Richard Wagner's last opera has remained controversial since its first performance for its unique, and, for some, unsavory blending of religious and erotic themes and imagery. Based on one of the medieval epic romances of King Arthur and the search for the holy grail (the chalice touched by the lips of Christ at the last supper), it recounts over three long acts how a "wild child" unwittingly invades the sacred precincts of the grail, fulfilling a prophecy that only such a one can save the grail's protectors from a curse fallen upon them. Interpreters of the work have found everything from mystical revelation to proto-fascist propaganda in it. Hans-Jurgen Syberberg's production doesn't avoid either aspect, but tries synthesize them by seeking their roots in the divided soul of Wagner himself. The action unfolds on a craggy landscape which turns out to be a gigantic enlargement of the composer's death mask, among deliberately tatty theatrical devices: puppets, scale models, ... Written by
Did You Know?
Among the severed heads at the base of the broken phallus in Klingsor's castle (symbolizing the self-castration that gave the wizard his powers - this is one weird opera) are those of Karl Marx, Wagner himself...and Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who was one of Wagner's most devoted champions until he broke with him over this very opera (he despised Christianity as a "slave" religion and thought Wagner had caved in to bourgeois morality). See more
Version of Parsifal