It may also be interesting to note that the present version was planned ten years ago on a first visit to Bayreuth. Critical work on the German text and in the literature of the Parsifal legends was done later during two years at the universities of Berlin and Oxford. But the actual work of this translation and interpretation was done in the summer of 1902 at Bayreuth, and in part at Nuremberg and Munich. It may also be stated that this version is issued with the kind permission of Messrs. Schott and Company of London, the owners of the copyright of Wagner’s words and music.
The music of Parsifal has been so often described and analyzed in critical papers that it is not necessary here to speak of it in detail. This word, however, may be in place. The marvellous music at Bayreuth helped in every way in the interpretation of the drama. Every part and phase of the thought and movement were brought forth in the various musical motives, adding emphasis and beauty and intensity of feeling. Now the music would whisper of the wondrous grace of the holy sacrament, or of the sweet beauty of God’s world, clothed in the radiance of Good Friday; now it would reveal the sorrows of the gentle Herzeleide, or the awful anguish of Amfortas, or the deep rumblings of Klingsor’s black art, or the fascinating music of the flower-maidens. Often came the pure tones that told of the guileless One, or the strong chords of mighty faith, or the ebb and swell of mystic bells, or the glory of the sacred Spear. Now came the regal blasts for Parsifal, and often and through it all, the splendid music of the Grail itself. The music was like a fragrant atmosphere to the drama, softening and refining what was harsh, giving a needed stress here and there, and investing the whole story with a subtle and uplifting charm.
The drama of Parsifal teaches its own great lessons of life. Yet one or two suggestions of interpretation may not be amiss, for it is confessedly one of the most mystical of modern dramas. It may perchance be considered as representing the strife between paganism and Christianity in the early centuries of the Church,—the powers of magic and the hot passions of the human heart contending against the advancing power of Christian truth and the victorious might of Purity as portrayed in the guileless hero. Or it may be considered as representing in a mystic legend the spiritual history of Christ coming in later presence among the sons of men and imaged in the mystic Parsifal. Wagner mentions that this Scripture was often in his mind when writing Parsifal—“Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Or this, further, it may represent, in striking and inspiring way,—that the pure in heart shall win the victories in life; that the guileless are the valiant sons of God; that the heart that resists evil passion and is touched by pity for the world’s woe is the heart that reincarnates the passionate purity of the Christ and can reveal again the healing power, the Holy Grail of God.