Parsifal - 1865 Prose Draft - Act II

29 Aug 1865

Kundry has again vanished, fallen into a deathlike sleep. Klingsor has regained power over her soul: he needs the help of this the most wondrous of women to deliver his final blow. At his castle, in an inaccessible dungeon, he sits in his magician's workshop: he is the daemon of hidden sin, the raging of impotence against sin. Using his magician's powers, he conjures up Kundry's soul; her spirit appears in the depths of a dark cave. From the dialogue of these two, we learn something of their relationship.


K undry is living an unending life of constantly alternating rebirths as the result of an ancient curse which, in a manner reminiscent of the Wandering Jew, condemns her, in ever-new shapes, to bring to men the suffering of seduction; redemption, death, complete annihilation is vouchsafed her only if her most powerful blandishments are withstood by the most chaste and virile of men. So far, they have not been. After each new and, in the end, profoundly hateful victory, after each new fall by man, she flies into a rage; she then flees into the wilderness, where by the most severe atonements and chastisements she is, for a while, able to escape from the power of the curse upon her; yet it is denied to her to find salvation by this route. Within her, again and again, arises a desire to be redeemed by a man, this being the only way of redemption offered by the curse: thus does innermost necessity cause her repeatedly to fall victim anew to the power through which she is reborn as a seductress. The penitent then falls into a deathlike sleep: it is the seductress who wakes, and who, after her mad frenzy, becomes a penitent again.

As  no one but a man can redeem her, she has taken refuge as a penitent with the knights of the Grail; here, among them, must the redeemer be found. She serves them with the most passionate self- sacrifice: never, when she is in this state, does she receive a loving look, being no more than a servant and despised slave. Klingsor's magic has found her out; he knows the curse and the power through which she can be forced into his service.

To avenge the dreadful disgrace he once suffered from Titurel, he traps and seduces the noblest knights of the Grail into breaking their vow of chastity. What, however, gives him power over Kundry, this most exquisite instrument of seduction, is not only the magic power through which he controls the curse upon Kundry, but also the most powerful assistance he finds in Kundry's own soul. -

Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry
Right: Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry in Act 2. ©ACME Newspictures.

Soundbytes Ich sah das Kind (Kirsten Flagstad; Orchestra of the ROH Covent Garden conducted by Karl Rankl; recorded on 22 June 1951. Ogg format, mono, duration 4 min.)

Since only one man can redeem her and so she feels given to him in complete submission, her experience of the weakness of these men cannot but fill her with strange bitterness: feeling that only one man, who withstands the force of her feminine charms, can destroy and redeem her, she is repeatedly driven by something deep in her own soul to be tested again: but mixed with this is her scorn, her despair at being subjugated to this feeble breed, and a fearful blazing hatred which, while it disposes her for the destruction of men, at the same time repeatedly arouses her wild, loving desire in a consuming, fearfully fiery manner to that fit of ecstasy by means of which she can work the magic, while remaining its' slave.

Maria Callas as Kundry in 'Parsifal' act 2 Left: Maria Callas as Kundry, Act 2.

Her latest task, under Klingsor's guidance, has been the seduction of Anfortas. The sorcerer's only wish was to have Anfortas in his power: he planned for him the disgrace that, in raving blindness, he once inflicted upon himself: he managed to lure the Keeper of the Grail himself into the arms of Kundry, reborn as the wondrously seductive woman, and while he was lost in her embrace, the knights enslaved by Klingsor fell upon him; they were not allowed to kill him; the vigilant Gurnemans, calling upon the aid of the Grail, managed to free the already wounded Anfortas. Thus was Klingsor deprived of the prize of his venture: Kundry, to her distress, had fared better in proving her power anew! After violent ravings, she again woke penitent. From one state to the next, she retains no real memory of what has occurred: to her it is like a dream experienced in very deep sleep which, on waking, one cannot recall, although there is a vague, deep-seated feeling of impotence. Yet she gazes with both sadness and scorn at the wounded man, who she, penitent once more now, again serves with the most passionate devotion, but - without hope, without respect.

