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Kundry


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(Wagner: Parsifal). Sop. She has been condemned to roam the world to seek redemption because she laughed at Christ on the Cross. She is under the influence of the evil magician Klingsor and has to help him destroy the Knights of the Grail (who rejected Klingsor). The King of the Knights, Amfortas, came to Klingsor's castle armed with the Holy Spear in order to kill Klingsor. Kundry was forced to seduce Amfortas, and while they were together, Klingsor stole the Spear and used it to attack Amfortas. The wound he inflicted will not heal. Kundry tries to find a herb or ointment that will heal Amfortas, giving it to Gurnemanz to try to assuage her own guilt about the injury. The Knights try to make her tell them how she is implicated in Amfortas's injury, but she stubbornly remains silent. When Parsifal arrives, it is clear that Kundry knows all about him—in fact, she knows far more than he himself knows. Klingsor orders her to seduce Parsifal, and although she does not really want to be involved in Parsifal's destruction, she is so firmly under Klingsor's will that she has no option but to obey him. She tells Parsifal his name and how she remembers him as a baby and she knows that his mother deliberately kept him innocent of worldly affairs. As she kisses him, he rejects her, calling the name of Amfortas. Kundry realizes that Parsifal knows she was the one who seduced Amfortas and is responsible for the wound. She refuses to take him to Amfortas and screams that she will curse the path to the Knight. Klingsor, determined to kill Parsifal, throws the Spear at him, but Parsifal catches it and Klingsor and his castle disappear. Kundry hears Parsifal leaving. Many years later, Kundry, half dead, is found in the forest by Gurnemanz, who revives her. She insists on staying with him as his servant. She indicates to him that a youth has entered the forest and she recognizes Parsifal, who carries the Holy Spear. She washes Parsifal's feet and dries them with her hair. Parsifal, in his turn, baptizes Kundry. They both go with Gurnemanz to the Knights’ castle, arriving in time for Titurel's funeral. With the Spear, Parsifal heals Amfortas's wound. As Parsifal unveils the Grail, Kundry collapses on the ground. Arias: Nein, Parsifal, du tör'ger Reiner! (‘No, Parsifal, you foolish innocent!’); Grausamer! Fühlst du im Herzen nur and'rer Schmerzen (‘Cruel one! If you feel in your heart’).

Kundry is a most unusual character, different from all the other female roles in Wagner. She is half‐good, half‐bad—she is riddled with guilt about the agony caused to Amfortas and does her best to find balm to apply to it, but she is under Klingsor's evil control and has no option but to help him in his efforts to destroy the Grail Knights. As can be deduced from the list of singers below, vocally the part has been successfully sung by both sopranos and mezzo‐sopranos; dramatically, great histrionics are required from the singer‐actress who must nevertheless take care not to be too melodramatic. Interpreters have included Rosa Sucher, Anna von Mildenburg (a mistress of Mahler), Olive Fremstad, Ellen Gulbrandson, Marie Wittich (the first Salome in Strauss's opera, despite her protests that she was too much of a lady to sing that role!), Marie Brema, Eva von der Osten (the first Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier), Marta Fuchs, Martha Mödl, Astrid Varnay, Régine Crespin, Christa Ludwig, Amy Shuard, Ludmila Dvořáková, Gwyneth Jones, Janis Martin, Rita Gorr, Eva Randová, Leonie Rysanek, Anne Evans, and Waltraud Meier. Created (1882) by Amelia Materna.

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Subjects: Opera.


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