Wagner's Parsifal

William Kinderman

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This detailed study of Parsifal, a work described by the composer as his "last card," explores the evolution of the text and music of this inexhaustible yet highly controversial music drama across Wagner's entire career, and offers a reassessment of the ideological and political history of Parsifal that illuminates the connection of Wagner's legacy to the rise of National Socialism in Germany. The compositional genesis is traced through many unfamiliar sketches and manuscript sources held at Bayreuth, revealing unsuspected models and veiled connections to Wagner's earlier works. The work's relation to legends of the Holy Grail and to Christianity is probed. Fresh analytic perspectives are revealed, exploring the idea of tonal pairing and casting the musical structure and dramatic meaning of Parsifal in a new light. Dualistic features of the music and drama-the opposing realms of Grail and anti-Grail-are shown to rest on some underlying commonalities. Much debated aspects of the work, such as Kundry's death at the redemptive conclusion, are discussed in the context of its stage history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages336
ISBN (Electronic)9780199344864
ISBN (Print)9780195366921
StatePublished - Jan 23 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-Semitism
  • Bayreuth
  • Christianity
  • Genesis
  • Holy Grail
  • Ideology
  • National Socialism
  • Redemption
  • Sketches
  • Tonal pairing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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