Journal Article

Embracing the Grail: <i>Parsifal</i>, Richard Wagner and the German Nation

Anthony J. Steinhoff

in German History

Volume 30, issue 3, pages 372-394
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online August 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Embracing the Grail: Parsifal, Richard Wagner and the German Nation

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The year 1913 marked both the centenary of Richard Wagner’s birth and, coincidentally, the final year of copyright protection for all his stage works. These events, coupled with the (failed) public campaign to maintain legal protection for Parsifal after 1913 and the spate of new Parsifal productions in 1914, provoked a flood of public commentary and debate on Parsifal, Wagner and his legacy on the eve of World War One. In tone and substance, the discussions between 1912 and 1914 seem but a reprise of the polemics pro and contra Wagner from the 1870s and 1880s. The analysis of this discourse, however, reveals that its parameters had shifted significantly since Wagner’s death. Namely, Wagner was now widely regarded, for better and for worse, as an exemplar of Germanness, or at least of German culture. Indeed, the public clamouring for Parsifal suggests that Wagner was someone who not only divided Germans, but also united them across divisions created by social, regional and confessional difference. While exploring the notion of ‘Germany’s’ Wagner (and how this existed in tension with the idea of ‘Bayreuth’s’ Wagner), the reflections in this article also seek to open up new perspectives onto cultural conditions in Wilhelmine Germany, above all in the spheres of music, theatre and religion.

Keywords: Richard Wagner; Parsifal; Bayreuth; copyright; German nationalism; music; opera

Journal Article.  13071 words. 

Subjects: European History

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