Everyone knows the song:
Here comes the bride
All dressed in white
It’s the staple of almost every wedding you’ve been to, but have you ever wondered the origin of this song?
Will you want this song played at your wedding if you knew, that this song was a sort of premonition of death and murder in the opera: Opera Lohengrin.
The summary of the operas is as follows:
Act 1 – Germans and Hungarians are at war. German King Henry’s young son, Duke Gottfried, is missing. Gottfried’s guardian Telramund accuses Gottfried’s sister Elsa of murdering Gottfried and that he (Tel.) should be made Duke. Elsa pleads her innocense, submits to God’s judgement and sort of “prays” for the champion knight of her dreams. Enter this mysterious, nameless knight in shining armor (named Lohengrin, we find out later) riding on a boat pulled by a swan. Lohengrin says he will defend Elsa’s honor on the condition she never asks him what his name is. Lohengrin defeats but does not kill Tel. End scene.
Act 2 – Tel. and his wife, Ortrud (who is a witch), have now been banished. Ort. plans to get Elsa to violate her promise. Ort. prays to her pagan gods to trick Elsa and return the land to paganism. Nameless knight named Lohengrin is declared to be the new Duke, but he declines the title. Elsa, fearing nameless Lohengrin’s departure at any time (from Ort.’s deceptive suggestion) hooks up with Lohengrin and they plan to get married. Tel. and Ort. try to disrupt the wedding by sneaking in and claiming Lohengrin’s victory was invalid because he did not reveal his name. The King backs nameless knight named Lohengrin. Tel and Ort are left standing outside the Church. End Scene
Act 3 – The chorus begins the act by singing the Bridal Chorus, which sets up a great deal of irony as you will soon see. Elsa and Lohengrin enter the Bridal chamber, they have just been married and are about to consummate their marriage when Elsa (nagged by Ort’s suggestion that she should know her husband’s name) asks nameless husband knight named Lohengrin his name. At that moment Tel. enters the chamber and Lohengrin kills Tel. Lohengrin who didn’t get to answer before being attacked, said he and Elsa will go to the King and he (Lohengrin) will reveal the mystery. Lohengrin reveals his name and that he is a Knight of the Holy Grail and now must leave. He says goodbye to Elsa whom he married and now is abandoning without having consummated his wedding, and begins to leave on the swan pulled boat. Ort. enters and says that the swan is actually Elsa’s missing brother Gottfried. Ort is accused of being a witch… because she is. Lohengrin turns the swan into Gottfried. A dove descends from heaven and pulls Lohengrin’s boat. Elsa grief stricken from the loss of her husband drops dead. End Scene and Cut.
The opera a dark story by itself, and the organ playing the Bride Chorus just makes the song sound more ominous to anticipate the audience for the death and sadness that is to come.
I don’t know about you, but after learning all that, I’m even more determined to stick to my choice of song, Canon D.