Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ is an epic Arthurian Tale of the Holy Grail

Parsifal is Wagner’s epic German opera about a young man who restores the ailing brotherhood of the Holy Grail. It is loosely based on the epic 13-century poem about the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail.

It is a joy to connect with the German mind through an Italian art form.


The opera premiered at Bayreuth Festspielhaus, a small town near Nuremberg and Czechia in 1882. It played only there for twenty years until the Metropolitan Opera production in 1903.

The opera is biblical in proportions. It is five and a half hours long. Like the Bible it begs all sorts of interpretations. It is all very Nietzschean.

Peter Mattei as Amfortas and René Pape as Gurnemanz. Courtesy of Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

Peter Mattei as Amfortas and René Pape as Gurnemanz. Courtesy of Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

What is the Holy Grail anyway? Legend says it is the chalice that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. The Grail has magical healing and youth-giving powers.

It might be a metaphor for the unattainable nature of pure spirituality, but the whole search for the Holy Grail thing is really a perversion of masculinity. True seekers don’t seek spirituality for personal gain or hurt others to achieve it. The spirit is a gift. Used as a gift it offers great power. Used to possess, the spirit becomes dark and consumes its master.

The other tool of power in the story is the Holy Lance. It’s notable that alone the Holy Lance is a tool of pain and death, but united with the pure spirituality of the Holy Grail, it becomes a tool of healing and life.

It’s also notable how when women and men are separated, the domain is weak. When women and men come together, the domain is restored.


The original setting was Montsalvat, a mythical location in Spain during the Middle Ages.



Kundry is a shape-shifting sorceress.


Parsifal is a young man who fulfills his destiny to restore the Knights of the Holy Grail. He is the young King Arthur character who enters the opera by shooting a swan from the sky with his bow.


Amfortas is an ailing king who is the leader of the Knights of the Holy Grail. He suffers an unhealing wound from the Holy Lance that he received from Klingsor while lying distracted by the beautiful Kundry. The king’s weakness threatens the entire order.


Klingsor is a magician who dreamed of becoming a knight, but after being rejected, wants to bring down the knights and capture the source of their power for himself.


Gurnemanz is a veteran Knight of the Grail.

Metropolitan Opera’s Parsifal 2018

This is a long opera. It is five and a half hours with three acts and two intermissions. It would be best not to drink very much before you go. The first act is 108 minutes long.


This is French-Canadian film director François Girard’s (The Red Violin) 2018 production. Girard’s production is striking for its post-apocalyptic feeling, and the clever use of staging and video.


Soprano Evelyn Herlitzius (Osnabrück, Germany) makes her Met debut as Kundry.

Wagner specialist, Tenor Klaus Florian Vogt (Heide, Germany) is Parsifal.

Baritone Peter Mattei (Piteå, Sweden) is Amfortas.

Bass-Baritone Evgeny Nikitin (Murmansk, Russia) is Klingsor.

Bass René Pape (Dresden, Germany) is Gurnemanz.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Montreal, Canada) conducts. John Keenan (New York City) substitutes on February 23.


The Metropolitan Opera performs Parsifal seven times from February 5 – 27, 2018.

Monday, February 5 at 6 pm
Saturday, February 10 at 7 pm

Tuesday, February 13 at 6 pm
Saturday, February 17 at 11:30 am

Tuesday, February 20 at 6 pm
Friday, February 23 at 6 pm

Tuesday, February 27 at 6 pm

Parsifal Tickets

'Parsifal' courtesy of Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

‘Parsifal’ courtesy of Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera.

Tickets start at $25

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