Richard Wagner: Parsifal
Conductor: Horst Stein
Wagner did not call this work an “opera” but a “festival stage play". Legend has it that he regarded it so much as a sort of religious ceremony, rather than entertainment, that he insisted on there being no applause and that it should never be given in any орета house less consecrated to noble music than his own Festspidhaus at Bayreuth, where only works by the master were to be performed.
The fact is, however, that Wagner himself liked to lead the applause at the end of the second act; and while the ргошЬь tion against applause is generally followed today after Act I (at least by that part of the audience which is aware of the tradition), everyone voices approval of the Flower Maidens after Act II, and Act III is also generally clapped, though not at the august Metropolitan Opera House. As for the prohibition against playing Parsifal outside of Bayreuth, Wagner did have that idea once, but shortly before his death he seems to have given oral consent to the tenor-impresario Angelo Neumann to take it on the road^ The change of heart never evolved into a written contract, and so that first extra-Bayreuth production took place at the Metropolitan on Christmas Eve twenty- one years after the premiere and over the futile legal gestures of Wagner's widow. It was a gala and vulgarly publicized occasion. A special "Parsifal Limited" express was chartered from Chicago; the Evening Telegram brought out a "Parsifal" extra； and premium prices were put upon seats.
The religious and philosophical ideas of the libretto are a mixture of Christianity and Buddhism, while the symbolism of the cup and the spear is still older. But as the trappings of the Wolfram poem which inspired the story are essentially Christian, it is most convenient to remember that the beneficent Grail is the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper and in which Joseph of Arimathea is supposed to have caught His blood, while the spear is the one which pierced His side on the cross.
Richard Wagner - Parsifal (Sinopoli) Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel
"King Carados" (in blue at front) sits at the Round Table during the appearance of the Holy Grail in a 15th-century miniature.
Top Row (left to right): "Liovnel" (Lionel), Gawain, "Bort" (Bors), Lancelot, "Galard" (Galahad) in the Siege Perilous, "Perseval" (Percival), "Le Roy Artvs" (King Arthur of Britain), "Helias" (Elyan), "Tristrã" (Tristan) Bottom Row (left to right): "Etor" (Ector), "Le Roy Ryons" (King Rience of Ireland and North Wales), "Le Roy Carados" (King Caradoc Strongarm of Gwent), "Le Roy Ydier" (King Yder=Sir Edern), "Le Roy Bancemag" (King Bagdemagus of Gore), "Heva" or "Kev" (Erec, Kay, or Hoël=Hovelius)
Festival stage play in three acts by Richard Wagner with libretto in German by the composer, based on the poem Parzifal by Wolfram von Eschenbach, on Perceval, ou le conte du Grail by Сhretien de Troyes, and the Mabinogion
Amfortas, King of Monsalvat
Titurel, founder and former King of the Grail
Gurnemanz, a veteran Knight of the Grail
Klingsor, a magician
Parsifal, the "pure fool"
Kundry, a sorceress
Time: the Middle Ages
First performance at Bayreuth, July 26, 1882
Gerald Finley sings Amfortas: “Recht so! Habt Dank! Ein wenig Rast”: Parsifal, Act I
Semyon Bychkov, Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
(Recorded 13th April, 2017, Vienna State Opera)
Gurnemanz — Kwangchul Youn
Amfortas — Gerald Finley
Second Knight — Clemens Unterreiner
Kundry — Nina Stemme
AMFORTAS: Bass‐bariton. Son of Titurel, who was the first ruler of the Kingdom of the Grail. When Titurel became too old to care for the Grail and Spear, his son succeeded him. After inheriting the crown, Amfortas decided that it was his responsibility to destroy the power of the evil Klingsor who threatened the Grail and he went to Klingsor's nearby castle, armed with the Holy Spear which had pierced Christ's side on the Cross. But he fell under the spell of Kundry and while she seduced him, Klingsor stole the Spear and used it to stab Amfortas. His wound will not heal and Amfortas is in constant agony, relieved a little only by his daily bath in the lake. When the opera opens, Amfortas has had a vision that only an ‘innocent fool’ who has been ‘made wise by compassion’ will be able to relieve his suffering by regaining the Spear from Klingsor and using it to heal the wound. The Knights of the Grail await the coming of this youth while Kundry brings Amfortas some balm to put on the wound (which she has allowed to be inflicted on him). Titurel tells Amfortas to uncover the Grail, but weakened by his wound he cannot find the strength to do this and begs his father to carry out the sacred office himself, and leave him to die. Titurel refuses, pleading old age, and Amfortas suggests leaving the Grail uncovered, to avoid the agony of having to move repeatedly to do it daily. The young knights place the Grail in front of Amfortas, who with great difficulty and pain, raises it and blesses the bread and wine before these are shared among the Knights. Amfortas is too weak himself to partake of the ritual and is carried out on his litter.
