Motif 17: Swan
German name: Schwanmotiv
Swan (ogg format)
R[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 [Cosima's Diary, 5 December 1877]
Above right: Bayreuth postcard showing Gurnemanz and Parsifal with the dying swan; below, painting by Franz Stassen.
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.