nobles, horsemen and people, headed by Frederick of Telramund, with Ortrud at his side. Retainers and servants. The King's herald and four trumpeters, who sound the royal summons.

Hear ye, lords, nobles, freemen of Brabant!
Henry, King of Germany, comes hither
to parley with you as the law provides.
In peace will you hearken to his command?

In peace we will hearken to his command!
Welcome, welcome to Brabant, O King! 

God save you, my loving subjects of Brabant!
Not idly have journeyed to you;
let me make known to you the Empire's need!
Shall I first relate to you the wrongs
wreaked on German soil from the East?
On our furthest borders women and children prayed:
"Protect us, God, from the Hungarians' rage!"
But it behoved me, as head of the realm,
to find a way to end such shameful outrage;
by force of arms I won a nine-year truce
and used it for the kingdom's defence:
I had fortified towns and castles built,
I trained an army in resistance.
The truce has now expired, tribute is refused -
with savage threats the enemy makes ready.
Now is the time to defend the kingdom's honour;
let it equally concern you all, whether of east or west!
Wherever is German soil, raise troops,
then none shall dare insult our German realm!

Arise! For God and the honour of our German realm!

I come to you now, people of Brabant,
to summon you to my standard at Mainz;
yet to my sorrow and grief I find you
living in discord, without a chief!
I learn of disorder, bitter feuds;
therefore I call upon you, Frederick of Telramund!
I know you as the crown of all virtues;
now speak, that I may know the cause of this turmoil.

Our thanks to you, O King, that you have come to set it right!
I will tell you the truth; falsehood I disdain.
On the death of the Duke of Brabant
he entrusted to my protection his children,
the maiden Elsa and the boy Godfrey;
I tended him faithfully as he grew through childhood;
his life was the jewel of my honour.
judge then, O King, the bitterness of my grief
when I was robbed of my honour's jewel!
One day Elsa took the boy for a stroll
in the woods, but returned home without him;
with feigned anxiety she asked about her brother,
since she by chance had become separated from him
and then could find, she said, no trace of him.
Fruitless were all our searches for the lost one;
then when I questioned Elsa threateningly
her pallor and her trembling revealed to us
her confession of her hideous crime.
I was seized with horror of the maid;
the right to her hand, granted me by her father,
I there and then willingly renounced
and took a wife more to my taste,
Ortrud, daughter of Radbod, prince of Friesland.
Now I charge Elsa von Brabant
and accuse her of her brother’s murder.
And I claim this land for my own by right
as the Duke’s next of kin;
moreover, my wife is of the race
that once gave this land its rulers.
You hear my charge, O King! Judge aright!

Telramund accuses her of a grave crime!
I hear the charge with horror!

What a fearful charge you have brought!
How could so heinous a crime be possible?

My lord, the maid who haughtily refused
my hand is empty-headed and lost in dreams.
I accuse her of a secret passion:
she thought perchance that, rid of her brother,
as Queen of Brabant she could deny her hand
to the subject with a right to it
and openly harbour her secret paramour.

Summon the accused here!
The trial shall begin forthwith!
God grant me wisdom!

Shall a judgment by right and might be held here?

solemnly hanging his shield on the oak tree
This shield shall no more protect me
until I have given judgment severe but merciful!

drawing their swords, the Saxons and Thuringians  thrusting theirs into the earth, the Brabantines laying theirs flat on the ground before them
Our swords shall not return to their sheaths
until justice has pronounced judgment!

Where you behold the royal shield
there shall you see justice in judgment!
Then loud and clear I issue my summons:
Elsa, appear before us!

Elsa and her women

See, she comes to answer her heavy charge!
Ah, how candid and pure she seems!
He who dared so gravely to accuse her
must indeed be certain of her guilt!

Are you Elsa of Brabant?
Elsa inclines her head in affirmation
Do you accept me as your judge?
Elsa turns her head towards the King, looks into his eyes and then assents with a trusting gesture
Then I ask you further:
do you know the grave charge
that is laid against you?
Elsa looks at Frederick and Ortrud, shudders, droops her head sadly and assents
What is your answer to the charge?
Elsa indicates "Nothing" by a gesture
Then you admit your guilt?

My poor brother!

How strange! What curious behaviour!

Speak, Elsa! What have you to confide to me?

Alone in troubled days
I appealed to God
and poured out in prayer
my heart's deepest anguish.
Then from my laments
arose a cry so piteous
that it filled the air far and wide
with its vast reverberation.
I heard it echo far away
until it barely reached my ear;
then my eyelids closed
and I sank into a sweet sleep.

How strange! Is she dreaming? Is she distracted?

Elsa, defend yourself before your judge!

Arrayed in shining armour
a knight was approaching,
more virtuous and pure
than any I had yet seen,
a golden horn at his hip
and leaning on his sword.
Thus was this worthy knight
sent to me from heaven;
with courteous bearing
he gave me consolation;
that knight will defend me,
he shall be my champion!

May heaven's grace guide us, that we
may plainly see where  lies the guilt!

Frederick, honourable man,
consider well whom you accuse!

I am not misled by her dreamy manner;
you hear, she rambles about a lover!
For what I accuse her of I have firm grounds.
Her offence is proved to me beyond doubt;
but to dispel your doubts by calling a witness
would truly wound my pride!
Here I stand, here is my sword! Which of you
will venture to contest the price of my honour?

None of us! We will only fight on your behalf!

And do you, O King, recall my service
when in battle I smote the savage Dane?

It would be poor if I needed you to remind me!
Gladly I grant you the highest prize of virtue;
I would not have this country
in any other's care but yours.
God alone must now decide this case!

May God decide! May God decide!
So be it!

drawing his sword and solemnly thrusting it into the ground before him
I ask you, Frederick, Count of Telramund,
are you willing by mortal combat
to submit your cause to God's judgment?


And now I ask you, Elsa of Brabant,
are you willing that in mortal combat
a champion shall defend your cause for God's judgment?


Whom do you choose as your champion?

You will now hear the name of her lover!

Mark it well!

That knight will defend me,
he shall be my champion!
Hear what I offer as guerdon
to the one sent by God:
in my father's domains
he shall wear the crown;
I shall consider myself happy
if he accepts my property,
and if he wishes to make me his bride
I will give him myself as I am!