Parzifal bei Anfortas - Ferdinand Piloty
After Titurel has died, Amfortas feels responsible for his father's death—his own refusal to uncover the Grail each day has deprived Titurel of the nourishment he needed. Amfortas wants only to die and asks the dead Titurel to plead for him with the Lord. The Knights urge Amfortas to carry out his office at his father's funeral. He jumps up and rips the bandages from his bleeding wound, begging them all to kill him. Parsifal appears, the Holy Spear in his hand, and with this he touches Amfortas's wound which is at once healed. Amfortas kneels before Parsifal, the new King of the Grail. Arias: Nein! Lasst ihn unenthüllt! (‘No! Leave it uncovered!’); Ja, Wehe! Weh’ über mich! … Mein Vater! Hochgesegneter der Helden! (‘Yes, alas! Alas! Woe be on me! … My father! Most blessed of heroes!’).
Created (1882) by Theodor Reichmann.
Gerald Finley sings Amfortas: “Ja—Wehe! Wehe! Weh' über mich!”: Parsifal, Act III
Published on Jul 15, 2017
Semyon Bychkov, Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
(Recorded 13th April, 2017, Vienna State Opera)
Amfortas — Gerald Finley
Knights — Choir of the Vienna State Opera
GURNEMANZ: Bass. A veteran Knight of the Grail. It is from Gurnemanz, at the beginning of the opera, that we learn what has happened before the opening of the drama—how Titurel came to be the King of the Grail and how his son, Amfortas, has a wound that will not heal. It distresses Gurnemanz to see the King of the Grail in such pain—physical and mental. At first he is a defender of Kundry, pointing out to the Knights that it is whenever Kundry is away from them for long periods that misfortune seems to befall them, but one of the Knights wonders if maybe Kundry is responsible for these misfortunes (she is, in fact, responsible for Amfortas's position, for while she seduced him, the evil magician Klingsor inflicted the wound) and eventually Gurnemanz has to admit that Kundry may be under a curse. Gurnemanz describes to the Knights how Amfortas has had a vision of an ‘innocent fool’ who is the only one who can save him. When Parsifal arrives, having killed a swan, Gurnemanz chastises him, pointing out that all God's creatures are equally important and Parsifal is duly remorseful. Eventually, Gurnemanz begins to wonder if Parsifal will be Amfortas's saviour—his innocence and ignorance are clear, as he does not know his own name or what the Grail is. Many years later, as a very old man living in a hut in the forest, Gurnemanz finds Kundry, almost dead. He rescues her and she insists on being his servant. She draws his attention to someone entering the forest, and Gurnemanz is amazed to see it is Parsifal and even more shocked when he realizes that Parsifal has no idea that it is Good Friday. Parsifal recognizes Gurnemanz, and explains that he is searching for Amfortas so he can return to him the Holy Spear. Gurnemanz tells Parsifal that Titurel has died and Amfortas has promised to unveil the Grail at his funeral, whatever pain this will cause him. He leads Parsifal to meet Amfortas and Parsifal touches his wound with the Spear. Amfortas is healed and Parsifal is acknowledged as the new Guardian of the Grail. Arias: O wunden‐wundervoller heiliger Speer! (‘O wondrous‐wounding hallowed spear!’); Titurel, der fromme Held (‘Titurel, the godly hero’); O Gnade! Höchstes Heil! (‘O Mercy! Bounteous grace!’). Created (1882) by Emil Scaria.
Simon Bailey as Gurnemanz: Parsifal - Act 1, ´Oh, wunden-wundervoller heiliger Speer!´
Bass. Father of Amfortas. He is a former ruler (the first) of the Kingdom of the Grail, and has now handed over to his son. Gurnemanz describes how Titurel was given the care of the Grail (the chalice from which Christ drank at the Last Supper) and the Spear (which was in Christ's side on the Cross). When he became too old to continue caring for these relics, Amfortas took over the responsibility. Titurel's voice is heard as he pleads with his son, now seriously injured, to perform the tasks of his office. Amfortas, weak and in pain, asks his father to do it himself, but Titurel says he is too old. Titurel dies, his funeral being the final scene in the opera. Created (1882) by August Kindermann.
