A  Parsifal  Bibliography

  • Title, author, translator or editor, publication date, publisher, city. Description.
Parsifal in the library. Stockholm Royal Opera 2013. Above: Parsifal (Michael Weinius) in the library. Stockholm Royal Opera 2013.

Source Literature

For an account of Wagner's known and probable sources of material for Parsifal or sources of inspiration, see this article.

See also: Appendix 1: Bibliography of Critical Works and of Major Texts of the Grail Legend in Loomis.

Please note that, where an English translation is referenced below, it might not be the only one available.

  • Contes populaires des anciens Brétons, Théodore Claude Henri Hersart de la Villemarqué,, 1842,, Paris. Wagner's first source for the story of Peredur, which begins on page 453. Wagner's Bayreuth library includes three other books by Villemarqué.
    Link: Contes populaires des anciens Brétons
  • Mabinogion or The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, unknown, tr. Jeffrey Gantz, 1976, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth UK. A collection of eleven prose tales from the Welsh oral tradition, including a version of Peredur. The earliest manuscript dates from about 1325.
  • Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1980, tr. A.T. Hatto, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth UK. The first complete English translation was made by Jessie L. Weston and dedicated to the memory of Richard Wagner: it is available in a quality edition from There are several other good modern translations available, such as: Zeydel and Morgan (1951, verse), Mustard and Passage (1961, prose), Cyril Edwards (2006, prose). The edition that Wagner studied in 1859 was a modern German edition by San-Marte or Albert Schultz (Magdeburg 1836): Parcival: Rittergedicht von Wolfram von Eschenbach: a reprint/facsimile of the 1886 edition is available from His Dresden library contained Karl Lachmann's (MHG) edition (Berlin 1833) and the modern German edition by Simrock (1842). Wagner read one or both of these in 1845. His Bayreuth library also contains a later edition (1857) of Simrock's translation: a modern reprint of the 1862 edition, ed. Theodor Borken, is available from Henricus; and one by Karl Bartsch (1871).
  • Parcival-Studien, San-Marte (Albert Schulz), 1861-2, Buchhandlung der Waisenhauses, Halle. One of Wagner's supplementary sources for the Grail legend.
    • Part 1: Guiot. Life of the poet Guiot de Provence (fl. 1200). German translation of Guiot's Bible, with commentary and glossary.
    • Part 2: On Religion in the Works of Wolfram von Eschenbach. Commentary on the Grail (Bedeutung des heiligen Grals) in Parzival.
    • Part 3: In opposition to the Grail. The Grail knights.
    Wagner's Bayreuth library includes several other books by San-Marte, including his translations of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittanniae, parts of The Red Book of Hergest, and extracts from Der jüngere Titurel by Albrecht von Scharfenberg. Also San-Marte's life of Wolfram von Eschenbach.
  • Perceval le Gallois , compilation, 1866-71, tr. Ch. Potvin, Société des Bibliophiles de Mons. Seven volumes. Modern French text of Perceval and the Continuations, with Perlesvaus. See Wagner's Bayreuth Library for details.
  • Perceval: The Story of the Grail (Perceval ou il Conte du Graal) or Perceval li Gallois, Chrétien de Troyes, 1982, tr. Nigel Bryant, D.S. Brewer, Cambridge UK. Bryant's slightly abridged edition incorporates large parts of the Continuations, in which various authors (or editors) attempted to complete Chrétien's unfinished romance. Perceval was one of Wagner's sources for his version of the Grail legend.
  • Joseph d'Arimithie published as Le Roman de l'Estoire dou Saint Graal, Robert de Boron, ed. W.A.Nitze, 1927, Les Classiques français du moyen-âge, Paris. Parts of the text were translated by M. Schlauch and published in Medieval Narrative, 1928, NY. The Modena-manuscript prose versions of de Boron's Joseph and Merlin, together with the Modena Perceval have recently been translated into English: Merlin and the Grail, Nigel Bryant, 2001, D.S.Brewer, Cambridge UK.
  • Didot Perceval also known as Perceval le Gallois tr. as The Romance of Perceval in Prose, tr. D. Skeels, 1961, Univ. of Washington Press, DC. The book was named for a Parisian bookseller who owned one of the manuscripts. In French prose of the early 13th century, this work is presented as a continuation of Robert de Boron's Joseph and Merlin. It ends with an early version of the Mort Artu. The Didot text is a rather garbled version of the more consistent and complete text to be found in the Modena manuscript referred to above.
  • Perlesvaus, Le Haut Livre du Graal or The High History of the Grail , unknown, tr. S. Evans, 1903, 1969 reprint, James Clarke, Cambridge UK. Loomis describes this translation as inaccurate. Probably (especially if it is the first volume of Potvin's compilation) one of Wagner's supplementary sources for his version of the Grail legend.
  • The Quest of the Holy Grail (Queste del Saint Graal) , unknown, 1969, P.M. Matarasson, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth UK. From a literary viewpoint the most perfect story of the Grail, completed about 1225. Part of the Vulgate Cycle, and thus one of Malory's sources for his version of the Quest.
  • Sir Gawain at the Grail Castle , compilation, tr. J.L.Weston, 1903, Nutt (Arthurian Romances no.6),. This compilation includes three versions of the episode: that which Weston called the Bleheris version, part of the First Continuation to Perceval; the German poem Diu Crône (The Crown); and the version from the Prose Lancelot.
  • St. John Damascene: Barlaam And Ioasaph ,, G.R. Woodward and H. Mattingly, 1914, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. The story of Barlaam and Josaphat, which Wagner added to his Dresden library (now on display in the basement of Haus Wahnfried) in a German translation re-published in 1843, was revealed by Carl Suneson to have been an important source for the second act of Parsifal.