A goodly prize, if he stands in God's grace!
The contender plays for high stakes!

The sun already stands high at noon:
now is the time to issue the challenge.

The herald advances with the four trumpeters, whom he stations at the four points of the compass on the outside edge of the judgment circle and there bids them blow the challenge

He who in heaven's name will do battle here
for Elsa of Brabant, let him stand forth!

The challenge dies away unanswered.
It bodes ill for her cause.

pointing to Elsa
Observe, did I charge her wrongly?
Right is on my side!

Gracious king, let me beg you,
summon my knight once again!
Perhaps he dwells far off and did not hear.

to the herald
Once more call him to the court!

At a sign from the herald the trumpeters take up their positions again at the four points of the compass

He who in heaven's name will do battle here
for Elsa of Brabant, let him stand forth!

God gives judgment by this doleful silence!

Elsa falls on her knees in fervent prayer. Her women, anxious for their mistress, move slightly nearer into the foreground

Thou didst bear to him my lament,
to me he came at Thy behest.
O Lord, tell my knight
to help me in my need!
Let me see him as I saw him;
as I then saw him let him appear to me!

on their knees
Lord, send Thy aid!
Lord God, hear us!

Lohengrin becomes visible in the distance in a boat on the river, drawn by a swan

See! See! What a strange and wondrous sight!
What? A swan?
A swan is drawing a boat here!
A knight is standing upright in it!
How brightly shines his armour! My eye is dazzled
by its gleam! - See, he is already drawing nearer!
The swan draws him by a golden chain!
See, still nearer he comes towards the shore!
Behold him! He comes! A miracle has transpired,
A miracle such as we have not heard nor seen!

We thank Thee, Lord, who dost protect the weak!

The afore-mentioned, Lohengrin

Greetings, O hero sent by heaven!

The boat, drawn by the swan, reaches the bank, centre back; Lohengrin in gleaming silver armour, helmet on his head, shield on his back, a small golden horn at his side, is standing in it, leaning on his sword. Frederick stares at him in speechless astonishment, Ortrud, who during the hearing has retained a cold, haughty attitude, is struck with fearful terror at the sight of the swan. All uncover their heads in profound awe. As Lohengrin makes the first move to leave the boat, the most intense silence falls on all.

one foot still in the boat, bending over the swan
My thanks to you, dear swan!
Glide back over the wide water to the place
from which your boat brought me;
return to where alone lies our happiness!
Then will your task be faithfully fulfilled.
Farewell, farewell, beloved swan!

The swan slowly turns the boat and swims back up the river. Lohengrin gazes sadly after it for a time.

What sweet blissful awe seizes us! What gracious power
holds us in thrall! How handsome and noble of aspect is he
whom such a miracle brought to our land!

who has left the bank and advanced slowly and solemnly to the front, making obeisance to the King
Hail, King Henry! May God
ever give His blessing to your sword!
Renowned and great may your name be,
never to vanish from this earth!

My thanks! lf I rightly recognise
the power that brought you to this land,
you were sent to us by God?

I am sent to stand champion
for a maid calumnied
by a grievous charge. Now let me see
if I find favour in he sight.
Then speak, Elsa of Brabant:
if I am appointed your champion,
will you without doubts or fears
entrust yourself to my protection?

My hero, my rescuer, take me!
I give myself wholly to you, as I am.

If I am victorious for you in the combat,
will you take me for your husband?

As I lie at your feet,
so I freely give you my life and being.

Elsa, if I am to be your husband
and defend your land and people,
and nothing is ever to tear me from you,
one thing you must solemnly promise me:
you must never ask me
or be at pains to discover
from whence I journeyed here,
nor what is my name and lineage!

My lord, never shall this question come from me!

Elsa, have you understood me well?
You must never ask me
or be at pains to discover
from whence I journeyed here,
nor what is my name and lineage!

My shield! My angel! My deliverer,
who firmly believes in my innocence!
How could there be greater guilt
than a doubt that shakes my faith in you?
As you defend me in my need,
so will I honour your command!

Elsa, I love you!

What tender marvel do I see?
Is it a spell which binds me?
I feel my heart grow faint
at the sight of this noble, radiant knight!

Now hear! To you, people and nobles, I proclaim:
Elsa of Brabant is free of all guilt!
Heaven's judgment shall make it known
that your charge is false, Count of Telramund!

Call off the fight! If you challenge him,
you will never succeed in conquering him.
If he is protected by heaven's might,
then what avails your valiant sword?
Give up! We counsel you sincerely.
Disaster awaits you, and bitter regret.

Far sooner die than turn tail!
Whatever sorcery has brought you here,
stranger with so bold a front,
your proud threats will never daunt me,
for I have never stooped to tell a lie.
Therefore I accept combat with you,
and may victory attend the cause of right!

Now, O King, arrange the combat!

Then let three stand forth for each champion
and measure well the ring for the fray!

Three Saxon nobles step forward for Lohengrin, three Brabantines for Frederick: solemnly they pace out the field of combat and mark it out, forming a complete circle, with their spears

Now hear me and heed my words:
none with this fight shall interfere;
all shall remain outside the lists.
For whoever disturbs the peace,
if a freeman he shall lose a hand,
if a serf he shall forfeit his head!

A freeman shall lose a hand,
a serf forfeit his head!

to Lohengrin and Frederick
Hear me too, you who fight this cause!
Faithfully observe the rules of combat.
Do not deflect the course of justice
by evil magic arts or guile.
May God Judge you according to the right;
trust in Him, not in your strength!

May God judge me according to the right;
I trust in Him, not in my strength!

O Lord God, on Thee I call
All bare their heads and give themselves over to earnest devotion
to preside over this combat!
Through victory by the sword let Thy will be done
and falsehood and truth be clearly revealed!
Grant the righteous arm a hero's might
and let the strength of the wrong falter!
O help us, God, at this time,
for our wisdom is but foolishness!

Thou wilt reveal Thy just decree, O Lord
and God, therefore I do not fear!

I go forth, trusting in Thy decree!
Lord God, let me not be dishonoured!

I place my trust in his strength,
which brings him victory whenever he fights.

Grant the righteous arm a hero's might
and let the strength of the wrong falter!
Then reveal to us Thy just decree,
O Lord our God, do not delay!

O Lord our God, favour him!