29 Aug. [1865]

Parsifal Act 2 - Set design by Wieland Wagner 1937

Now it is necessary for Klingsor to have Parzival in his power. He knows the prophecies about this wonder-child. He fears that he may have been summoned to deliver Anfortas and take his place with a power that cannot be overcome. It is against him that Kundry must now exert all her power. Summoned by Klingsor, Kundry's soul trembles. She resists. He threatens. She curses. Fearful secrets. Finally, discord within Kundry's soul: hope for deliverance through defeat: - but then a mad desire to enjoy love for one last time. Klingsor's laugh. -

Klingsor's Castle, 1882
Right: Klingsor's Castle, Act 2 Scene 1, Bayreuth production of 1882. © Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.

Sound of weapons. From outside, the threatening voice of Parzival. Kundry disappears. "To work!" Klingsor springs up on to the wall: he watches the fight between Parzival and the bewitched knights. Klingsor laughs at their loutish jealousy as they defend the way to their beloved she-devils: he delights as they are defeated by Parzival and killed or forced to flee. His gaze follows Parzival now striding, childishly proud, through the open gate, now turning towards the garden. "Ah, childish offspring! Be summoned for what you will: you are still too stupid and you are forfeit to me. Here, eternal Lord of the Grail, you will come to a sweet end." - He vanishes.

Flower Maiden - costume design, 1882 Left: Flower Maiden costume by Paul von Joukowsky, Bayreuth 1882. © Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.

P arzival has entered Klingsor's wonderful, magic garden: his astonishment at the unspeakable charm is mingled with an uneasy combination of alarm, hesitation and horror. But he is not to compose himself: from various directions, singly, beautiful women rush in, their hastily-donned clothing disordered, their hair dishevelled, etc. They have heard sounds of fighting: waking, they have found themselves abandoned by their lovers: some have run to the battlements, seen the flight and reported to the other women that their lovers have been fought with, put to flight, even cut down by the bold stranger. Lamentation and imprecations: they rush at Parzival.

Their threats, reproaches, lamentations are pacified at the sight of the hero and the realisation of how handsome, child-like and artless he is. Some mock him, others invite him to make reparations for their lost lovers: soon he is being flattered and petted. Amazed, but quite artless, Parzival abandons himself to what he takes to be a childish game without any thought of there being something serious behind it. Soon jealousy and argument flare up among the women: some. having withdrawn into arbours, now return with hair charmingly adorned and in daintily ordered attire; they are scorned by the others, but imitated. The coquettish play for Parzival's favour degenerates into quarrelling and wrangling. Parzival still responds as if to childish play: refuses to understand anything and treats nothing seriously. Now they deride him: their scolding and mockery make him almost angry: he is about to flee.

Parsifal and the Flower Maidens, 1882
Right: Hermann Winkelmann as Parsifal, with the Flower Maidens, in the 1882 Bayreuth production. ©Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.

Then he hears the loud, loving sound of a woman's voice calling him by his name. He stops, shaken, believing it to be his mother, and stands, greatly affected, rooted to the spot. The voice admonishes Parzival to stay: here he will experience great happiness: she orders the women to leave the youth alone; he is for none of them: their lovers have been preserved: they would like to return; and urges them to be at peace. Hesitatingly, the women obey: dejectedly they leave Parzival, each secretly preferring him to her own lover: gently and flatteringly they leave him and go separate ways. Parzival, now sure that he is dreaming, gazes timidly to see where the voice has come from. Then, in a grotto, upon a couch of flowers, he sees a young woman of the greatest beauty; Kundry, in new, quite unrecognisable form. Still standing far off, he asks in amazement if it was she who called him.

Syberberg's Kundry and Parsifal Edith Clever as Kundry and Michael Kutter as Parsifal in H.J. Syberberg's film. ©Artifical Eye.

K undry: Did he not know that she had long awaited him here? What then brought him here, if not the wish to find her? Parzival, wondrously attracted, approaches the grotto. His emotions are mingled with vast unease; his earlier, cheerful artlessness deserts him and in its place a deep seriousness falls upon him, a vague feeling that a momentous decision will soon be required of him. The wonderful woman knows how to play upon the tenderest chords of his emotion by touching intimately and solemnly upon his childhood memories: evening, morning, night - the complaints and fond embraces of his mother; the longing of that distant, forsaken woman for her son, her languishing despair and death. Parzival, overcome by fearful emotion and overwhelming melancholy, sinks weeping at the feet of this beautiful woman: he is tormented by dreadful remorse.

