Wagner's First Prose Draft for Parsifal
n view of the speed with which it was written this Prose Draft, dated 27-30 August 1865, cannot have been the first of Wagner's outlines for
Parsifal. There is evidence suggesting that an earlier sketch was written in 1857. If it ever existed then that sketch has been lost without trace. In his
autobiography Mein Leben, Wagner describes the April (or it might have been early May) morning in 1857 on which he was reminded of the Good
Friday passage in Wolfram's Parzival:
Ever since that stay in Marienbad, where I had conceived Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin, I had not taken another look at
that poem; now its ideality came to me in overwhelming form, and from the idea of Good Friday I quickly sketched out an entire drama in three acts.
hat first sketch or scenario, which H.S. Chamberlain claimed to have read, has not survived. So the earliest
outline known is this one, a more detailed draft made by Wagner at the request of King Ludwig. It appears in the Brown Book (left), the
diary and notebook, given to him by Cosima, that he used intermittently from 1865 until his death in 1883. The original has been on display at Haus Wahnfried in Bayreuth.
ome names differ from those that appear in the final poem and score. At this stage in the development of the text, Wagner was still, in most
cases, using the spellings that he had found in Wolfram. Thus, for example, Anfortas had not yet been changed to
Amfortas. In this draft, however, he uses the name Schmerzeleide [Pain- sorrow] instead of Wolfram's Herzeloyde [Hearts-sorrow] for Parzival's mother.
"Parzival und der Grail", Wolfgang Golther, 1925]
We owe the resumption of the work to king Ludwig: from 27 to 30 August 1865 the Parzival-poem was written down in the earliest version known
today. The appearance of the young king, who entered the circle of friends of Wagner's Parzival [as the drama and its central character were called at this stage], gave life and warmth to the form of
Wolfram's poem. Now there was a kind of reconciliation between Amfortas-Tristan [who had begun to dominate the developing scenario] and the young prince, who moved into the center of the action. Wagner
was still in a state of shock following the sudden death of his first Tristan, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, on 21 July 1865 in Dresden. Work on Parzival gave Wagner release from grim reality:
was help in need are the words with which the Master concluded the draft of Parzival. The contents of this draft match almost exactly those of the finished drama, although it begins with background
details that were provided for the benefit of the king. These would be compressed in the drama.
hose who know the music-drama will notice that there are many points in this draft that were removed, changed or developed before the poem was
completed. Even in the copy that Wagner made for King Ludwig the day after completing this draft, there were already some changes and, probably while preparing the copy,
Wagner made some corrections to the original. In particular, Wagner was uncertain about how to deal with the bleeding spear, a mysterious element of Wolfram's story that would, in another form, become an important element of Wagner's story. So although this draft does not correspond in every detail to Wagner's
final concept, it represents the outcome of his reflections on Wolfram's poem and other medieval literature over the two preceding decades.