ON THE EVE OF LOHENGRIN – A discourse by Igor Kennaway

Posted by on 28, Feb, 2018 in | Comments Off on ON THE EVE OF LOHENGRIN – A discourse by Igor Kennaway

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Full price ticket £20.00 (GBP)  
Student ticket or Under 30s £5.00 (GBP)  

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  • 6th June 2018
    6:30 pm - 9:00 pm


A discourse by Igor Kennaway

Wednesday 6th June at 6:30pm for 7pm

Swedenborg Hall, Barter Street, London WC2

Igor Kennaway has had an illustrious career as an opera and orchestral conductor across the world, including at Bayreuth. Kennaway was the Deputy Chorus Master of the Bayreuther Festspielchor and then Assistant Conductor to Daniel Barenboim for the 1990 “Ring des Nibelungen”, directed by Harry Kupfer, working as well with James Levine, Peter Schneider and Giuseppe Sinopoli. Kennaway was also a Chorus Master with the Bayreuth Festival on their subsequent tours to Italy and Japan. 

Tickets £20 including refreshments.  (£5 for Students and Under 30s with membership (free) and proof of status.)

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Igor Kennaway writes:

The historical figure of Henry the Fowler, King of the Eastern Franks and his wars against the Magyars between 919 and 933, the mythical figure of Lohengrin, a Knight of the Holy Grail and son of the legendary Parsifal, the juxtaposition of Christianity as represented by the eponymous hero of the opera and the pagan witchcraft of Ortrud, the ubiquitous figure in many mythologies of disguised figures (Zeus as Swan with Leda; Zeus as a White Bull with Europa) and Lohengrin himself; the forbidden questioning of a true identity as in the Greek myth of Semele and Zeus and here between Elsa and Lohengrin….and the inevitable consequences; a boat drawn by a swan, who later, by magic, turns into Elsa’s brother; the mythological significance of swans; intrigues, revenge, deaths and magic: what are we to make of all these strands?

Wagner had read the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Deutsche Sagen’ (published in 1816 and 1818) Jakob Grimm’s ‘Deutsche Mythologie’ (published in 1835) as well as using an episode from

the ‘Niebelungenlied’, the mediaeval saga of Lohengrin, (originally a French text ‘Le Chevalier au Cigne’ of around 1192), and adapted by the German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach who incorporated the swan knight Lohengrin into his Arthurian epic ‘Parzival’ in the first quarter of the 13th century. At a later time, a German text, written by Konrad von Würzburg in 1257 also featured a Swan Knight without a name.

I will also place Wagner’s fascination with the Germanic literary heritage in its historical background with reference to the emergence of the growing sense of German national self- awareness, as first advocated by the German philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s in his ‘Reden an die deutsche Nation’, published in 1808. This political and literary work advocated a reaction against the occupation and subjugation of German territories by the Napoleonic French Empire,by evoking a German distinctiveness in language, tradition, culture and literature which would go towards creating a common identity.This was very much the inspiration behind the Prussian Reform Movement (1806 to 1815) led by Karl vom Stein and Karl August von Hardenberg and the educational reforms of Wilhelm von Humbolt

So I repeat my questions: ‘What do we make of all these disparate strands?’ And what of the music itself and of Wagner’s ‘Sound world’ , his ‘Klangfarbe’?

As Franz Liszt, who conducted the first performances in 1850, at the significantly named

‘Deutsches Nationaltheater’ in Weimar commented: ‘Lohengrin’ was the first score whose meaning could not be inferred by reading it through to oneself; since the vocal score could therefore not give even an approximately truthful picture of the work’s actual tonal reality. More than any other operatic composer at that time, Wagner was dependent upon the performance of his operas, because the overall artistic elements that were contained were realised only in the interaction of staging, structure and the revelation of the composer’s tonal imagination.


Barter Street, London, WC1A 2TH, United Kingdom