||1841 end of the year - first encounter with Lohengrin |
In the same volume (annual proceedings of the Königsberg Germanic Society) I also found a piece of criticism about the poem of Lohengrin, together with a lengthy narrative of the principle contents of this rambling epic. This was a completely new world for me, and for the moment I was unable to find the form in which to master the Lohengrin material; yet the image lived inextinguishably within me from then on, so that when I later became acquainted with various ramifications of the Lohengrin legend, I could visualize it with a clarity equal to that of my picture of Tannhäuser when I first began to think about that subject.
1845 - summer in Bohemia (1)
Lohengrin, the first conception of which dates from the latter part of my time in Paris, stood suddenly revealed before me in full armour at the center of a comprehensive dramatic adaptation of the whole material. Among all the many strands in the complex of myths that I was studying at this time, it was the legend of the Knight of the Swan, occupying such a significant position in their midst, which now stimulated my fantasy inordinately.
1845 - summer in Bohemia (2)
No sooner had I stepped into my noonday bath than I was seized by such desire to write Lohengrin that, incapable of lingering in the bath for the prescribed hour, I leapt out after only a few minutes, scarcely took the time to clothe myself again properly, and ran like a madman to my quarters to put what was obsessing me on paper. This went on for several days, until the entire dramatic plan for Lohengrin had been set down in full detail.
1846 - Lohengrin poem completed
Just a few weeks after these performances (Tannhäuser) I had completed the poem for Lohengrin. As early as November I read this poem to my close friends, and shortly afterwards to Hiller's circle as well. It was praised and deemed 'effective'. Schumann also liked it, yet couldn't find any passages suitable for traditional musical numbers. I then had some fun reading him different parts of my poem just as if they were in aria and cavatina form, so that in the end he smilingly conceded the point.
1846 - argument about Lohengrin
Serious reflection aroused some deeper reservations about the nature of the tragic material itself, as suggested delicately and thoughtfully to me by Franck. He considered the punishment of Elsa by Lohengrin's departure unseemly: he understood perfectly well that it was precisely the most characteristic element in the legend that was expressed in this highly poetic event, but he doubted whether it did full justice to the sense of tragedy when allowance was also made for dramatic realism. He would have preferred to see Lohengrin die before our eyes as a result of Elsa's betrayal. At any rate, as this did not seem permissable, he wanted to see him riveted to the spot by some powerful motivating force and prevented from leaving.
As I naturally wouldn't even think of such a thing, I nevertheless began considering whether the cruel seperation could not be eliminated, while still retaining Lohengrin's indispensable departure for distant realms. I tried to find a means of permitting Elsa to depart with him, to do some sort of penance which would require her too to withdraw from the world; this struck my friends as more hopeful. While I was languishing in uncertainty about this, I gave my poem to Frau von Lüttichau for perusal and for consideration of the objections Franck had raised. In a little note expressing her delight with my poem, she stated flatly on this particular matter that Franck had to be utterly devoid of poetic sense if he thought Lohengrin could end in any other way than my text depicted, thus Lohengrin remained the way it had been.
1846 - in Dresden, act 3 of Lohengrin
To fortify myself, my only recourse was to resume work on Lohengrin. In so doing, I adopted a course of action I was never to repeat: I completed the third act first, a procedure dictated by the aforementioned critcism of the dramatic character of this act and its close, which had made me determined to establish the act, to my own complete satisfaction, as the core of the whole work, if only for the sake of the musical material of the Grail narration.
1847 summer - composing of Lohengrin completed
All this (study of Greek and German mythology) was growing and ripening in me while I was finishing, in true transports of joy, the first two acts of Lohengrin, and the last to be completed. As I thus proceeded backwards to finish my opera and looked forwards into the new world I was fabricating for myself, my health and my frame of mind improved to such an extent that I became so merry I could even forget all the difficulties of my situation for a lengthy period.
1848 february - death of mother
Early that February I received word of my mother's death. I rushed to Leipzig to her funeral and was deeply moved to behold the wonderfully peaceful and sweet expression on the countenance of the deceased. It was a bitingly cold morning when we lowered the casket into the grave in the churchyard; the frozen clumps of earth, which we scattered on the lid of the casket instead of the customary handfuls of loose soil, frightened me by their ferocious clatter. On the short trip back to Dresden the realization of my complete loneliness came over me for the first time with full clarity, as I could not help recognizing that the death of my mother had severed all the natural ties with my family, whose members were all preoccupied with their own special affairs. So I went coldly and gloomily about the sole task that could warm and cheer me: the orchestration of my Lohengrin and my studies of German antiquity.
