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Parsifal
The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882

Left: The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882, painted by the Brückner brothers after the design by Paul von Joukowsky. ©Cologne Theatre Museum.

Muted trumpets seem to approach. Solemn chanting from bass voices; tenor voices respond from half way to the roof; from the highest part of the dome comes the chanting of boys' voices. Then, at the rear, to left and right, two great folding doors open. From the right the Knights of the Grail enter in grave and solemn procession; they take their places at the laid tables stretched in three groups from front to rear. From the left come the master-workmen and servants of the King. Anfortas is carried in on a litter: in front of him a knight bears a shrine covered by a purple velvet cloth: carried upright behind Anfortas is a lance with a bloodstained tip [deleted by RW]. At the rear, beneath a baldachin in the elevated centre, is the couch to which Anfortas is led: before it stands an altar-like table upon which the covered shrine is placed. When all are in their places, the singing stops. Gurnemans takes his place at a table, staring the whole time at Parzival who stands still and speechless with amazement.

Parsifal Act 1, Lyric Opera Chicago 2013 Right: Parsifal Grail Temple scene from Act 1, Lyric Opera Chicago 2013 ©Todd Rosenberg Photography.

From a vaulted niche far to the rear is heard the funereal voice of old Titurel: "My son Anfortas, are you about your duty?" Silence - "Must I die without welcoming the Saviour?" Anfortas breaks out in profound complaint: he cannot any longer discharge his duties. He describes his sufferings. The knights complain and mutter. Titurel's voice: "Uncover the Grail!" The shrine is uncovered, the sacred crystal cup taken from within and solemnly set before Anfortas. - Anfortas covers his eyes. Titurel's voice: "Speak the blessing!" Anfortas, gazing at last towards the vessel with increasing rapture, expresses his inspired and, at the same time, contrite emotions. The devotion of all is at its height. From the dome, a blinding shaft of light descends to the cup, which begins to glow a fiery crimson. All sink to their knees: a ray of hope enters the soul of Anfortas. Never, since his fall, has the Grail glowed as purely as today: is it salvation, is the Redeemer here? With both hands he elevates the Grail, allowing it to shine in every direction. From Titurel - a sigh of well-being.-

Parsifal Act 1, Scene ii Left: one of Franz Stassen's illustrations for Act I of Parsifal

From high up, voices sound. Titurel speaks the blessing: twilight descends on the hall: only the Grail gleams bright. When it becomes light again, the tables are provided with wine and bread; the Grail no longer gleams and is returned to its shrine. During the singing, which celebrates holy brotherly love, the knights eat. Anfortas alone feels worse than before: he has to be carried off in the litter; his wound has reopened; the Redeemer has remained silent. The procession forms up in the order of arrival. To sad, solemn music, all depart again: above them, the bells grow silent and the light fades. - Parzival has remained motionless with amazement: but during Anfortas' complaint, he once put his hand hastily to his heart. As last to leave, Gurnemans turns to him ill-humouredly and shakes him: "Why are you still standing there? You are nothing but a fool! Out you go, do your thinking there!" He pushes him out of a side gate and bangs it after him, muttering.-


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