All return to their places in deep and solemn emotion. The six combat witnesses stand by their spears next to the ring, the other men crowd closely round them. Elsa and her women in the foreground with the King. At the herald's signal the trumpeters sound the call to combat: Lohengrin and Frederick complete the preparation of their weapons. -

The King pulls his sword from the ground and with it strikes three times on his shield, which is hanging on the oak-tree. At the first stroke Lohengrin and Frederick take up their positions for the fight, at the second they draw their swords and brandish them; at the third stroke they set to. Lohengrin attacks first. After several violent passages, Lohengrin with a tremendous blow fells his opponent. Frederick attempts to rise again, staggers a few paces backwards and falls to the ground. The King takes down his shield from the oak.

holding his sword to Frederick's throat
By God's victory your life is forfeit to me:
I grant you it; devote it to repentance!

All the men return their swords to their scabbards: the combat witnesses take their spears from the earth. All, nobles and men alike, joyfully break into the former combat circle.

Hail! Hail! Hail to the hero!

The King leads Elsa to Lohengrin

O that I could find songs of rejoicing
to match your fame,
worthy to acclaim you,
rich in highest praise!
In you I am lost,
before you I am as naught;
if I am to be blessed,
take me wholly, as I am!

I gained the victory
only through your purity;
now shall you be richly recompensed
for all that you have suffered!

Alas, God has struck me down;
through Him I am defeated.
I must despair of salvation,
I am ruined and disgraced.

Who is it who has struck me down,
before whom I am helpless?
Must I despair before him
and all my hopes be dashed?

Raise a song of victory
loud in highest praise to the hero!
Acclaimed be your journey!
Praised be your coming!
Hail to your name,
protector of virtue!
You have defended
the right of the innocent;
praised be your coming!
Hail to your race!
To you alone we sing in celebration,
to you our songs resound!
Never will a hero like you
come to this land again!

O that I could find songs of rejoicing
to match his fame,
worthy to acclaim him,
rich in highest praise!
You have defended
the right of the innocent;
praised be your
Hail to your journey!

Young Saxons raise Lohengrin on his shield, and Brabantines Elsa on the King's shield, on which several have previously spread their cloaks; in this manner both are carried off amid rejoicing. Frederick falls unconscious at Ortrud's feet.


In the citadel of Antwerp.

In the background, centre, the Palas (the knights' quarters), in the left foreground the Kemenate (the women's quarters), in the right foreground the gates of the cathedral. It is night. The windows of the Palas are brightly lit; from the Palas can be beard festive music, horns and trombones sounding gaily.

On the steps by the cathedral gates sit Frederick and Ortrud, both in dark, mean attire. Ortrud, resting her arm on her knee, gazes unwaveringly at the brightly lit windows of the Palas; Frederick looks gloomily at the ground.

Arouse yourself, companion of my shame!
The dawning day must not find us here.

I cannot stir; I am bound here.
From this lustre of our foes' revels
let me suck a fearful deadly poison
which will end our shame and their joy!

Fiend in woman's shape, what is it
that still binds me to your side?
Why do I not leave you alone
and flee far, far away,
where my conscience could again find rest?
Through you I have lost
my honour and all my reputation;
never more shall praise crown me,
my heroism is dishonoured!
Banishment is pronounced on me,
my sword lies shattered,
my escutcheon stained,
my father’s home accursed!
Wherever I turn now
I am shunned and set apart;
even robbers avoid me
so that I shall not offend their sight.
Would that I had found death,
since I am so wretched!
I have lost my honour;
my name, my name is disgraced!

What makes you waste yourself in such wild laments?

That I have lost even the weapon
with which to strike you down!

Why, great Count of Telramund,
have you lost faith in me?

You ask me that?
Was it not your testimony, your story,
that inveigled me into accusing the innocent Elsa?
Did you not lie to me that from your secluded
castle home in the gloomy wood
you with your own eyes saw
the crime committed, how Elsa herself
drowned her brother in the pool? And did you
not seduce my proud heart with your prediction
that Radbod's ancient royal race soon
would flourish again and rule in Brabant?
Did you not thus induce me to renounce the hand
of the innocent Elsa and take you as wife,
as being Radbod's last descendant?

Ah, how grievously you wound me!
Yes, all this I recounted and said to you.

And made me, whose name was highly honoured,
whose life was the acme of all virtue,
the base accomplice of your lies?

Who lied?

You! Did not God in his judgment
strike me down because of this?


O horror!
How hideous that name sounds from your lips!

Ah, do you call your cowardice God?


Would you threaten me? Threaten me, a woman?
Coward! If you had so fiercely threatened
him who now brings this misery on you,
victory, not shame, would have been yours.
Ah, one who knew how to oppose him
would find him weaker than a child!

The weaker he is, the more
did God exert his might.

His might? Ha ha!
Give me the power, and I will show you plainly
how feeble is the God who protects him.

You heathen sorceress, would you once again
mislead my spirit by your arcane arts?

The sated revellers are stretched out in sleep.
Sit here by me! The hour has come
for my prophetic vision to enlighten you.
During the following, Frederick comes closer and closer to Ortrud as if drawn to her in some sinister way, and bends his ear attentively to her.
Do you know who this hero is,
who was brought to this land by a swan?


What would you give to learn it
if I told you that, were he forced
to disclose his name and race,
all his power, which a spell alone lends him,
would be at an end?

Ah! Now I understand his prohibition.

Now listen! No one has the power
to wrest his secret from him
but she whom he so firmly forbade
ever to question him.

Then Elsa must be induced
not to refrain from asking him.

Ah, you are quick to understand!

But how can this be brought about?

Hark! -
Above all, it is necessary not to fly
from here: so sharpen your wits!
To arouse her just suspicion
stand forth, charge him with sorcery,
by which he perverted the course of justice!

Yes, fraud and sorcery!

If that fails, there remains a means by force!

By force?

I have not delved deep
into the secret arts in vain;
so heed well what I tell you.
Any person deriving his strength from a spell
must at once, if he should lose
even the smallest part of his body,
reveal himself in all his weakness.

O that what you say were true!

Oh, had you in the fight cut off
only a finger, yes, even a finger-joint,
the hero would have been in your power!