Bending over him, she puts her arms around his neck. Soothing and chiding of his immoderate grief. Not all that could make him happy was contained in his mother's love: the last breath of motherly longing is the benediction of the first kiss of love. Bending her head above his, she now presses her lips to his in a long kiss.


29 Aug [1865]

Suddenly the youth springs up with an expression of utter terror. With this kiss a dreadful change has taken place in him: he puts his hand to his heart; all of a sudden, he feels burning there the wound of Anfortas; hears rising from deep within him, Anfortas' lamentation. "The wound! The wound is bleeding here! Miserable one, and I could not help you!" To the horror and amazement of the beautiful woman, he gives her a cold stare: the mysterious events seen at the Grail Castle now claim him entirely; transferred wholly into the soul of Anfortas, he feels Anfortas' enormous suffering, his dreadful self-reproach; the unspeakable torments of yearning love, the unholy terrors of sinful desire, even there, beholding the wondrous Grail, permeated by the gleam of its sublime ecstasy, annihilated by the Divinity of its world-redeeming balm. He invokes the Grail, the Pure Blood of the Redeemer: he hears the Saviour's cry for the relic to be freed from the custody of besmirched hands: and he himself has experienced this monstrous suffering, he himself has witnessed the agonies of the guilt-stricken man: to his innermost being there has been a loud appeal for deliverance and he has remained dumb, even fled, wandered, child-like, dissipating his soul in wild, foolish adventures! Where is there a man as sinful and wretched as he? How can he ever hope to find forgiveness for his monstrous neglect of duty? -

Poul Elming as Parsifal and Linda Watson as Kundry at BayreuthRight: Poul Elming and Linda Watson in Wolfgang Wagner's production of 'Parsifal'.

The woman, amazed and lost in passionate admiration, seeks vainly to silence him. He sees her every gaze, hears her every word, as if from Anfortas' soul; this is how the wretched woman looked, this is how she spoke, this is how she wrapped her arms around his neck; these are the fearful agonies he has had to bear away with him as his prize! "Corrupter, depart from me!" Now the woman's soul blazes with insane desire. "Cruel one! If you feel the agonies of others, then feel also mine! In you I am to find deliverance, in you alone to die! For you I have waited through eternities of misery: to love you, to be yours for one hour, can alone repay me for torments such as no other being has ever suffered!" -

Below: Michael Weinius (Parsifal) swings the Holy Spear as Katarina Dalayman (Kundry) collapses. Christof Loy's staging for the Stockholm Royal Opera. End of Parsifal act 2, in a recent Stockholm production (2013)

Parzival : "You will be damned, with me, for eternity if for a moment I forget my mission in your arms! I have been sent for your salvation also. Madwoman, do you not realise that you thirst is only increased by drinking: that your desire is extinguished only through its frustration?" All the torments of the human heart lie open to him: he feels them all and knows the only way of ending them.

The woman: "So was it my kiss that made you see clearly? Oh, you fool! Embrace me now with love, so shall you be God himself this very day. Take me for just one hour to your heart and let me be damned for eternity! - I want no deliverance: I want to love you!" Parz. "I shall love and deliver you if you will show me the way to Anfortas." She rages. "You will never find it. Let the fallen one perish." He persists. She demands as payment an hour of love. He repulses her. She beats her breast, calling madly for help. She is still powerful enough, she says, to lead him astray so that he will never find the Grail Castle: she curses the tracks and paths!

Michael Kutter as Parsifal in Syberberg's film

Klingsor appears on the tower of the Castle: armed men rush in: Parzival recognises the spear with which Anfortas had been wounded, and wrests it from the knight: "With this sign I banish you all! As the wound that this spear once made shall close, let everything here perish, and its splendour fall in ruins!" He brandishes the spear: the castle collapses with a frightful crash; the garden withers to a desert. Parzival, from afar, gazing back at Kundry, who has collapsed screaming: "You know where you can find me again!" He hastens away through the ruins.

Kundry in the ruins - Bayreuth 2008 Above: Michael Kutter as (the boy) Parsifal in H.J. Syberberg's film.

Right: Kundry is left in the ruins at the end of act 2 in Stefan Herheim's staging of the opera at Bayreuth.