Buddhism and Related Literature

For an introduction to Wagner and Buddhism, see this article. For a list of literature that Wagner either had in his possession or probably consulted, see this article. If you can find them, either the relevant chapter in Welbon or the book by Suneson would be good places to start reading.

  • Introduction à l'histoire du Buddhisme indien , Eugène Burnouf, Paris, Imprimerie Royale, 1844. The book that inspired Wagner's Die Sieger. Wagner's Bayreuth library contains two other books by Burnouf: his translation of the sutra Le lotus de la bonne loi and his translation of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ.
  • Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism, English translation of the above by Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez jr. 2010, University of Chicago Press.
  • The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature , Har Dayal, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1932. Reprinted 1970, 1999 by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd., Delhi. This is an invaluable modern reference for the Bodhisattva doctrine and for the terminology of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
  • Die Religion des Buddha und ihre Entstehung , Carl Friedrich Köppen,, Berlin, Schneider, 1857. Read by Wagner in 1858; he found it "unedifying".
  • Buddha, sein Leben, seine Lehre, seine Gemeinde , Hermann Oldenberg,, Berlin, 1881. Read by Wagner in late 1882.
  • Buddha : His Life, His Doctrine, His Order , English translation of the above by William Hoey. Modern edition: Pilgrims Book, Delhi, 1998.
  • A Manual of Buddhism in its Modern Development , Robert Spence Hardy, London, 1853. Another of the books recommended by Schopenhauer. Possibly the source of Wagner's spear that stops in mid-air. Modern edition: Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1995.
  • Sutta Nipáta or dialogues and discourses of Gotama Buddha: translated from the Páli, with introduction and notes , M. Coomára Swámy, Trübner, London, 1874. Wagner's studies of Buddhism continued with this translation of Suttas from the Pali canon. His copy can be seen in the Bayreuth library.
  • Indische Skizzen , Albrecht Weber, Berlin, Dümmler, 1857. Of particular interest in this book, of which a copy is present in Wagner's Bayreuth library, is the 1856 lecture Über den Buddhismus. In Weber's view the Buddha was both a religious and a social reformer, a view that Wagner might have found consistent with his view of Jesus as expressed in Jesus von Nazareth. In this lecture Weber expressed the opinion that the concept of karma was brought to India by the Aryan invaders, i.e. that it was part of the Vedic tradition from the beginning.
  • Richard Wagner und Indien , G. Lanczowski, in H. O. Günther, Indien und Deutschland, Frankfurt a.M., 1956. Lanczowski argued that some of Wagner's later works, especially his Tristan und Isolde, were essentially Buddhist in outlook. His arguments are not developed and mostly superficial. Lanczkowski failed to see that, at least before 1874, Wagner's interest in Buddhism focussed on the northern (Mahāyāna) tradition.
  • Richard Wagner och den indiska tankevärlden , Carl Suneson,, 1985, Almqvist & Wiksell International: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis (Stockholm Oriental Studies vol.13), Stockholm. ISBN 91-22-00775-X. Suneson's monograph is the only extended treatment of all aspects of Wagner's interest in Indian literature and religions.
  • Richard Wagner und die Indische Geisteswelt ,, Brill Academic Publishers Inc., Leiden, 1989. German translation by Gert Kreutzer of the above.
  • Richard Wagners Buddha-Projekt "Die Sieger": Seine ideellen und strukturellen Spuren in "Ring" und "Parsifal" , Wolfgang Osthoff, Arkiv für Musikwissenschaft 40:3, 1983, p 189-211. A lecture given in the Villa Wesendonk on the 100th anniversary of Richard Wagner's death.
  • Richard Wagner's Buddha-Project "Die Sieger" ("The Victors"): its traces in the ideas and structure of "The Ring" and "Parsifal" , English translation of the above with minor revisions (and some errors) by William Buchanan, Museum Rietberg, Zürich, 1996.
  • Richard Wagner und der Buddhismus: Liebe — Tragik , Urs App, Museum Rietberg, Zürich, 1997. A lecture given in the Villa Wesendonck on the 140th anniversary of Wagner's prose sketch for Die Sieger. Interesting but speculative.
  • The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters , Guy R. Welbon, Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1968. In particular the chapter entitled: Schopenhauer, Wagner and Nietzsche on Nirvana.
  • Wagner Spectrum: Schwerpunkt, Wagner und der Buddhismus Ed. Ulrike Kienzle, 2007. The editor contributes a valuable article concerning nirvāṇa and related ideas that she finds expressed respectively in Tristan, in the "Schopenhauer" ending of Götterdämmerung and in Parsifal. A posthumous essay by Wolf-Daniel Hartwich considers Wagner's ideas about the hereafter and their origins in his studies of Indian religion, which adds little to the discussion by Welbon, see above. Dieter Borchmeyer contributes a good, if superficial, review of Wagner's "Buddhistic Christianity". Volker Mertens provides an introduction to Wagner and India. These last two articles, however, do not go beyond what the Indologist Carl Suneson (see above) had written on these subjects 22 years earlier. Pandit Bikkhu interprets Wagner's Kundry as a personification of desire in relation to the Holy Life.

