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Parsifal

Summary of Act 1(3)


G urnemanz, Knight of the Grail, rises from sleep and rouses his two young esquires in a forest near the castle of Monsalvat in the Spanish Pyrenees. Two other knights arrive to prepare a morning bath for the King, Amfortas, who has an apparently incurable wound. They are interrupted by the wild woman Kundry, who has brought balsam from Arabia to alleviate the King's suffering. The King, carried in on a litter, recalls the prophecy that told him to await a pure fool made wise by compassion. He accepts Kundry's gift and proceeds to the lake. Gurnemanz tells his companions how a beautiful woman betrayed Amfortas into the hands of the magician Klingsor, so that the sacred Spear was lost and with it the King wounded.

Gurnemanz shows Parsifal the face of the dying swan, in a production by Wolfgang Wagner. © Bayreuther Festspiele

Suddenly there are cries from the lake and a swan falls to the ground, fatally injured by an arrow. The knights drag in a youth who, rebuked by Gurnemanz, breaks his bow but cannot give his name. Kundry is able to do so: the youth is Parsifal, son of Gamuret and Herzeleide. As Kundry crawls away to sleep in the undergrowth, the knights carry Amfortas back from the lake. Gurnemanz follows them with the boy, wondering what to make of him.

In the hall of the Grail Castle, Amfortas is surrounded by his knights who prepare for the Grail ritual. The voice of his father Titurel is heard from the crypt, bidding Amfortas uncover the Grail and perform the magic that sustains the aged hero. Amfortas at first refuses, as the ritual brings on his pain. At length he submits and allows the esquires to uncover the chalice, which produces food and drink to sustain the knights. Parsifal watches but seems to understand nothing; although at one point when Amfortas cries out in pain, he lays his hand on his heart. At the end of the ceremony, Gurnemanz angrily drives the boy away. As he is about to leave, the knight hears a mysterious voice repeat the words of the prophecy.


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