O horror! What are you telling me!
I thought I was struck down by God -
so His judgment was duped by a trick,
and my honour lost through magic's guile!
Then I could avenge my disgrace,
if I could attest my honesty!
I could break her lover's fraud
and retrieve my reputation!
O wife, whom I see before me in the darkness,
if this be further deceit, then woe to you! Woe!

Oh how you rave! Be calm and reasonable!
I will teach you the sweet bliss of vengeance!

Frederick seats himself slowly at Ortrud's side on the steps

Let the act of vengeance be conjured up
from the stormy darkness of my bosom!
Know, you who are lost in soft sleep,
that disaster awaits you!

Elsa appears on the balcony in a white robe: she comes forward to the balustrade and leans her head on her hand.
Frederick and Ortrud are sitting opposite her on the cathedral steps.

You breezes, that my lamentation
often filled so sadly,
I must gratefully tell you
of the dawn of my happiness!
By you he was wafted here,
you smiled upon his journey:
you faithfully kept him safe
upon the stormy waves.
I often besought you
to dry my tears;
now come and cool
my cheeks, that burn with love!

It is she!


She shall tue the hour in which
she now meets my eye. - Keep back!
Withdraw a while from here!


Leave her to me - her hero shall be your concern!

Frederick withdraws and disappears in the background

remaining in the same place

Who calls? - How sinister and mournful
is the sound of my name in the night!

Is my voice so unknown to you?
Will you quite disown the wretch
you have consigned to utmost woe?

Ortrud! Is it you?
What are you doing here, hapless woman?

… "Hapless woman!"
You are indeed right to call me so!
In the lonely remoteness of the woods
where I lived quietly and in peace,
how, how did I harm you?
Joyless, only bewailing the ill-fate
which so long dogged my race,
how, how did I harm you?

Before God, why do you reproach me?
Was it I who brought this grief upon you?

How indeed could you envy my fortune
that the man you so lightly rejected
should choose me for his wife?

Gracious heaven! Why this to me?

Misled by some fatal delusion, he was led
to bring a charge against your innocence;
now his heart is rent with remorse,
and he is condemned to fearful punishment.

O righteous God!

Ah, you are happy!
After brief undeserved suffering
you see life only smiling on you;
you can calmly turn away from me
and consign me to the road to death,
so that the sad sound of my distress
shall never cloud your rejoicing!

How little would I prize Thy blessings,
Almighty God, who hast been so gracious to me,
if I thrust from me the adversity
which kneels before me in the dust!
O never! Ortrud! Wait there for me!
I myself will let you in!

She hurries back into the Kemenate

springing up from the steps in fierce exaltation
Now aid my vengeance, ye dishonoured gods!
Punish the disgrace brought upon you here!
Strengthen me in the Service of your holy cause!
Destroy the vile beIiefs of the apostates!
Wodan the mighty, I call on thee!
Freia the sublime, hear me!
Bless me with guile and deceit,
that my revenge may be sweet!

Ortrud, where are you?

Elsa and two maidservants with candles come out of the lower door of the Kemenate

humbly throwing herself at Elsa's feet
Here at your feet.

Great heavens! Must I now see you thus,
whom I have seen only in pride and pomp?
My heart will be choked
to see you so humbled near me!
Arise! Spare me your entreaties!
If you bore me hate, I forgive you;
for what through me you have already suffered
I beg you to forgive me too.

O thank you for all your goodness!

I will implore the loving heart of him
who tomorrow is to be my husband
to show mercy to Frederick too.

You bind me in bonds of gratitude!

Early tomorrow let me see you ready -
decked in fine raiment
you shall go with ine to the cathedral.
There I am to await my hero,
to be bis lawful wife in the sight of God.

How can I, powerless and desolate,
repay such graciousness?
If I may dwell within your mercy
I will always be your humble debtor!
One power only was given me
that no decree of law could take from me:
by it perhaps I can protect your welfare
and preserve it from grief and distress.

What do you mean?

It were well I should warn you
not to trust too blindly in your happiness;
lest some misfortune should befall you,
let me look into the future for you.

What misfortune?

Have you never reflected
that he of such mysterious lineage
might leave you in the same way
as by magic he came to you?

Poor woman, you can never measure
how free of doubt is my heart!
You have indeed never known the happiness
that only faith can give.
Come in with me! Let me teach you
how sweet is the bliss of perfect trust!
Let yourself be converted to faith:
it brings happiness without alloy!

Ha! This pride of hers shall teach me
how to undermine her trust!
Against it I will turn her own weapon:
through her pride shall come her pain!

Led by Elsa, she enters through the little door with feigned reluctance; the servants light the way and close the door behind them

coming forward from the background
Thus disaster enters this house!
Accomplish, wife, what your cunning devised;
I have no power to hinder your design!
The disaster began with my defeat;
now let those who brought me down be overthrown!
Only one goal I see before me -
the despoiler of my honour shall be destroyed!

Day gradually dawns. Two watchmen blow a reveille from the tower: an answer is heard from a distant tower. Retainers. The four royal trumpeters. Brabantine nobles and soldiers.

The early summons assembles us;
the day is rich in promise.
He who wrought such mighty marvels
may bring about many fresh deeds.

The herald marches out of the Palas, preceded by the four trumpeters. The royal fanfare is sounded again.

I now proclaim the King's decree and will;
so heed well what he pronounces through me!
Frederick of Telramund is banished and outlawed
for faithlessly daring God's ordeal.
By the law of the kingdom the same ban falls
on whoever harbours him or consorts with him.

A curse on him, the traitor,
whom God's judgment struck down!
Let all honest men shun him,
and may he find no rest or sleep!

And further the King proclaims
that he appoints the God-sent stranger
who seeks Elsa as his consort
to the land and crown of Brabant.
But since the hero does not wish the title of Duke,
you shall call him Protector of Brabant!

Hail the man we have longed for!
Hail to him, sent by God!
Loyally will we serve
the Protector of Brabant!

Now hear what he proclaims through me.
Today he celebrates his wedding feast with you,
but tomorrow you shall come prepared for war,
to serve in the forces of the King;
he himself disdains to seek soft rest
but will lead you to fame and glory!

To battle without delay
our hero leads us on!
The path to glory awaits
those who bravely fight with him.
He is sent by God
for the greatness of Brabant!