Wagner - Parsifal - Titurel, der fromme Held - Hans Hotter - Karajan (Wien, 1961)
KLINGSOR: Bass. An evil magician, he has sworn to destroy the Knights of the Grail, who have rejected him. He wanted to join them, but knowing that his sinful and lustful way of life would exclude him, he castrated himself all to no avail. He lives in his castle on the opposite side of the mountain at Monsalvat where the Knights dwell and there he has devised a magic garden peopled by Flower Maidens whom he has trained by his magic powers to seduce the Knights of the Grail. The most important Knight, Amfortas, came to Klingsor's castle intending to destroy him, armed with the Holy Spear which was in Christ's side on the Cross. Amfortas fell for the charms of Kundry, who is totally under the influence of Klingsor, and while she seduced him, Klingsor stole the Spear and used it to inflict a terrible wound on Amfortas which will not heal. Klingsor sees Parsifal arriving and knows that this youth will be the one to heal Amfortas. He summons Kundry and orders her to help him in preventing Parsifal foiling his plans and in bringing him under Klingsor's power for ever. When Kundry is unsuccessful in her efforts to seduce Parsifal, Klingsor advances with the Holy Spear which he throws at Parsifal. To Klingsor's horror the sword hovers in the air above Parsifal, who grasps it and makes the sign of the Cross at which Klingsor and his castle disappear. Arias: Die Zeit ist da—Schon lockt mein Zauberschloss den Toren (‘The time has come—My magic castle lures the fool’); Furchtbare Not! (‘Dire distress!’). Created (1882) by Carl Hill.
R. Wagner. Parsifal. Klingsor´s scene: Die Zeit ist da
PARSIFAL: Tenor. He appears on the scene for the first time after a dead swan falls to the ground in Monsalvat, where the Knights of the Grail live (but those who know the earlier opera Lohengrin will have heard his name, for Lohengrin announces that he is the son of Parsifal). He does not know he has done any wrong by killing the bird and is surprised to be severely reprimanded by the elderly knight Gurnemanz, who impresses on him the sanctity of all life. Mortified, Parsifal breaks his bow and arrows. Questioned by Gurnemanz, it quickly becomes clear that he is unaware of his origins and does not even know his own name. The only person who seems to know anything about him is Kundry, who describes how his mother kept him innocent of worldly affairs. He left his mother to follow a band of knights that passed by and has been wandering ever since, not knowing until now that his mother has died. He has no perception of the significance of the Grail and on arrival at the castle is distressed to see the agony suffered by Amfortas when he attempts to uncover the chalice. However, Parsifal distinctively understands that he, in some way, will be involved in the release of Amfortas from his suffering. When he leaves the Knight's castle and wanders further, he comes to the magic garden of the sorcerer Klingsor, inhabited by the beautiful Flower Maidens.
He is happy to play innocently with them, but they scatter at the sound of Kundry's voice. It is now that she tells him his name and then attempts to seduce him, kissing him passionately. He repels her advances, calling to an unknown lord for redemption and asking Kundry to lead him to Amfortas. Kundry shouts for Klingsor to help her and the magician throws the Holy Spear at Parsifal and is astonished to see the Spear suspended in mid-air above the youth. Parsifal grasps it and instinctively crosses Wmself whereupon Klingsor and his garden disappear. Parsifal sets off on his wanderings once again, this time in pursuit of Amfortas. Many years later, he meets Gurnemanz in the forest Parsifal describes to the now very old knight how he has travelled far in his efforts to find the suffering Amfortas and return the Holy Spear to its riightful place, Gurnemanz promises to lead him to Amfortas, and then Kundry appears. Parsifal recognizes her, but her demeanour has changed She washes his feet and dries them with her hair. Gumemanz funeral of Tlturel, Amfortas's father, is taking place. Amfortas, unable to bear his suffering any longer, tears off his bandages and asks his fellow-knights to кill him. Parsifal steps forward and touches Amfortas's wound with the Holy Spear and the wound is at once healed. As Parsifal uncovers the Grail and sinks to his knees in prayer, Kundry falls lifeless at his feet Arias: Zu ihm, des tiefe Klagen ('То him whose deep lamenting'); Nur eine Waffe taugt ('Only one weapon serves’). Created (1882) by Hermann Winkelmann.
