Elsa stands accused of the murder of her younger brother. She is saved by the appearance of a mysterious Knight. He tells her that he will love and protect her but that she must never ask his name or where he comes from. Ortrud and Telramund convince Elsa that she must find out who he is. She is unable to resist asking the forbidden question and the Knight leaves as mysteriously as he arrived.
King Heinrich of the Germans has come to Brabant to recruit fighting forces, as Germany is under threat. He finds Brabant in turmoil. Friedrich von Telramund, the appointed regent of Brabant and guardian to Elsa and Gottfried, the late Duke’s children, tells the King that Gottfried has disappeared. Telramund suspects Elsa of having murdered her young brother and adds that, although the late Duke had promised him Elsa’s hand in marriage, her crime has so appalled him that he has instead married Ortrud. Together they now claim the throne of Brabant.
The King summons Elsa. She confesses that, grieving for her lost brother, she prayed for help and was visited by a vision of a Knight who promised to defend her. The King proposes a trial by combat. Telramund accepts, but who will champion Elsa? She calls upon her Knight and, at the third summons, he appears. He asks Elsa to entrust herself to his protection and to marry him if he is victorious. Elsa agrees. There is one condition: Elsa must never ask the Knight’s name or where he comes from. The Knight wins the fight, sparing Telramund’s life.
Telramund and Ortrud have been excluded from the festivities taking place to celebrate Elsa’s wedding to the mysterious Knight. Telramund blames Ortrud for having lied to him about Gottfried’s supposed murder. Ortrud ridicules Telramund for believing that God has protected Elsa’s innocence –she believes in older and darker gods. She tells him that the Knight is under a protective spell, which can be broken the moment he is wounded, however slightly. Elsa appears and takes pity on Ortrud, who begins to sow the seeds of doubt in her mind –should Elsa not know where the Knight comes from and who he is before marrying him?
A herald proclaims that Telramund is banished and the Knight is appointed Protector of Brabant. As the Knight leads Elsa to the marriage ceremony, Ortrud interrupts the procession to demand that his true identity should be revealed. Telramund whispers to Elsa that she should let him wound the Knight, even if only his fingertip, so that his secrets will be made clear. He promises to stay close by in case she needs him.
Elsa’s happiness with the Knight is destroyed by her nagging doubt. She is unable to resist asking his name and where he comes from. Telramund breaks in to attack and is killed. The Knight orders Telramund’s body to be taken to King Heinrich and tells Elsa that at daybreak her questions will be answered and his identity revealed to all.
The King and his forces wait for the new Protector of Brabant and prepare for combat. The Knight tells them that he can no longer lead them into battle and that he must return to where he came from. He reveals that he comes from Monsalvat, in a far-off land. He is Lohengrin, son of Parsifal, and one of the Knights of the Holy Grail, which they protect and which brings them strength and goodness. These Knights go out into the world to perform deeds of chivalry, but must return once their identity is known. Now he must depart, leaving Elsa in despair. Ortrud exults but her powers are broken when the lost Gottfried is evealed and restored to Brabant as its new leader.
A collection of programmes marking the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth.