Motif 17: Swan

German name: Schwanmotiv

Musical example: Motif 17 - Swan

Soundbytes Swan (ogg format)

open quotesR[ichard] tells me he has concocted a fine mélange for the esquires as they remove the dead swan: Amfortas' theme, Herzeleide's theme, and the swan motive from Lohengrin close quotes [Cosima's Diary, 5 December 1877]

Above right: Bayreuth postcard showing Gurnemanz and Parsifal with the dying swan; below, painting by Franz Stassen.
Postcard showing Gurnemanz and Parsifal with the dying swan
Painting by Franz Stassen: Swan over the lake

The Swan is not, it should be noted, a leading motive or Leitmotiv. A the time when Wagner was writing Lohengrin he had not yet developed a system of Leitmotive. He did however employ motives of reminiscence or Erinnerungsmotive and the Swan is one example. When used in Parsifal it is not, as such motives usually are, a reminiscence of something from earlier in the same opera but a reminiscence from an earlier opera.

References: Lorenz pp.58-59, Newman ex.22, Lavignac p.453, Kufferath ex.19, ENO ex.22, Bauer p.93.

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