On the banks of the Scheldt near Antwerp.

Scene 1

Sitting under the tree of justice, King Heinrich explains to the people the dangers that threaten the peace and unity of the German Empire. He questions Telramund on the reasons for division within the duchy of Brabant. The count accuses Elsa, the duchess of Brabant, of having murdered her own brother, the young duke Godfrey, heir to the throne. He insinuates that Elsa acted with the complicity of a secret lover to seize power. The King summons the accused.

Scene 2

Elsa, dreamy, appears dressed in white. For any defense, she evokes a dream in which a virtuous knight came to comfort her. She asks for the protection of this knight. It is he, she says, who must face Count Telramund in a battle whose outcome will clear her name.
The King's Herald makes an appeal, then another, which remain unanswered. Elsa begins to pray fervently.

Scene 3

Elsa's dream comes true! The knight Lohengrin reaches the banks of the river in a small barge pulled by a swan.
The mysterious knight agrees to be the young woman's champion and to become her husband if he emerges victorious from the battle, but on the condition that she never seeks to know his name, his lineage, or where he comes from. Elsa swears fidelity to him and the Herald explains the rules of the confrontation.
The fight is brief. Lohengrin wins easily over Telramund and, in a magnanimous gesture, spares the life of his opponent. Elsa's innocence is thus proven. The people cheer the knight, while the scheming Ortrud, Telramund's wife, questions the identity of the hero.


At the castle of Antwerp.

Scene 1

Telramund and Ortrud are sitting in the shade. The count broods over his despair and accuses his wife of having caused his shame: it is she who, by her lies and her calumnies against Elsa, caused his downfall. Ortrud does not let herself be dismayed and exposes the plan which she imagined to be avenged of the knight. He has, she says, only won his battle by using magic and he himself has revealed his weak point: if he is forced to reveal his identity — the secret that only Elsa can get out of him — his power will be over and they will be rid of him.

Scene 2

Elsa appears at her window, filled with gratitude for her good fortune. Ortrud takes advantage of it to tenderize the young woman on her fate. The latter sympathizes and forgives Ortrud, going so far as to invite her to her wedding. After having thus gained her confidence, Ortrud instills doubt in her mind: since her future husband has appeared in such a sudden and mysterious way, will he not disappear one day in an equally inexplicable way?

Scene 3

The day rises and the people gather in front of the cathedral to the sound of trumpets. The Herald announces the recent decisions made by King Heinrich: Telramund is banished, the knight will be given the title of Protector of Brabant and he will marry Elsa before he leaves for war with the royal army.

Scene 4

The bridal procession of women, among whom is Ortrud. Suddenly, Telramund's wife blocks Elsa's way and forces her to step back. Ortrud cries scandal: she accuses the knight of imposture and deceit. It is by magic that he has triumphed over her husband, she claims, and if his identity were revealed, he would lose all his powers!

Scene 5

The arrival of the king and Lohengrin puts an end to the dispute between the two women. Elsa takes refuge in the arms of the knight and tells him the event while, in a new twist, Telramund confronts Lohengrin whom he asks to reveal his name. The latter answers that only Elsa has the right to ask him the forbidden question. Elsa, staggering, reaffirms her love for her future husband and the couple enters the cathedral under the acclamations of the crowd.


In the bridal room.

Scene 1

Two processions accompany the spouses. The couple embrace and the king offers them his blessing while men and women sing the virtues of love. All withdraw and leave Lohengrin and Elsa to their intimacy.

Scene 2

The newlyweds declare their mutual love, but Elsa's curiosity soon gets the better of her: Why, she asks, does he not reveal his secret to her, only to her? Lohengrin tries in vain to divert the conversation, but Elsa is obstinate and sinks into a sort of delirium. In her vision, she thinks she sees the mysterious swan coming to take back her beloved. At the height of her excitement, she asks the forbidden question: "What is your lineage?” Just then, Telramund and four noble men emerge from the shadows. The Count draws the sword against Lohengrin, but the latter promptly knocks him down. Elsa collapses, inanimate, while Lohengrin sadly concludes: "All our happiness has fled."

Scene 3

At daybreak, on the edge of the Scheldt.

The king gathered the people and exhorted them to fight for the unity of the Germanic empire. Four nobles carrying the body of Telramund interrupt his speech. Elsa, then Lohengrin appear in their turn. The latter announces that he will not be able to lead the army into battle because Elsa, consumed by doubt, has broken her promise not to question him about his origins.
In front of everyone, the mysterious knight declares his identity: his name is Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, guardian of the Holy Grail. In front of the stunned assembly, he promises victory to King Heinrich, while Elsa collapses when she sees the swan approaching the shore.
Ortrud, who believes she has triumphed, reveals her misdeed: she recognizes Godefrey in this swan, the young Duke of Brabant whom she herself has bewitched!
Lohengrin has heard her. Having reached the shore, he kneels down and prays. Soon, instead of the swan, Duke Godefrey of Brabant appears. Ortrud collapses, then Elsa... while Lohengrin, called back by the Holy Grail, is already moving away towards Monsalvat.

Serge Lamothe, February 3, 2022