René Kollo Richard Wagner Parsifal "Nur eine Waffe taught"
J. W. Waterhouse The Temptation of sir Percival Samurai armor girl
KUNDRY: Soprano. She has been condemned to roam the world to seek redemption because she laughed at Christ on the Cross. She is under the influence of the evil magician Klingsor and has to help him destroy the Knights of the Grail (who rejected Klingsor). The King of the Knights, Amfortas, came to Klingsor's castle armed with the Holy Spear in order to kill Klingsor. Kundry was forced to seduce Amfortas, and while they were together, Klingsor stole the Spear and used it to attack Amfortas. The wound he inflicted will not heal. Kundry tries to find a herb or ointment that will heal Amfortas, giving it to Gurnemanz to try to assuage her own guilt about the injury. The Knights try to make her tell them how she is implicated in Amfortas's injury, but she stubbornly remains silent. When Parsifal arrives, it is clear that Kundry knows all about him—in fact, she knows far more than he himself knows. Klingsor orders her to seduce Parsifal, and although she does not really want to be involved in Parsifal's destruction, she is so firmly under Klingsor's will that she has no option but to obey him. She tells Parsifal his name and how she remembers him as a baby and she knows that his mother deliberately kept him innocent of worldly affairs. As she kisses him, he rejects her, calling the name of Amfortas. Kundry realizes that Parsifal knows she was the one who seduced Amfortas and is responsible for the wound. She refuses to take him to Amfortas and screams that she will curse the path to the Knight. Klingsor, determined to kill Parsifal, throws the Spear at him, but Parsifal catches it and Klingsor and his castle disappear. Kundry hears Parsifal leaving. Many years later, Kundry, half dead, is found in the forest by Gurnemanz, who revives her. She insists on staying with him as his servant. She indicates to him that a youth has entered the forest and she recognizes Parsifal, who carries the Holy Spear. She washes Parsifal's feet and dries them with her hair. Parsifal, in his turn, baptizes Kundry. They both go with Gurnemanz to the Knights’ castle, arriving in time for Titurel's funeral. With the Spear, Parsifal heals Amfortas's wound. As Parsifal unveils the Grail, Kundry collapses on the ground. Arias: Nein, Parsifal, du tör'ger Reiner! (‘No, Parsifal, you foolish innocent!’); Grausamer! Fühlst du im Herzen nur and'rer Schmerzen (‘Cruel one! If you feel in your heart’).
Created (1882) by Amelia Materna.
Parsifal - Act 2 - Kundry's Seduction
Berlin State Opera, 1992
Kundry - Waltraud Meier
Parsifal - Poul Elming
Conducted by Daniel Barenboim
The prelude，a slow, religious tone poem, is based on the themes sometimes identified as the motives of the Love Feast, the Spear, the Grail (which is the famous Dresden Amen), and Faith. Wagner himself wrote a close for the prelude to be used in concerts, but when it is played in the opera house, the curtain rises on an unresolved chord.
Scene 1 is near the castle of the Holy Grail at Monsalvat, in Spain. Gurnemanz, one of the knights of the Holy Grail, and several followers offer their morning prayers. They are ready to help Amfortas, the King of the Grail, to bathe in the lake nearby, hoping to ease the pain of his wounds Kundry, a weird, ill-kempt woman, interrupts them. She, who serves both the Knights of the Grail and their enemy, Klingsor, has brought balsam from Arabia to help heal Amfortas. The King, who is now carried in on a litter, wishes to thank the woman, though he despairs of all help.
When he has gone, Gurnemanz tells his squires some of the of the Grail. Old Titurel, the father of Amfortas, had received two holy treasures, the Cup-ог Grail—from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and the Spear which pierced His side. To guard these, Titurel built the sanctuary of Monsalvat and gathered a brotherhood of knights. Now Titurel has grown too old for his оffice, and Amfortas is King. But there had been a villain—Klingsor. He had failed, through his bad character, to be made a knight of the Grail, and, as a sorcerer, he had acted the part of enemy to the whole group. With the aid of beautiful women he had enticed Amfortas into ms magical garden; be bad captured the Spear; and be had inflicted the wound on Amfortas from which he still suffers. Only the recapture of the Spear and the aid of a pure and guileless innocent—or fool - can save the King and the order of knights.
At the end of Gurnemanz's narrative there is a cry from the lake, and a dying swan falls before them. A youth follows quickly; and when Gurnemanz upbraids him for killing the bird, he cries out in his ignorance—for he knows nothing of evil. In fact, this lad, who is Parsifal, does not know even the names of his parents. Kundry, however, seems to know about him, and she tells him that his mother has died. It now seems to Gurnemanz that this boy may, indeed, be the guileless fool to save Amfortas. Solemnly he leads him to the castle, and the eloquent Transformation Music, during the change of scene, is heard.
