Bühnenweihfestspiel (»A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage«) in three acts (1882)

music and text by

Richard Wagner

The Grail Knights are a brotherhood sworn to strict chastity. They guard two relics that promise salvation and eternal life: the Holy Grail and the Holy Spear. However, after their king Amfortas breaks his vow of chastity with the mysterious Kundry, the spear falls into the hands of Klingsor, a former knight expelled from the order, who uses it to inflict an unhealable wound on the king. According to prophecy, only a »pure fool made wise by compassion« can save Amfortas from eternal agony and retrieve the spear. Gurnemanz, the brotherhood’s spiritual leader, believes that the naive Parsifal is this new saviour. But Parsifal has a long path of enlightenment to tread first …

Richard Wagner wrote »Parsifal« towards the end of his life. It combines Christian myth with Buddhist elements and ideas from the philosophy of Schopenhauer. He saw the work as an embodiment of his idea of art-as-religion. With powerful, soul-stirring music, it ultimately presents a religious ideology that preaches the overcoming of sin and sensuousness through insight, compassion and rejection of love, which is portrayed as reprehensible.