While the people are surging about joyously, four nobles,former adherents of Frederick, together move to the front

You hear, he will lead us away from our land!

Against a foe who never threatened us?

So rash a beginning is not meet for him!

Who will oppose him if he orders us to set forth?

who has appeared among them unperceived
I will!
he uncovers his face

falling back, startled
Ha, who are you? - Frederick!

Do I see aright?

You venture here, a prey to any serf?

Soon I will venture much further yet;
before your eyes daylight shall shine!
He who so rashly summons you to the campaign
will be accused by me of sorcery!

What do I hear? You are raving! What do you intend?
You are lost if you are overheard!

They hurry Frederick towards the cathedral, where they try to hide him from the sight of the crowd. Four pages enter through the door of the Kemenate on to the balconv, run gaily down the stairway and station themselves in front of the Palas on the terrace.

Make room for our lady Elsa,
who is on her way to the cathedral!

They move forward, making a broad passage through the nobles, who readily yield, to the steps of the cathedral where they take up their positions. Four other pages advance with measured and solemn steps from the Kemenate to the balcony and station themselves there, ready to accompany the  expected procession of ladies.

A long procession of ladies in splendid attire advances slowly from the door of the Kemenate on to the balcony: it turns left past the stairway of the Palas and thence forward again to the cathedral, on the steps of which the first comers arrange themselves.

Blessed be her steps
who so long suffered in humility!
May God guide her
and lead her on her way.

The nobles, who have involuntarily pressed forward, again give way before the pages, who make room for the procession, which has almost arrived before the Palas. Elsa, magnificently dressed, has appeared in the procession and has now reached the terrace in front of the Palas: the path is again open, and all can see Elsa, who lingers awhile.

She approaches, the angelic one,
glowing with radiant purity!

Hail, Elsa of Brabant,
rich in virtue!

Here, as well as the pages, the foremost ladies have almost reached the steps of the cathedral. As Elsa, amid loud acclamation from the crowd, is about to set her foot on the first step of the cathedral, Ortrud, who has hitherto walked among the last ladies in the procession, breaks forward violently, advancing towards Elsa and stationing herself on the same step, confronting her, thus forcing her to retreat.

Stand back, Elsa! No longer will I endure it,
that I should follow you like a menial!
At all times you owe me precedence,
and must humbly bow before me!

What does the woman want? Get back!

Great heaven! What is this?
What sudden change has come over you?

Because for an hour I forgot my position
do you think that I must only cringe before you?
I intend to have revenge for my suffering;
I demand what is mine by right!

Ah! I was misled by your deceit
when last night you crept lamenting to me.
How can you now arrogantly walk before me,
the wife of one condemned by God?

Although false judgment has condemned my husband,
his name was highly honoured in the land;
he was called the crown of all virtue,
his valiant sword was known and feared.
But yours, who here can know him
if you yourself may not call him by his name?

What is this? What is she saying?

This is slander!

Close her mouth!

Can you name him? Can you tell us
whether his lineage, his nobility, is well attested,
from whence the waters brought him to you,
when he will leave you again, and for where?
Ah no! It would bring disaster on him –
so the crafty hero forbade the question!

Does she speak the truth? This is a serious charge!
She slanders him! How can she dare?

Slanderer! Wicked woman!
Hear, if I can trust myself to answer!
So pure and noble is his nature,
so virtuous this exalted being,
that none who can doubt his mission
shall ever be free from ill-fortune.

'Tis true!

Did not my dear hero, with God's help,
strike down your husband in the combat?
Now let all say, in justice,
which alone can be innocent?

Only he! Only he!

The hero alone!

Ha, how soon would this innocence
of your hero be besmirched
if he had to reveal the magic craft
by which he wields such power here!
If you do not dare to question him
we shall all believe, with right
that you yourself falter in misgiving,
and have little confidence in his innocence!

Shield her from this wildcat's hate!

The Palas is opened; the four trumpeters of the King appear and blow a fanfare

Make way! Make way! The King approaches!

The King, Lohengrin and the Saxon Counts and nobles advance in solemn procession from the Palas, their progress is hindered by the confusion in the foreground.
The King and Lohengrin press forward quickly through the disordered crowd.

Hail! Hail to the King!
Hail to the Protector of Brabant!

What is this strife?

My lord! O my master!

What is it?

Who dares to bar our path to the church?

What is the strife whose sound has reached us?

perceiving Ortrud
What do I see? That fatal woman by you?

My rescuer! Protect me from this woman!
Chide me if I disobeyed you!
I saw her lamenting before these doors
and in her distress took her in with me.
Now see how ill she requites my kindness –
she taunts me with trusting you too much!

You evil woman, stand away from her!
Here you shall never triumph! –
Tell me, Elsa, has her poison
succeeded in entering your heart?
Elsa, weeping, hides her face against his breast
Come, let these tears flow in joy within!

He turns with Elsa and the King at the head of the procession towards the cathedral; all prepare to follow in an orderly manner. Frederick appears on the cathedral steps; the ladies and pages, as they recognise him, shrink back from him in horror.

O King! Deluded nobles! Stay your steps!

What would he here?

What would he here?
Away, accursed one!

O hear me!

Back! Away with you!

Away! Your life is forfeit!

Hear me! You have done me grievous wrong!


Away! Be off with you!

God's judgment was profaned and cheated!
You have been deluded by a sorcerer’s craft!

Seize the criminal!

Seize the criminal!

Hark, he blasphemes God!

They set on him from all sides

with frantic efforts to make himself heard, fixing his eyes only on Lohengrin and ignoring those pressing about him
He whom I see gleaming there before me
I accuse of sorcery!
Like dust before the winds of God shall the power
he won by guile be blown away!
How ill you considered the judgment
that deprived me of my honour,
since one question you spared him
when he entered the lists.
That question you cannot prevent me
from putting to him now:
loudly before the whole world I ask
his name, rank and lineage!
Who is he who was drawn by a wild swan
swimming to the land?
I regard the purity of one who avails himself
of such familiars as an illusion!
Now let him answer my charge;
if he does, I was rightly judged -
if not, then it is clear to see
his innocence has no foundation!

A weighty charge!

What will be his answer?

I am not answerable to you,
who so forgot your honour!
I may disregard the doubts of evil men,
before which innocence shall never weaken.