Scene 2 Within the castle, in the great hall of the Holy Grail, the knights are assembled. Old Titurel, as though speaking from a tomb, urges his son to proceed with the ceremony. At first Amfortas demurs: he feels unworthy. But presently the Cup is revealed; the consecration of the bread and wine is carried out; and Amfortas suffers bitterly. But Parsifal only stands foolishly by, takes no part, and seems unimpressed. As the long act closes, Gurnemanz, in anger, turns the boy from tbe door.
Chretien De Troyes ( 12th Century ), Perceval and the Fisher King ( from Perceval, The Story of the Grail ) 1181, Paris. Bibliotheque nationale.
How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival were Fed with the Sanc Grael; But Sir Percival's Sister Died by the Way, an 1864 watercolour by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Scene 1 finds Klingsor, the evil magician, in his castle. He summons Kundry to help him, and unwillingly she appears, subject to his magical powers. He demands tbat she change once more into a beautiful seductress, for she must help him in defense against a warrior who is invading him. Even thus had she once helped him when he overcame Amfortas.
Scene 2 The scene changes to Klingsor's magical garden. On its walls stands the victorious young Parsifal, who has slain some of Klingsor's wicked knights. Klingsor's maidens, who had loved these knights, at first upbraid him. But be seems so innocent tbat they come to like him and, dressed as flowers, they make love to him.
Presently Kundry, the most beautiful of all, appears. When the others have departed, she tells him of his noble father, Gamuret, and his mother, Herzeleide. She says that it was she herself who gave him bis name, which means "guileless fool." She proceeds to make love to him and at last to kiss him. But the kiss awakens him to passion—and to knowledge. Suddenly he seems to know the meaning of the wound of Amfortas—and that he may heal it. Vigorously he repels Kundry, and she cries to Klingsor for help. The sorcerer appears and hurls the sacred Spear at ParsifaL But a miracle occurs. The Spear sticks in the air directly over Parsifal's head, and he grasps it and makes the sign of the cross. Klingsor's whole castle falls in ruins; the garden becomes a desert; and Kundry sinks to the ground. Turning to her, Parsifal cries: "You know where only you may see me again!" And he disappears.
Galahad, Bors,and Percival achieve the Grail, a tapestry with figures by Edward Burne-Jones (c. 1895)
Scene 1 Years have passed since the dramatic events of Act II. The young hero has been unable to find his way back
to the Temple of the Grail, and the brotherhood of knights has suffered as Amfortas, still wounded, remains unable to perform his holy office.
It is a beautiful morning on Good Friday as the aged Gurnemanz issues from his hut. Again, after many years, he finds the repentant Kundry lying on the ground only half conscious. She has at last returned, to resume her service for the knights. Now a knight in black armor, a visor hiding his face, approaches. At the request of Gumemanz, he removes the warlike clothing in this sacred place, and he kneels in prayer. Both Gurnemanz and Kundry recognize the knight as Parsifal, and he tels them of his many wounds and hardships as he has searched for Monsalvat. And Gurnemanz, in return, tells of the sufferings of the fellowship of knights and of the death of the old King TitureL Parsifal faints with grief over the recital, blaming himself for all the suffering. But Gurnemanz solemnly baptizes the knight, and Kundry, with a golden phial，bathes his feet. Parsifal, in turn, asks Gurnemanz to anoint his head as well, and so Parsifal becomes the new King of the GraiL As his first act, the new King baptizes Kundry. And now, as the beauty of the natural scene strikes Parsifal, we hear the extraordinary Good Friday Music. There is a tolling of bells, and the three depart to attend the final rituals over the body of old TitureL
Scene 2 Inside the great hall of the Grail, Amfortas is helped to the throne. His suffering still makes it impossible for him to uncover the Grail, and he begs for death. But Parsifal now steps forward and touches the wounds of Amfortas with the sacred Spear. At once they heal; and Parsifal proclaims himself King. He takes the Grail from the shrine, and as he kneels in silent prayer, it sheds a glow that spreads into a shining radiance. The voices of the knights, the squires, and the choir boys rise through marvelous harmonies; Kundry falls lifeless to the ground; and as Parsifal holds the Grail aloft before the sacred brotherhood, the orchestra plays the final, transfigured themes of the Grail and of the Last Supper.
