Great Moments in Opera – Lohengrin’s “Wedding March” by Wagner


Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” is a love story between Elsa of Brabant and a knight from a distant land by the name of Lohengrin who appears on a lake guided by a swan to defend the honor of Elsa, whose brother Telramund is demanding she hand over her land. It is as soon as he appears however that Lohengrin offers his services yet there is a condition which he insists upon. This being that Elsa never ask either his name or where it is that he comes from, to which she gladly agrees to in order to obtain the defense of the one she hopes will be her knight in shining armor.

Lohengrin then proceeds to defeat Elsa’s brother Telramund in combat though he spares him his life; after which Elsa consents to marry Lohengrin. It is at that moment (at the start of the 3rd act) as Elsa is making her way to the alter that the opera’s wedding march and Bridal chorus is heard; as Elsa comes to the man she is hopeful of marrying. It being this music which captures Elsa’s beauty and all the lovely features that have drawn Lohengrin toward her, as she almost glides toward the place where the ceremony is to take place; that has become a standard at practically every wedding through out the entire world.

It was then that perhaps a wedding should have taken place with happily ever after following yet this is an opera by Wagner where such joyful conclusions are not to be found, as before the ceremony is performed, Lohengrin once again is challenged by Telramound. It being on this occasion however that Lohengrin deals Telramound the death blow he did not during their first encounter which prompts Elsa to break her promise and ask the name of her knight; who gives response yet the ceremony which was to unite does not take place as Lohengrin takes his leave. Elsa for her part who had truly taken to the ways of love for Lohengrin, falls dead at the sight of her knight leaving her in an act that would bring a tragic ending to the opera.

In conclusion I would say that Wagner’s wedding march is one that in not only my opinion but in that of many others, portrays all the grandness of a wedding ceremony; as it slowly and regally captures all the majestic mood of a lovely bride making her way to the alter with attire to match a queen. Having said this as truth I do however find it strange that so many would play it at their weddings. This being the case since the wedding ceremony that was to be did not take place and the story of Elsa and Lohengrin is one which I imagine most couples would like to avoid yet despite everything; Wagner’s wedding march is played through out most of the world. My sentiments being that perhaps those couples who choose to have this piece played at their weddings probably feel that they can avoid the tragic ending suffered by Elsa and Lohengrin.

 

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