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Amfortas’s Prayer to Titurel and the Role of D in Parsifal The Tonal Spaces of the Drama and the Enharmonic C♭/B


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(Wagner: Parsifal). Bass‐bar. Son of Titurel, who was the first ruler of the Kingdom of the Grail. When Titurel became too old to care for the Grail and Spear, his son succeeded him. After inheriting the crown, Amfortas decided that it was his responsibility to destroy the power of the evil Klingsor who threatened the Grail and he went to Klingsor's nearby castle, armed with the Holy Spear which had pierced Christ's side on the Cross. But he fell under the spell of Kundry and while she seduced him, Klingsor stole the Spear and used it to stab Amfortas. His wound will not heal and Amfortas is in constant agony, relieved a little only by his daily bath in the lake. When the opera opens, Amfortas has had a vision that only an ‘innocent fool’ who has been ‘made wise by compassion’ will be able to relieve his suffering by regaining the Spear from Klingsor and using it to heal the wound. The Knights of the Grail await the coming of this youth while Kundry brings Amfortas some balm to put on the wound (which she has allowed to be inflicted on him). Titurel tells Amfortas to uncover the Grail, but weakened by his wound he cannot find the strength to do this and begs his father to carry out the sacred office himself, and leave him to die. Titurel refuses, pleading old age, and Amfortas suggests leaving the Grail uncovered, to avoid the agony of having to move repeatedly to do it daily. The young knights place the Grail in front of Amfortas, who with great difficulty and pain, raises it and blesses the bread and wine before these are shared among the Knights. Amfortas is too weak himself to partake of the ritual and is carried out on his litter. After Titurel has died, Amfortas feels responsible for his father's death—his own refusal to uncover the Grail each day has deprived Titurel of the nourishment he needed. Amfortas wants only to die and asks the dead Titurel to plead for him with the Lord. The Knights urge Amfortas to carry out his office at his father's funeral. He jumps up and rips the bandages from his bleeding wound, begging them all to kill him. Parsifal appears, the Holy Spear in his hand, and with this he touches Amfortas's wound which is at once healed. Amfortas kneels before Parsifal, the new King of the Grail. Arias: Nein! Lasst ihn unenthüllt! (‘No! Leave it uncovered!’); Ja, Wehe! Weh’ über mich! … Mein Vater! Hochgesegneter der Helden! (‘Yes, alas! Alas! Woe be on me! … My father! Most blessed of heroes!’).

Amfortas is, from the beginning of the opera, in the most holy of positions, responsible for caring for the Grail and offering the Knights Holy Communion. But he knows that he has sinned and that this is the reason he has a wound which will not heal. His physical agony and despair are matched by his guilt, which is further felt when he feels responsible for the death of his father. Famous portrayers of Amfortas include Carl Perron, Anton van Rooy, Walter Soomer, Theodor Scheidl, Heinrich Schlusnus, Jaro Prohaska, Georg Hann, Herbert Jansen, George London, Hans Hotter, Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau, Eber‐hard Wächter, Siegmund Nimsgern, Thomas Stewart, Norman Bailey, Donald McIntyre, Bernd Weikl, and Thomas Hampson. Created (1882) by Theodor Reichmann.


Subjects: Opera.

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