If I am considered unworthy by him,
I will invoke you, revered King!
Will he also call you degraded
and forbid you to question him?

Yes, I would deny even the King
and the noble assembly of all the princes!
They need not bear the burden of any doubt,
for they saw the worth of my deed!
There is one only to whom I am bound to answer:
Elsa …
Elsa - why are you trembling?
I see her sunk in gloomy brooding:
has hate's lying tongue deceived her?
O heaven! Shield her heart from dangers!
Never let doubt penetrate her innocence!

I see her sunk in gloomy brooding,
the seeds of doubt are sown in her heart;
he who has brought me low in this country
is undone if she puts the question to him!

What a secret the hero must conceal!
If it brings him ill let bis lips guard it close!
We will protect him, this noble knight, from danger:
through his deeds he has shown his nobility.

What he conceals would certainly bring him into danger
if his lips were to utter it here before all the world;
I, whom he saved, ungrateful that I am,
would be betraying him to have him make it known.
If I knew bis destiny I would keep the secret faithfully,
yet doubt stirs in the depths of my heart.

My hero, boldly defy this traitor!
You are too noble to let his charge dismay you!

pressing round Lohengrin
We stand by you; we shall not regret
having recognised in you the crown of heroism!
Give us your hand! We have faith in you,
and noble is your name, though it be unknown to us.

You heroes, you shall not regret your faith,
though my name and lineage never be made known to you!

While Lohengrin, surrounded by men, each of whose outstretched hands he shakes, remains rather more in the background, Frederick creeps unobserved up to Elsa, who has hitherto through agitation, confusion and shame not been able to look at Lohengrin and so, struggling with herself, still stands alone in the foreground.

softly, breaking in on Elsa with passion
Trust in me! Let me tell you a way
of obtaining certainty.

Away from me!

Let me but wound the smallest part of him,
a finger tip, and I swear to you
that what he hides will be made plain to you,
and he will be faithful and never leave you!

Ah! No more!

I shall be near you tonight;
shouldst thou call, ‘tis quickly done without harm.

Elsa, with whom are you speaking?
Elsa turns away from Frederick with a look full of doubt and distress and falls at Lohengrin's feet, deeply affected. To Frederick and Ortrud.
Away from her, traitors!
Let me never again
see you near her!
Elsa, arise! In your hands, in your trust
lies the guarantee of all out happiness.
Are you not yielding to the power of doubt?
Do you wish to question me?

My saviour, who rescued me!
My hero, in whom is my whole life!
My love shall stand high
above all the power of doubt!

Beloved Elsa! Now let us go before God!

See, he is sent by heaven!

Hail! Hail!

Lohengrin solemnly leads Elsa past the nobles to the King. As Lohengrin comes by with Elsa, the people make way respectfully.

Hail to the pair! Hail, Elsa of Brabant!
Conducted by the King, Lohengrin and Elsa slowly advance to the cathedral
Heaven bless your steps!
May God guide you!

Hail, flower of virtue!
Hail, Elsa of Brabant!

As the King reaches the highest step with the bridal pair, Elsa turns in deep emotion to Lohengrin, who takes her in his arms. From his embrace she turns in modest confusion, and looking down the steps to the right sees Ortrud, who raises her arm against her as if she had gained a victory; Elsa averts her face in terror.



The introductory music depicts the brilliant bustle of the wedding feast. The stage shows the bridal chamber: in the background, centre, the richly decorated bridal bed; by an open bay-window a low couch. Music behind the scenes: the choir is distant at first, then draws nearer.

In the middle of the song doors right and left in the background are opened: from the right enter ladies conducting Elsa, from the left men, including the King, conducting Lohengrin. Pages go ahead with lights.

by men and women
Guided in faith, enter within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorious valour and the prize of love
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.
Champion of virtue, advance!
Flower of youth, advance!
Let the sound of revelry be shut out
and your heart's bliss be attained!
Now, removed from sight, take possession
Of this perfumed chamber, decked for love.
Guided in faith, now enter within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorious valour and pure love
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.

As the two trains meet in the middle of the stage Elsa is led to Lohengrin

As God has given you His blessing
we too wish you happiness.
Long remember this hour
in the course of love's Joy!

The King embraces and blesses Lohengrin and Elsa. The pages give the signal to leave. The processions re-form and during the following pass by the newly married pair so that the men leave the chamber on the right, the ladies on the left.

Guided in faith, stay within,
where may the blessing of love attend you!
Victorlous valour, love and happiness
unite you in trust as a blessed pair.
Champion of virtue, here remain!
Flower of youth, here remain!
Let the sound of revelry be shut out
and your heart's bliss be attained!
Now, removed from sight, take possession
of this perfumed chamber, decked for love.

Elsa, Lohengrin

The sweet song dies away; we are alone,
alone for the first time since we saw each other.
Now we can be remote from the world,
no listener near our heart's avowals.
Elsa, my wife! Sweetest, purest bride!
Confide to me now whether you are happy!

How cold I would be to call myself merely happy,
when I possess all heaven's bliss!
When I feel my heart so sweetly inflamed for you,
I breathe a rapture only God can grant!

Fair one, you may indeed call yourself happy,
since you bestow me heaven's bliss too!
When I feel my heart so sweetly inflamed for you,
I breathe a rapture only God can grant!
How wondrous do I find the course of our love!
We had never met, yet each knew the other;
if I was selected for your champion,
love had prepared my way to you.
Your looks proclaimed you free from guilt –
your gaze compelled me to serve your grace.

But I had already seen you before;
in a blissful dream you had appeared to me;
when I awoke and saw you standing before me
I knew that you had come by God's command.
Then I wished I could melt before your gaze
and like a stream flow round about your steps;
like a flower scenting the meadow, I wished
enraptured to bend before your tread.
Is this but love? What can I call it,
this word so inexpressibly blissful,
like your name, ah! which I may never know,
by which I may never call my dearest!


How sweetly my name glides from your lips!
Do you grudge me the dear sound of yours?
Only when we have attained the silence of love
shall you permit my lips to utter it.

My dearest wife!