1850 april - Chez Homo (alone in Paris)
The old creative instinct bestirred itself; I leafed through my Lohengrin score and quickly decided to send it to Liszt,and leave it to him to find a way to get it performed, as best as he could.
1850 august in Switzerland (Liszt conducts Uraufführung Lohengrin in Weimar)
We (Richard and Minna) spent the evening of August 28th, on which the first performance of Lohengrin was given in Weimar, in Lucerne in the Swan tavern, watching the clock and closely following the hour of its beginning and presumed end. But there were always some elements of worry, discomfort, and irritation whenever I tried to spend such pleasantly animated hours in the company of my wife. The reports I got as to the initial performance were, moreover, not such as to afford me any clear and reassuring picture of it. Karl Ritter soon came back to Zürich; he told me in particular about scenic deficiencies in the performance, as well as of a highly unfortunate casting of the title role, yet on the whole of a succesful outcome.
1853 may - in Zürich, the three-day music festival
These three evening concerts were especially moving for me, for it was the first time I had been able to perform anything from my Lohengrin and thus gain an impression of the effect of my instrumentation of the prelude to this work.
1860 march - brief trip to Antwerp
I contented myself with a tour of its (Antwerp) external sights, which seemed to offer less of antiquarian interest than I had expected. I was especially disconcerted at the placement of my famous citadel. In conceiving the scene for the first act of my Lohengrin, I had assumed that this citadel, which I envisioned as the old castle of Antwerp, would necessarily, be a prominent sight when beheld from beyond the Scheldt; instead, nothing could be seen except a flat and unremarkable plain, with fortifications dug into the ground. After this, whenever I saw Lohengrin I usually had to smile at the scene-painter's castle, perched high in the background on top of a stately hill.
1860 in Vienna - Richard Wagner sees Lohengrin for the first time
It was here (Vienna) I first heard my Lohengrin performed on the stage. Although the opera had already been given very frequently, the whole ensemble got together for the complete rehearsal I had requested. The orchestra immediately played the prelude with such beauty and warmth, and the voices of the singers and their good qualities were displayed to such good advantage in the performance of a work they already knew well that, overcome by these impressions, I lost all inclination to criticize any aspect of the production.
The performance of Lohengrin I attended turned into one of those unending and fervent ovations such as I have only experienced at the hands of the Viennese public.
1862 Lohengrin in Karlsruhe 'No cuts'
In accordance with the instructions received from the Grand Duke, Eduard Devrient now approached me with regard to the production of Lohengrin in Karlsruhe under my direction. The arrogant and downright angry tone of the reproach contained in this letter to me concerning my desire to have Lohengrin performed without cuts was admirably calculated to open my eyes about the person I had once so blindly esteemed. I notified him at once of my anger about this and my decision to have nothing to do with Lohengrin in Karlsruhe.
1862 Lohengrin in Wiesbaden
The visit we (Richard Wagner, Hans and Cosima von Bülow) paid together to Wiesbaden for a performance of Lohengrin turned out less happily. After we had been quite well satisfied and put into a good mood by the first act, the production lapsed throughout the rest of the work into such infuriating distortion as I had not believed possible; I left the theatre in a rage before the performance was over, while Hans remained in martyrdom to the end at Cosima's behest in order to preserve appearances, though both were no less angry than I.
1862 september, Lohengrin in Frankfurt
At the end of September I went to Frankfurt for a week to take command of the rehearsels for Lohengrin. Here again I went through the same experience as so often before: after the first contact with the company I was ready to give up the whole undertaking immediately; but the general consternation and the entreaties to persevere had their effect, and I succumbed to their influence until I finally began to take interest in the effect to be achieved by an uncut performance, correct tempi, as well as proper scenic direction, and tried to ignore the miserable singers. Yet Friederike Meyer was probably the only one who felt this effect to the full; the public was as "animated" as usual, but I was told later that the subsequent performances directed by Herr Ignaz Lachner, who was held in the highest esteem in Frankfurt and was un utterly wretched and incompetent conductor, fell off so badly in their effect that, in order to keep the opera on the boards, the old butchery had to be resumed.