Writings of Richard and Cosima Wagner

Richard Wagner's writings are substantial. There are two collected editions, one published during his lifetime under his own direction and an enlarged posthumous edition. There are many volumes of his correspondence, not all of it yet published, which is now being consolidated in the ongoing project Sämtliche Briefe. Here are selected items from these texts.

Historical and Biographical

Relevant books about Western Mythology

A selection of references for the Grail Legend and the story of Perceval.

  • The Quest of the Holy Grail , Jessie L. Weston,, 1913: 1990 reprint, The Banton Press, Largs Scotland.
  • From Ritual to Romance , Jessie L. Weston,, 1920: 1993 reprint, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton NJ.
  • Die Graalslegende in psychologischer Sicht , Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz,, 1960, Walter Verlag AG, Olten. This study is the result of a thirty year long investigation into the Grail legend by Emma Jung, which was left unfinished on her death in 1955. The book was completed by M-L von Franz. In the Grail legend, a unique blend of fairy-tale and Christian legend, Emma Jung found a reflection of fundamental human problems and the dramatic psychic events which form the background of our Christian culture.
  • The Grail: from Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol , R.S. Loomis,, 1963, Univ. Wales Press/Columbia Univ. Press, Cardiff/NY.
  • Creative Mythology , Joseph Campbell,, 1968, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth UK.
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces , Joseph Campbell,, 1972, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton NJ.
  • Le Regard Eloigné , Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1983, Librairie Plon, Paris. Contains short essays on the Ring and Parsifal from a structuralist viewpoint.
  • The View From Afar , Claude Lévi-Strauss, tr. Joachim Neugroschel and Phoebe Hoss, 1985, Basil Blackwell Ltd., London. A translation of Le Regard Eloigné.
  • The Grail Legend , Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz, tr. Andrea Dykes, 1998, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton NJ. See above.

Concerning Parsifal : 1. Books entirely about Parsifal

Roughly in chronological order of publication.

