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Parsifal
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29 Aug. [1865]

Kundry has again vanished, fallen into a deathlike sleep. Klingsor has regained power over her soul: he needs the help of this the most wondrous of women to deliver his final blow. At his castle, in an inaccessible dungeon, he sits in his magician's workshop: he is the daemon of hidden sin, the raging of impotence against sin. Using his magician's powers, he conjures up Kundry's soul; her spirit appears in the depths of a dark cave. From the dialogue of these two, we learn something of their relationship.

Klingsor's Castle, 1882
Right: Klingsor's Castle, Act 2 Scene 1, Bayreuth production of 1882. © Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.

 

K undry is living an unending life of constantly alternating rebirths as the result of an ancient curse which, in a manner reminiscent of the Wandering Jew, condemns her, in ever-new shapes, to bring to men the suffering of seduction; redemption, death, complete annihilation is vouchsafed her only if her most powerful blandishments are withstood by the most chaste and virile of men. So far, they have not been. After each new and, in the end, profoundly hateful victory, after each new fall by man, she flies into a rage; she then flees into the wilderness, where by the most severe atonements and chastisements she is, for a while, able to escape from the power of the curse upon her; yet it is denied to her to find salvation by this route. Within her, again and again, arises a desire to be redeemed by a man, this being the only way of redemption offered by the curse: thus does innermost necessity cause her repeatedly to fall victim anew to the power through which she is reborn as a seductress. The penitent then falls into a deathlike sleep: it is the seductress who wakes, and who, after her mad frenzy, becomes a penitent again.

Marcel Journet as Klingsor Left: Marcel Journet (1867-1933) as Klingsor. © Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.

As  no one but a man can redeem her, she has taken refuge as a penitent with the knights of the Grail; here, among them, must the redeemer be found. She serves them with the most passionate self- sacrifice: never, when she is in this state, does she receive a loving look, being no more than a servant and despised slave. Klingsor's magic has found her out; he knows the curse and the power through which she can be forced into his service.

To avenge the dreadful disgrace he once suffered from Titurel, he traps and seduces the noblest knights of the Grail into breaking their vow of chastity. What, however, gives him power over Kundry, this most exquisite instrument of seduction, is not only the magic power through which he controls the curse upon Kundry, but also the most powerful assistance he finds in Kundry's own soul. -

Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry
Right: Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry in Act 2. ©ACME Newspictures.

Soundbytes Ich sah das Kind (Kirsten Flagstad; Orchestra of the ROH Covent Garden conducted by Karl Rankl; recorded on 22 June 1951. Ogg format, mono, duration 4 min.)

Since only one man can redeem her and so she feels given to him in complete submission, her experience of the weakness of these men cannot but fill her with strange bitterness: feeling that only one man, who withstands the force of her feminine charms, can destroy and redeem her, she is repeatedly driven by something deep in her own soul to be tested again: but mixed with this is her scorn, her despair at being subjugated to this feeble breed, and a fearful blazing hatred which, while it disposes her for the destruction of men, at the same time repeatedly arouses her wild, loving desire in a consuming, fearfully fiery manner to that fit of ecstasy by means of which she can work the magic, while remaining its' slave.

Maria Callas as Kundry Left: Maria Callas as Kundry, Act 2.

Her latest task, under Klingsor's guidance, has been the seduction of Anfortas. The sorcerer's only wish was to have Anfortas in his power: he planned for him the disgrace that, in raving blindness, he once inflicted upon himself: he managed to lure the Keeper of the Grail himself into the arms of Kundry, reborn as the wondrously seductive woman, and while he was lost in her embrace, the knights enslaved by Klingsor fell upon him; they were not allowed to kill him; the vigilant Gurnemans, calling upon the aid of the Grail, managed to free the already wounded Anfortas. Thus was Klingsor deprived of the prize of his venture: Kundry, to her distress, had fared better in proving her power anew! After violent ravings, she again woke penitent. From one state to the next, she retains no real memory of what has occurred: to her it is like a dream experienced in very deep sleep which, on waking, one cannot recall, although there is a vague, deep-seated feeling of impotence. Yet she gazes with both sadness and scorn at the wounded man, who she, penitent once more now, again serves with the most passionate devotion, but - without hope, without respect.

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