Das Liebesverbot

Richard Wagner

2h 38 min

Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love) is an opera composed by the young Richard Wagner, still in the process of finding his own musical language. After finishing The Fairies, his first completed opera, which was never performed, Wagner was able to present his second one on March 29, 1836 in Magdeburg, but this would be the only performance of the opera in his lifetime. The première was a complete disaster: some of the singers had not learned their parts, and the second night was cancelled when the prima donna’s husband attacked one of the tenors in a fit of jealousy. Wagner gave up further attempts to stage the opera and consigned it to oblivion, describing it as a “sin of my youth”


With such a history it is hardly surprising that Das Liebesverbot has been unfairly considered a minor work by the great German composer. However, this unknown piece is interesting for many reasons. The Ban on Love is an opera that challenges many of our assumptions about Wagner’s music and it is certainly a far cry from its typical density and depth. This work is the young Wagner’s equivalent to Goethe’s Italian Journey: an exaltation of the warm south, sunshine, playfulness, sex, and hedonism.


For the text of the opera, Wagner decided to adapt Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a play which was then rarely performed because it was regarded as immoral. Making substantial changes to the original plot, the composer presented a stinging critique of the puritanism of contemporary German society.


Wagner moves the action to Sicily, where the Regent is Friedrich, a rigid German ruler who is unable to understand the joie de vivre of the locals. He decides to discipline them by banning Carnival, brothels, cabarets, and love outside marriage.


The musical influences on the work are quite clear. Wagner, reacting against the “pedantry” and “erudition” around him, celebrates and pays homage to the virtues of Italian music with frenetic rhythms, vibrant, powerful melodies full of character, a certain interest in repetition and simple harmonies. His admiration for composers like Bellini and Rossini can be seen in moments that are almost direct quotes of Il barbiere di Siviglia or Guillaume Tell. There is also a strong French influence in the format of the comic opera and the most characteristic grand operas of the period, such as La Muette de Portici, by Auber, and Robert le Diable, by Meyerbeer.


Another interesting point to note is that the score of this opera already hints at Wagner’s future work. There is a great deal of Lohengrin in it, and the character of Ponzio Pilato is clearly a forerunner of Mime. The Ban on Love is also the first time that Wagner used the leitmotif technique structurally, especially the theme of the ban on love decreed by Friedrich This recurs throughout the work, alternating between solemn and ironic.


In short, this is a little-known but interesting work which is well worth discovering. It provides considerable insight into the development of the mature Richard Wagner. To commemorate the 4th Centenary of the death of Shakespeare, it would be hard to find a more appropriate piece.

Grosse komische Oper en dos actos



Music by Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

Libretto by Richard Wagner, based on the play Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Premiered at the Stadttheater, Magdeburgo on March 29, 1836

New Teatro Real production, in coproduction with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London and the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires

Principal Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real


Artistic team

Conductor | Ivor Bolton

Stage director | Kasper Holten

Set and costumes designer | Steffen Aarfing

Lighting designer | Bruno Poet

Choreographer | Signe Fabricius

Chorus master | Andrés Máspero

Assistant to the conductor | Francesc Prat

Assistant to the stage director | Barbara Lluch

Set and costumes designer collaborator | Rebekka Bentzen

Assistant to the choreographer | Alejandra González

Assistant to the costumes designer | Tiziana Magris

Assistant to the choreographer | Tiziana Fracchiolla

Diction coach | Roxane Taghikhani



Friedrich | Christopher Maltman 

Luzio | Peter Lodahl 

Claudio | Ilker Arcayürek 

Antonio | David Alegret

Angelo | David Jerusalem

Isabella | Manuela Uhl

Mariana | Maria Miró

Brighella | Ante Jerkunica

Danieli | Isaac Galán

Dorella | María Hinojosa

Pontio Pilato | Francisco Vas

Actors dancers | Carlos Rodas, Álvaro Hurtado, Sergio Mariottini, Sergio Arce, David Ventosa, Nacho Rodríguez, Amaury Reinoso, Santiago Cano, Gabriel Nicolá y Jordi Casas.



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Staatsoper Unter den Linden
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Teatro Real
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