Legend of Percival
Percival (/ˈpɜːrsɪvəl/) — or Perceval, Percivale, etc. — is one of King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table. First made famous by the French author Chretien de Troyes, in the tale Conte du Graal (also known simply as Perceval), his story was allotted to the fictional figure of Peredur son of Efwc in the Welsh adaptation of Chretien's tale called Peredur ab Efrawc. He is most well known for being the original hero in the quest for the Grail before being replaced in later literature by Galahad.
Chrétien de Troyes wrote the first story of Perceval, le Conte du Graal. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and the now-lost Perceval of Robert de Boron are other famous accounts of his adventures.
There are many versions of Perceval's birth. In Robert de Boron's account Saint Graal, he is of noble birth; his father is stated to be either Alain le Gros, King Pellinore or another worthy knight. His mother is usually unnamed but plays a significant role in the stories. His sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail; she is sometimes named Dindrane. In tales where he is Pellinore's son, his brothers are Sir Aglovale, Sir Lamorak and Sir Dornar, and by his father's affair with a peasant woman, he also has a half-brother named Sir Tor.
After the death of his father, Perceval's mother takes him to the forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of 15. Eventually, however, a group of knights passes through his wood, and Perceval is struck by their heroic bearing. Wanting to be a knight himself, the boy leaves home to travel to King Arthur's court. In some versions his mother faints in shock upon seeing her son leave. After proving his worthiness as a warrior, he is knighted and invited to join the Knights of the Round Table.
Knight of the Round Table
In the earliest story about him he is connected to the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, he meets the crippled Fisher King and sees a grail, not yet identified as "holy", but he fails to ask a question that would have healed the injured king. Upon learning of his mistake he vows to find the Grail castle again and fulfill his quest but Chretien's story breaks off soon after, to be continued in a number of different ways by various authors.
In later accounts, the true Grail hero is Galahad, Lancelot's son. But though his role in the romances had been diminished, Percival remained a major character and was one of only two knights (the other was Sir Bors) who accompanied Galahad to the Grail castle and completed the quest with him.
In early versions, Perceval's sweetheart was Blanchefleur and he became the King of Carbonek after healing the Fisher King, but in later versions he was a virgin who died after achieving the Grail. In Wolfram's version, Perceval's son is Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan.
The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon - Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Nietzsche and Parsifal
Friedrich Nietzsche, who was originally one of Wagner's champions, chose to use Parsifal as the grounds for his breach with Wagner; an extended critique of Parsifal opens the third essay ("What Is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?") of On the Genealogy of Morality. In Nietzsche contra Wagner he wrote:
Parsifal is a work of perfidy, of vindictiveness, of a secret attempt to poison the presuppositions of life – a bad work. The preaching of chastity remains an incitement to anti-nature: I despise everyone who does not experience Parsifal as an attempted assassination of basic ethics.
Despite this attack on the subject matter, he also admitted that the music was sublime:
"Moreover, apart from all irrelevant questions (as to what the use of this music can or ought to be) and on purely aesthetic grounds; has Wagner ever done anything better?" (Letter to Peter Gast, 1887).
Schopenhauer and Parsifal
Wagner had been greatly impressed with his reading of Arthur Schopenhauer in 1854, and this deeply affected his thoughts and practice on music and art. Some writers (e.g. Bryan Magee) see Parsifal as Wagner's last great espousal of Schopenhauerian philosophy.
Parsifal can heal Amfortas and redeem Kundry because he shows compassion, which Schopenhauer saw as the highest form of human morality. Moreover, he displays compassion in the face of sexual temptation (act 2, scene 3). Schopenhaurian philosophy also suggests that the only escape from the ever-present temptations of human life is through negation of the Will, and overcoming sexual temptation is in particular a strong form of negation of the Will.
When viewed in this light, Parsifal, with its emphasis on Mitleid ("compassion") is a natural follow-on to Tristan und Isolde, where Schopenhauer's influence is perhaps more obvious, with its focus on Sehnen ("yearning"). Indeed, Wagner originally considered including Parsifal as a character in act 3 of Tristan, but later rejected the idea.
1843 - Wagner - The Flying Dutchman
1845 - Wagner - Tannhauser
1850 - Wagner - Lohengrin
1865 - Wagner - Tristan and Isolde
1868 - Wagner - The Mastersingers of Nurenberg
1869-1882 - Wagner - The Ring of the Nibelung:
1869 - Wagner - Das Rheingold
1870 - Wagner - Die Walkure
1876 - Wagner - Siegfried
1876 - Wagner - Die Gotterdammerung
1882 - Wagner - Parsifal