  • Thematic Guide Through the Music of Parsifal , Hans von Wolzogen, tr. J.H. Cornell, 1889, G. Schirmer, NY. Translated from the original Thematischer Leitfaden durch die Muzik zu R. Wagners Parsifal, 1882.
  • Parsifal et l'opéra wagnérien , E. Hippeau,, 1883,, Paris.
  • Parsifal de Richard Wagner: légende, drame, partition , M. Kufferath,, 1893,, Paris.
  • Die Sage von heiligen Gral in ihrer Entwicklung bis auf Richard Wagners Parsifal , E. Wechsler,, 1898,, Halle.
  • Parsifal und der Gral in deutscher Sage des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit , W. Golther,, 1911,, Leipzig.
  • Die Entstehungsgeschichte von Wagner's Parsifal auf philologisch-historischer Grundlage , C.R. Hohberger,, 1914, Verlag E.H. Mayer, Leipzig. Doctoral thesis discussing the genesis of the opera (see Golther, above) with observations on Wagner's use of key source material.
  • Introduction à l'étude de Parsifal , V. d'Indy,, 1937,, Paris.
  • Dokumente zur Entstehung und ersten Aufführung des Bühnenweihfestspieles Parsifal , ed. Martin Geck and Egon Voss,, 1970, Mainz. Volume XXX of Richard Wagner: Sämtliche Werke. For an overview of this project see pages 590-592 in the WWV.
  • Wagners Parsifal: Kriterien der Kompositionstechnik , Hans-Joachim Bauer,,1977, Musikverlag Emil Katzbichler, Munich and Salzberg.
  • Parsifal de Richard Wagner: Opéra initiatique , J. Chailley,, 1979,, Paris.
  • Parsifal: Texte, Materialen, Kommentar ,, ed. Attila Csampai and Dietmar Holland, 1980, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH (rororo opernbücher), Reinbek bei Hamburg. ISBN 3-499-17809-5.
  • Richard Wagner: Parsifal: Cambridge Opera Handbook ,, ed. Lucy Beckett, 1981, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge UK. Lucy Beckett's account of the reception history of Parsifal and Arnold Whittall's insightful comments on the score are the parts of this book that will be most useful to the reader. Some commentators have found Beckett's discussion of Wagner's sources so incomplete as to be misleading, however, and her focus on what she saw as the Christian message of the drama, to the exclusion of other ethical and religious messages in the work, presents the work as through a distorting lens.
  • Richard Wagner: Parsifal ,, ed. Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn, 1982,, Munich.
  • Parsifal: Ein Filmessay , Hans Jürgen Syberberg,, 1982, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich. For those who were wondering what the film was all about.
  • Parsifal: Erlösung dem Erlöser?, Versuch einer anderen Deutung , R. Klier,, 1985, Druck Vorländer, Siegen. A thought-provoking reexamination of Parsifal, with cartoons by Matthias Kringle.
  • Parsifal: Opera Guide 34 ,, ed. Nicholas John, 1986, John Calder Ltd./Riverrun Press Inc., London/NY. Some of the essays in this collection contain factual errors and the others are simply impenetrable. The most interesting of them is a high-level analysis of the music by Robin Holloway. There is a useful thematic guide and a libretto, with Andrew Porter's singable translation, indexed to the thematic guide.
  • Parsifal Reception in the Bayreuther Blätter , Mary A. Cicora, 1987, Peter Lang, Frankfurt a.M., Berne and New York.
  • Das Weltüberwindungswerk: Wagners Parsifal: ein szenisch- musikalisches Gleichnis der Philosophie Arthur Schopenhauers , Ulrike Kienzle,, 1992, Laaber-Verlag. This book approaches the "Schopenhauerian parable" both from the viewpoint of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung and from a Christian angle. Its main failure is to neglect other works by Schopenhauer that are more directly relevant to Wagner's subject. The Buddhist aspects of the text are given little attention (but see below for more recent essays by the same author). Kienzle does recognize that Kundry's curse is related to the Indian concept of Karma (or more correctly: merit), which Schopenhauer had regarded as eternal justice in religious clothing, and she has a view on Kundry in relation to Schopenhauer's concept of the Will.
  • Wagner's Parsifal: The Journey of a Soul , Peter Bassett,, 2000, Wakefield Press, South Australia. A balanced and highly readable introduction to Parsifal and its sources. Includes a free translation of the poem (libretto) into English.
  • Das Orchester muß wie die unsichtbare Seele sein : Richard Wagners Bemerkungen zum Parsifal: Aufgezeichnet während der Proben und Aufführungen 1882, Heinrich Porges,, 2002, Rüdiger Pohl, Deutsche Richard Wagner Gesellschaft, Berlin. Working as an assistant to Richard Wagner during the rehearsals and performances of 1882, Porges made notes of instructions given by Wagner and remarks that he made in rehearsals.
  • A Pagan Spoiled: Sex and Character in Wagner's Parsifal , Anthony Winterbourne,, 2003, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press and Associated Univ. Presses, Madison and London. When the author is not trying to substantiate Nike Wagner's claim that Geschlecht und Charakter — the ultimate work of fin-de-siècle misogynism written by the deranged Otto Weininger — is the theoretical underpinning of Wagner's last drama, he makes some interesting observations about Parsifal. Unfortunately his pursuit of Nike Wagner's red herring tends to reduce the author's credibility. But it's a good read.
  • A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal , William Kinderman and Katherine R. Syer,, 2005, Camden House (Boydell & Brewer Inc.). This fascinating books brings together essays on a range of topics relating to Parsifal from the leading scholars in their fields. I cannot recommend this book too highly!
  • Weihe, Werkstatt, Wirklichkeit: Parsifal in Bayreuth 1882-1933 , Stephan Mösch,, 2009, Bärenreiter-Verlag Karl Vötterle GmbH & Co. KG, Kassel. A treasure chest of information and documentation about the reception of the opera and its performance at Bayreuth in the early years of the Festival.
  • Wagner's Parsifal , William Kinderman,, Oxford University Press, 2013. For those readers who have already covered the basics, this book explores several aspects of 'Parsifal' in depth. The central section of the book is a thorough study of Wagner's sketches for the opera and the revisions that he made between the first draft and the final score.
  • Wagner's Parsifal: An Appreciation in the Light of His Theological Journey , Richard H. Bell,, 2013, Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon.
  • Versuch über Kundry: Facetten einer Figur , Chikako Kitagawa,, 2015, Peter Lang GmbH (Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften), Frankfurt am Main. Originally Kitagawa's doctoral thesis (Freie Univ. Berlin 2013), this is a study of Kundry as a "figure" as the term is used in Drama Theory. The interpretation and reception of Kundry are examined and the book concludes with studies of how Kundry was interpreted in recent stagings of Parsifal respectively directed by Robert Wilson (1991), Peter Konwitschny (1995), Christoph Schlingensief (2004) and Calixto Bieito (2010).

