Motif 12: Balsam

German name: Motiv des Dienens

Musical example: Motif 12 - Balsam

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.

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 Lind'rung and 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 major).

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.

Kufferath: motif of the repentant Kundry

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.

References: von Wolzogen p.32 no example, Lorenz pp.20-21, pp.24-25 and p.148, Kufferath pp.236-7 "Kundry the Beneficent" and ex.50 "the repentant Kundry", Lavignac p.448 "the Balm", Newman ex.24, ENO ex.52b.

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