… Alone, when no one is awake,
never to be breathed to the world's ear!

gently embracing her and pointing through the open window to the flower garden
Do you not breathe, with tue, those sweet scents?
O how they intoxicate the senses!
In secret they approach on the air
and unquestioningly I surrender to their spell.
Such is the spell that binds me to you,
sweet one, since first I saw you;
I needed not to know your station;
my eyes fell on you and my heart went out to you.
As these scents bewitch my senses,
though they rise from the mysterious night,
so did your innocence enchant me
though I saw you suspected of a heinous crime.

Ah, if I could appear worthy of you
my life would not be in vain;
could some service bind me to you
I would gladly suffer for you!
As you found me in grievous plight
O could I know you too in need!
Would that I knew a danger threatening you,
so that I might courageously share your cares!
Is your secret such
that your lips are closed to all the world?
Perhaps some peril awaits you
were it made known to all the world?
O were it so and I allowed to know it,
if it were given into my keeping,
no threat could tear it from me;
for you I would gladly die!


O make me proud by your confidence,
that I may not die untrusted!
Let your secret be revealed to me,
that I may fully know who you are!

Ah, silence, Elsa!

O reveal your noble worth
to my trust!
Tell me without demur from whence you came -
let me prove my power of silence! 

You have already to thank nie for the utmost trust
when I gladly put my faith in your word;
if you will never waver from my behest
I will esteem you high above all women!
Upon my breast, sweet innocent,
draw near to my glowing heart;
softly shine on me your eyes,
in which I saw all my happiness!
O grant me the rapture
of breathing your breath;
let me press you ever closer to me,
that in you I may find my happiness!
Your love will amply requite me
for what I gave up for your sake;
no fortune in God's wide world
could be called nobler than mine.
Were the King to offer me his crown
I would rightly disdain it.
The one thing to repay my sacrifice
I find in your love!
Then cast away all doubt;
let your love be my proud surety!
For I come not from night and woe
but from light and bliss!

O heaven, what must I hear?
What have your lips revealed?
You wished to beguile me
but now bring me misery!
The life you had forsaken
was filled with perfect joy;
for me you gave up bliss
and you yearn to go back!
How can I believe
that my poor trust is sufficient?
One day regret for your love
will take you from me!

Do not torment yourself like this!

But you torment me!
Must I count the days
that you will still remain with me?
In anxiety over your staying
my cheeks will fade;
then you will hasten from me
and I be left in despair!

Never will your charms fade
while you remain free from doubt!

Ah, how can I obtain the power
to bind you to me?
Magical in your being,
by magic you came here;
how could I free myself from it?
Where could I find reassurance? –
Do you hear nothing? Nothing approaching?


Ah no!
Yet there - the swan, the swan!
There it comes gliding across the water -
you call it - it draws the boat hither!

Elsa! No more! Calm these fancies!

Nothing can bring me calm,
nothing can banish my fancies
save - though it cost my life –
to know who you are!

Elsa, heed my warning!

Dear man of dread,
hear what I must ask you!
Tell me your name!

No more!

Whence have you come?


What is your lineage?

Alas! What have you done?

Elsa, standing in front of Lohengrin, who has his back to the rear, notices Frederick and his four companions, who break in with drawn swords through a rear door

giving a fearful cry
Save yourself! Your sword, your sword!

She hurriedly hands Lohengrin his sword, which is resting against the couch, so that he can swiftly draw it from the scabbard, which she holds. Lohengrin strikes Frederick, who has raised his arm to him, dead on the ground with one blow; the terrified nobles let fall their swords and sink on their knees at Lohengrin's feet. Elsa, who had thrown herself upon Lohengrin's breast, slowly sinks unconscious to the ground.

Alas, now all our happiness is over!

He bends down to Elsa, gently picks her up and places her on the couch

Eternal Father, have mercy on me!

Day is gradually beginning to break: the candles, which have burned down low, are about to go out. At a sign from Lohengrin the four knights rise.

Carry the dead man to the King's judgment seat!
Array Elsa, my sweet bride,
to be led before the King.
There I will prepare to answer her,
that she may know her husband's lineage!

Change of scene

The meadow on the banks of the Scheldt.
Rosy dawn; full daylight breaks gradually.

A Count enters with his followers, dismounts from his horse and entrusts it to a squire. Two pages bring him his shield and spear. He sets up his standard, around which his followers assemble. As a second Count appears on the meadow in the same way as the first, the trumpets of a third are already heard approaching. A third Count enters in similar fashion with his train. The new troops gather round their standards; the Counts and nobles greet each other, examine and admire their weapons, etc. A fourth Count enters from the right with fis followers and stations himself centrally in the background. On hearing the trumpets of the King all hasten to range themselves round their banners. The King with his Saxon forces enters from the left.

Hail, King Henry!
King Henry, hail!

I thank you, my loving subjects of Brabant!
How I would feel my heart swell with pride
to find in every German land
so many valiant forces!
Now let out kingdom's foe draw near
and we will boldly meet him:
from his Eastern desert he shall never more
dare to venture here!
For German land the German sword!
Thus may our kingdom's strength be ensured!

For German land the German sword!
Thus may our kingdom's strength be ensured!

Where lingers he whom God sent
for the glory and greatness of Brabant?

A slight stir has occurred; the four Brabantine nobles bring in Frederick's covered body on a bier and put it down in the middle of the stage. All gaze at it uneasily and questioningly.

What have they brought?

What is their news?

They are Telramund's men!

Whom have you brought here? What must I see?
Your look fills me with dread!

Thus wills the Protector of Brabant:
he will make known who this is.

Elsa enters, followed by a long train of ladies

See! The virtuous Elsa approaches!

How pale and troubled her face is!

Why do I see you so sad?
Does parting grieve you so?

Make way for the hero of Brabant!

Hail to the hero of Brabant!

The King has resumed his place under the oak. Lohengrin, in armour exactly as in Act 1, enters solemnly and sadly, unattended.

Welcome, dear hero!
Those whom you so faithfully called to the field
await you, eager for action,
sure of victory with you to lead them.

We await you, eager for action,
sure of victory with you to lead us.

My lord and King, I must declare
that I may not lead those I summoned,
these valiant heroes, into battle!

Heaven preserve us! His words fall heavy on our ears!

Heaven preserve us!

I have not come here as your companion in arms:
behold me now as a plaintiff before you.
He uncovers Frederick's body, from the sight of which all turn away in aversion
Firstly, I appeal aloud to you all
and ask your judgment according to right and law:
this man fell upon me by night;
say if I was right to strike him dead?

