We’ve never discussed personality type and musical preference have we? This might sound far-fetched or woo-woo in nature but I think there is something going on here.
If we consider basic personality traits we can sometimes trace it to a taste in music. Allow me to give a personal example. I’m using the fundamentals here of someone who enjoys being in a crowd and another who would rather go it alone.
Lohengrin, act 2
Bayreuther Festspiele (1990) [part 5]
As someone who enjoys a crowd and is also a singer, I love a duet or a trio or a chorus. I have no problem sharing the stage with another or even being invisible on stage within a group of others. In fact, I think I prefer it.
There are some who have no interest whatsoever in anything except solo performing. Believe it or not, these people tend to be introverts. Need I mention that neither is better than the other?
My favorite moments in opera are not the arias. I am most moved by duets, trios, choruses, and the like. With that in mind we’re going to be taking a look at “other than aria” scenes in opera.
First up is a scene from the end of the second act of Lohengrin. There are several famous pieces of music from Lohengrin such as the bridal chorus, the prelude, the third act prelude, In fernem land, and even Elsa’s dream.
However, this scene in the second act is far and away my favorite section of the opera. The clip I’ve selected here captures the heart of the scene as Elsa has been tempted to ask for the name of her husband (Lohengrin) earlier in the act.
Lohengrin’s condition that Elsa not ask his name has puzzled opera audiences for decades. It’s a bit simpler than we might expect. Lohengrin wants to be known, to be accepted, to be loved for his essence and not for the prestige and power of his name.
This desire to be intimately known outside of our accomplishments isn’t necessarily a place many men like to go in our current cultural circumstances. Women aren’t a fan of it either, were we to be honest.
In Lohengrin there is a time limit of one year before Lohengrin will reveal his identity. In the meantime, Elsa is to trust in his purity, in his character, in his love for her without the cache of a name.
Wagner is exploring whether or not it is possible to be authentically known by another. The answer in Lohengrin is no.