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Gurnemanz


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(Wagner: Parsifal). Bass. A veteran Knight of the Grail. It is from Gurnemanz, at the beginning of the opera, that we learn what has happened before the opening of the drama—how Titurel came to be the King of the Grail and how his son, Amfortas, has a wound that will not heal. It distresses Gurnemanz to see the King of the Grail in such pain—physical and mental. At first he is a defender of Kundry, pointing out to the Knights that it is whenever Kundry is away from them for long periods that misfortune seems to befall them, but one of the Knights wonders if maybe Kundry is responsible for these misfortunes (she is, in fact, responsible for Amfortas's position, for while she seduced him, the evil magician Klingsor inflicted the wound) and eventually Gurnemanz has to admit that Kundry may be under a curse. Gurnemanz describes to the Knights how Amfortas has had a vision of an ‘innocent fool’ who is the only one who can save him. When Parsifal arrives, having killed a swan, Gurnemanz chastises him, pointing out that all God's creatures are equally important and Parsifal is duly remorseful. Eventually, Gurnemanz begins to wonder if Parsifal will be Amfortas's saviour—his innocence and ignorance are clear, as he does not know his own name or what the Grail is. Many years later, as a very old man living in a hut in the forest, Gurnemanz finds Kundry, almost dead. He rescues her and she insists on being his servant. She draws his attention to someone entering the forest, and Gurnemanz is amazed to see it is Parsifal and even more shocked when he realizes that Parsifal has no idea that it is Good Friday. Parsifal recognizes Gurnemanz, and explains that he is searching for Amfortas so he can return to him the Holy Spear. Gurnemanz tells Parsifal that Titurel has died and Amfortas has promised to unveil the Grail at his funeral, whatever pain this will cause him. He leads Parsifal to meet Amfortas and Parsifal touches his wound with the Spear. Amfortas is healed and Parsifal is acknowledged as the new Guardian of the Grail. Arias: O wunden‐wundervoller heiliger Speer! (‘O wondrous‐wounding hallowed spear!’); Titurel, der fromme Held (‘Titurel, the godly hero’); O Gnade! Höchstes Heil! (‘O Mercy! Bounteous grace!’).

Gurnemanz, as the senior Knight of the Grail, puts the whole story in perspective for the audience, as he describes the events which have taken place before the opera begins (without knowledge of which it would be very difficult to understand what is going on in the opera). His attitude to Kundry is ambivalent—he never seems to know whether she is good or evil and his view of her varies from time to time. He ultimately recognizes that Parsifal is the ‘Innocent Fool’ that Amfortas has seen in a vision, and he is happy to lead the youth to the ailing Knight. There have been many famous singers of Gurnemanz, including Richard Mayr, Alexander Kipnis, Josef von Manowarda, Ludwig Weber, Josef Greindl, Jerome Hines, Hans Hotter, Ludwig Weber, Franz Mazura, Hans Sotin, Theo Adam, John Tomlinson, and Manfred Schenk. Created (1882) by Emil Scaria.

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Subjects: Opera.


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