As your hand struck him on earth,
so may God's punishment be visited on him!

Yet another charge I must bring before you
and now proclaim to all the world,
that the wife whom God gave to me
let herself be misled into betraying me.

Elsa! How could you commit this wrong?

Elsa! How could this happen?
How could you commit this wrong?

Woe on you, Elsa!

You all heard how she promised me
never to ask who I was?
Now she has broken her solemn oath
and given her faith to perfidious counsel!
To reward the wild questions of her mistrust
let the answer be kept from her no longer:
an enemy's pressure I withstood -
now I must disclose my name and rank.
Now mark well whether I need shun the daylight:
before the whole world, before King and kingdom
I will reveal my secret in all frankness.
Then hear whether I am not as noble as any of you!

What wondrous story shall we now hear?
O could he spare himself this enforced avowal!

In a distant land, unapproachable to your steps,
lies a castle called Montsalvat;
within it stands a gleaming temple
whose like for splendour is unknown on earth;
therein is kept as the holiest of treasures
a vessel blessed with miraculous powers:
it was brought down by an angelic host
to be tended in purity by men.
Each year a dove descends from heaven
to renew its wondrous strength.
It is called the Grail, and blessed pure faith
is bestowed by it on its votaries.
He who is chosen to serve the Grail
it arms with supernatural might;
against him all evil deceit is vain,
before him even the darkness of death yields.
Even one sent by it into distant lands,
called upon as champion for the cause of virtue,
does not lose its holy power
if he remains there unknown as its knight.
Of so rare a nature is the Grail's benediction
that it must be veiled from profane eyes:
you must not then harbour doubts of its knight,
and if he is recognised he must leave you.
Now hear how I answer the forbidden question!
I was sent here among you by the Grail:
my father Parzival wears its crown;
his knight am I, and Lohengrin my name.

As I hear his lofty calling
my eyes burn with tears of holy joy.

The earth is reeling! All is dark!
Air! Give me air, wretch that I am!

O Elsa! What have you done to me?
When my eyes first lighted on you
I felt myself burning with love for you
and swiftly learned a new happiness.
The sacred power, the wonder of my order,
the strength with which my secret arms me,
I wished to dedicate to the service of that purest heart:
Why did you wring that secret from me?
Now, alas, I must be parted from you!

Alas! Must you leave us,
noblest of men, heaven-sent?
If heaven's blessing is taken from us
where then shall we find consolation?

My husband, no! I cannot let you go!
Stay and witness my contrition!
You cannot disregard my bitter remorse:
at your feet I await my punishment!

Alas! Now he must leave you!

I must, I must, sweetest wife!
The Grail is already wroth that I stay away so long.

If you are as godlike as I know you to be,
do not thust heaven's mercy from you!
If the culprit bitterly repents her deep offence,
do not deny her the grace of your presence!
Do not spurn me, however great my crime!
Do not forsake me in my wretchedness!

There is but one punishment for your offence –
ah! its sharp pain strikes me along with you!
We are to be separated and parted:
this must be our punishment, this our penance!

O stay! Do not forsake us!
Your soldiers await their leader!

Hear, O King! I cannot go with you!
A knight of the Grail, once recognised,
were he disobediently to fight for you,
would be deprived of all his manhood's strength!
Yet, great King, let me prophesy to you:
a great victory will be granted to your just cause!
Eastern hordes shall never, even in the furthest
days to come, win victory over German lands!

Great excitement. On the river the swan is seen arriving  with the empty boat, in the same way as at Lohengrin's first appearance.

The swan! The swan!
See it coming back!

The swan! Alas, it approaches!

O horror! The swan!

The Grail has sent for its loitering knight!
Amid intense suspense from the rest, Lohengrin goes towards the bank and bends down to the swan, gazing at it sadly
Beloved swan!
Ah, how gladly would I have spared you
this last sad journey!
A year hence, when your term
of service would have been at an end,
I would have seen you again,
transformed and freed by the Grail's might!
He turns back to Elsa in an outburst of violent grief
O Elsa! Had I but for a year at your side
been witness of your happiness!
Then would your brother, whom you believed dead,
have returned, safe in the Grail's keeping.
handing his horn, sword and ring to Elsa
If he returns, though I shall be living far away,
you shall give him this horn, this sword, this ring.
This horn will bring him aid in danger,
in the heat of battle this sword will grant him victory:
as for the ring, let it remind him of me,
who once freed you from shame and distress!
Farewell! Farewell, my sweetest wife!
Farewell! The Grail will be wroth if I stay longer!

Alas! Noble, gracious knight!
What hardship you cause us!

Go home! Go home, proud hero,
and let me joyfully tell your foolish bride
who it is that draws your boat!
From the chains I wound around him
I knew full well who this swan was:
he is the heir of Brabant!


to Elsa
My thanks for driving the knight away!
The swan is carrying him homeward:
had the hero stayed longer
he would also have freed your brother!

Monster of womankind! What a crime
you have admitted in your shameless exultation!

See how the gods take their revenge
for your having turned away from them!

She remains standing erect in savage ecstasy. Lohengrin, who has already reached the bank, has listened intently to Ortrud and now solemnly sinks to his knees in silent prayer. All eyes are fixed on him in breathless anticipation. - The white dove of the Grail descends and hovers over the boat. Lohengrin, perceiving it, springs up with a look of gratitude and unfastens the chain from the swan, whereupon it immediately plunges beneath the water. In its place Lohengrin lifts a handsome youth in gleaming silver garments - Godfrey - from the river on to the bank.

Behold the Duke of Brabant!
Let him be proclaimed your leader!

At the sight of Godfrey, Ortrud sinks down with a shriek. Lohengrin quickly springs into the boat, which the dove has seized by its chain and now draws away. Elsa, with a sudden access of joy gazes at Godfrey, who comes forward and makes obeisance to the King. All watch him in delighted surprise, the Brabantines bowing the knee to him in homage. Then Godfrey hastens into Elsa's arms: she, after a brief transport of joy, quickly turns her gaze towards the shore, where Lohengrin is no longer to be seen.

My husband! My husband!

Lohengrin becomes visible again in the distance. He is standing with drooping head in the boat, sadly leaning on his shield.



Elsa slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in Godfrey's arms