Motif 12: Balsam
German name: Motiv des Dienens
This motif is associated with Kundry's service of the Grail knights. We hear it for the first time when she gives the phial of healing Balsam
to Gurnemanz (
Von weiter her als du denken kannst), when Gurnemanz hands the phial to Amfortas, and again in the scene with Parsifal at Kundry's
Nie tu ich Gutes. Here is a more developed form of the Balsam motif:
Balsam (Martha Mödl; ogg format)
Lorenz considered the Balsam chord: e-flat, g, b-flat, d-flat (a German sixth in g minor). It first appears at Gurnemanz's word
returns when Kundry gives him the balsam. Lorenz said that for Kundry the chord was like a bridge, from the world of sin (g minor) to the world of salvation (A flat
The motif returns in the third act just before
du tolles Weib! and repeats before
Dienen! Dienen!. In this form Lorenz called it
the motif of the helpful
Kundry (Motiv der hilfreichen Kundry). Kufferath called it the motif of the repentant Kundry. He provides the example below, showing this form of the motif and a more
drawn-out instance a few bars later.
It is always interesting to note how similar musical ideas occur in different Wagner operas. The similarity of the Balsam to the Ring and Valhalla motives in the Ring is obvious, but probably not significant.
Balsam, or balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8v22), is a resinous, oily substance. Traditionally it possesses healing properties and it was used in embalming and anointing. Fragrant balm was a major export from the Holy Land in the twelfth century, for use in the services of the Church.