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  • Tue 16th Apr 2019 - 4:46am

    In the morning, the  iGenics  assembled people of Brabant learn the name and status of their guardian. His song begins as the strings evoke the transcendent realm of his origin. "In far off land, to mortal feet forbidden, there is a castle, Monsalvat by name." In the ethos of medieval chivalry Monsalvat is the sanctuary of the Holy Grail, the sacred challis Jesus shared with his disciples when he instituted the Eucharistic memorial of his death. The Holy Grail appears from the world of Celtic myth in Welsh legendary tales of The Mabinogion. Sir Thomas Malory continued the rich tradition in English literature with his tales of King Arthur's Round Table. On the European continent the grail legend had a life of its own. An unfinished 12th-century poem by the French poet Chrétien de Troyes, describes the discovery of the grail by Parsifal. Wagner's interpretation of the Grail motif comes from an epic by the 13th century German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. In Spain Cervantes began writing a parody of chivalric ideals in Don Quixote only to find himself captivated by chivalry in the end.

    So, in the first utterances of his song, Elsa's defender and the acclaimed guardian of Brabant identifies his nobility as transcendent in origin. He is a knight of the Holy Grail. His strength comes from participation in a divine order that shares the mystery of the blood of Christ in the castle Monsalvat. "A gleaming temple therein is hidden, so rich as nothing on earth could frame/ Therein a cup most holy powers possessing/ Is guarded as a gift of heaven's love/ To be to sinless men a boon and blessing/ It was brought to us by angels from above/ And every year a dove descends from Heaven/ The mystic might within it to resolve/ It's called the Grail/ And purest faith it lendeth to all the knights who in its service strive/ He whom the Grail to be its servant chooses/ It arms with holy supernatural might/ Opposed to him deceit its magic loses/ The powers of darkness he can put to flight/ Though in distant lands the Grail may send him, the cause of injured virtue to defend/ Holy might will attend him, while unknown to all he can remain/ The art that in the Grail is hidden/ Its light no mortal eye can gaze upon/ From every doubt its knight must be protected/ If recognized, he must at once be gone/ Thus compelled, now I reveal my sacred story/ The Grail's servant to you I hither came/ My father Parsifal reigns in his glory/ His knight I am/ And Lohengrin my name." The crescendo in the brass and trumpet flourish that attends this revelation leaves no doubt of Wagner's intent. He understood this story very well and the effect it would have on his audience. King Heinrich sheds a tear, and Elsa laments paradise lost. Aware that his hope of love in this world is also lost, Lohengrin grieves with Elsa that her sincere remorse is vain. The people of Brabant are bereft of their guardian. Against King Heinrich's entreaty Lohengrin explains that should he, in disobedience, seek to remain, his power would be gone and his cause would fail. He reassures Heinrich with a premonition: the Eastern horde will not prevail against German lands.

     

    To compound the pathos of Elsa's innocence, she tries to befriend Ortrude, even as Elsa is being undone by Ortrude's insinuations. She pities Ortrude's destitution, assuming that her husband invented the accusations from which Elsa was miraculously delivered. She invites Ortrude to join with her in the wedding procession at the cathedral and makes Ortrude her maid of honor. In return, as Elsa's bridal procession is entering the cathedral, Ortrude and Telramund block the procession and demand to know the name and origin of the groom. Lohengrin's enigmatic reply is that he is bound to no one, save Elsa, for an answer. Since she, in good faith on her agreement, refuses to ask the forbidden question, King Heinrich and the people of Brabant conclude that the wedding is legitimate and that it shall proceed.

    It is clear in the story from which the composer began that Elsa's faith is the critical factor in her relation to the figure of her redemption. She has every reason to trust the man who confounded the lies of her accusers and saved her from death or exile. As long as she doesn't waver on her agreement, the romance continues. Ortrude and Telramund are now again in disgrace. The bride and groom retire to their nuptial bed. All is well until Elsa's trust gives way to the suspicions planted in her by Ortrude. She begins to probe his anonymity. He first evades her queries then reminds her of her vow. She persists, and her inquisitiveness becomes more intent on having an answer. At the critical moment, when she finally insists on knowing her husband's name and lineage, Telramund and his cohorts storm the house. Telramund's sword is of no avail even in ambush, and Lohengrin slays him. Instead of the sexual evocation of a Wagnerian climax, this thrust disgorges Telrumund's entrails on the bridal bed. A determined foe has been slain, but Elsa's question has dislodged the balance that secures her place of safety in the universe of this drama. Her husband sadly tells her that he will publicly give answers to her questions.

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