2. Books containing useful chapters or essays about Parsifal and on other Wagnerian topics.

Roughly in chronological order of first publication.

  • Music Criticisms 1846-99 , E. Hanslick, ed. & trans. H. Pleasants, 1963,, London.
  • Revue wagnerién ,,, 1885-8 reprinted 1971,, 3 volumes.
  • The Legends of the Wagner Drama , Jessie Laidlay Weston,, 1900, Ch. Scribner's Sons, New York.
  • Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner , Alfred Lorenz,, 1966 reprint,,Tutzing. Originally published in Berlin, 1926. Four volumes of which volume 4 concerns "Parsifal".
  • Wagner Nights , Ernest Newman,, 1949, Pan Books Ltd., London.
  • Richard Wagner's Music Dramas , Carl Dahlhaus, tr. Mary Whittall, 1979, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge UK. Contains a fascinating analysis of Parsifal. Translated from Richard Wagners Musikdramen, 1971.
  • Acts , Wolfgang Wagner, John Brownjohn, 1994, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.
  • Wagner , Michael Tanner,, 1996, Harper Collins, London.
  • The Wagners: The Dramas of a Musical Dynasty , originally: Wagner Theater (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M. and Leipzig, 1999), Nike Wagner; English translation by Ewald Osers and Michael Downes, 2001. Nike Wagner's superficial and misguided ideas about her great-grandfather's music dramas are revealed in this compilation of musico-dramatic criticism, family history and self- promotion.
  • ...daß wissend würde die Welt! Religion und Philosophie in Richard Wagners Musikdramen (Wagner in der Diskussion, Band I), 2005, Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg. A collection of essays — some already published elsewhere and some new — concerning Wagner's relationship with religions (Christian, Vedantic, Buddhist) and with philosophy (Hegel, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer). While it is not an exhaustive treatment of these subjects, Kienzle has provided a valuable contribution to the Wagner literature and there are many insights revealed in her book.
  • Wagner Beyond Good and Evil , John Deathridge, Univ. of California Press, 2008, California and London. This collection of essays by a leading Wagner scholar contains a wide-ranging and thought- provoking essay on Parsifal.

3. Selected articles presenting different perspectives on Parsifal

Roughly in chronological order of publication.