The Grail Made Me Do It

Lohengrin thielemannAct III of Lohengrin begins with Elsa and her mysterious protector’s wedding night. The King and chorus lead them into the wedding chamber, and when they are finally alone, the two of them launch into a love duet.

But soon the knight utters Elsa’s name and she laments that she can’t return the favor. He warns her that all will be lost if she asks the Forbidden Question, but wracked with doubts, she finally asks it.

As the music swells to a climax, their chamber is invaded by Friedrich and his henchman with their swords drawn, Elsa tosses his scabbard to her protector who draws his sword and strikes Friedrich dead. He orders the henchmen to take Friedrich’s body to the King.

The final scene takes place in the same setting as the first act along the river.

The King and all the nobles are assembled as the knight tells his story.

He is one of the Knights of the Holy Grail. The Grail endows those in its service with supernatural might and evil is powerless before them.They are allowed to go to distant lands to champion the innocent but only if their origin remains a secret. Once their secret is known, they lose their power. His father was Parsifal, his name is Lohengrin.

Furthermore, remember the swan that drew Lohengrin’s boat? It was Ortrud’s magic spell that turned Elsa’s brother Gottfried into that swan. Had Elsa just waited a year, the power of the Grail would have restored him to his human form.

Orturd emerges from the crowd triumphant!

Lohengrin prays and voila! The swan transforms into Gottfried. Ortrud sinks to the ground with a shriek. As Lohengrin sails away in his boat up the river, Elsa sinks lifeless in her brother’s arms.


Here is a performance of the Prelude to Act III which depicts the wedding festivities followed by the chorus leading the happy couple to their wedding chamber. This recording is the blu-ray conducted by Christian Thielemann with Anna Netrebko as Elsa and Piotr Beczala as Lohengrin.

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