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In 1845 Richard Wagner read Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century epic poem "Parzival," the most popular vernacular verse narrative in Middle High German, inspired by Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished "Perceval ou le Conte du Graal" from a century earlier. It took Wagner another 12 years to conceive an opera based on the poem; in his autobiography "Mein Leben" he recalled that "its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and ... I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts." But it took him another 8 years to resume work on what he called Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel ("A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage"); in August 1865 he wrote a prose draft that outlined the plot but had extensive commentary on its characters and themes. However, he devoted most of his creative energies on "Der Ring des Nibelungen," which he did not complete until 1874. In February 1877 he completed a new, more extensive, prose draft, and by April he had transformed it into a libretto. Until then he had called his hero Parzifal, but he changed it to "Parsifal" in the belief that its etymology derived from the Persian "Fal Parsi" (pure fool). In September he had complete musical drafts for voices and instruments; the score was finalized between August 1878 and January 1882; it was Wagner's final opera. One of his most ardent supporters, appalled by Wagner's anti-Semitism (in addition to the opera's Christian symbolism and the interpretation of its villain Klingsor as a Jewish archetype, Wagner had tried to force Hermann Levi to convert to Christianity before he could conduct the premier of the work) Friedrich Nietzsche, used it to mark his break with him, calling it "a work of perfidy, of vindictiveness, of a secret attempt to poison the presuppositions of life – a bad work. The preaching of chastity remains an incitement to anti-nature: I despise everyone who does not experience Parsifal as an attempted assassination of basic ethics."The story proceeds from Kundry's seduction of Amfortas, the head of the Grail Knights, protectors of the Holy Grail which collected the blood of the crucified Jesus, and the theft of the Holy Lance which had pierced Jesus; the thief, Klingsor, had been rejected by the group even after he had castrated himself to prove his worthiness, and he wounded Amfortas with the Spear during its theft, leaving him with an uncuarable wound. Parsifal rejected Kundry's attempt to seduce him (and later baptized her), recovered the Spear, used it to cure the king on Good Friday, and caused the hidden Grail to be revealed again. Richard Brody described Wagner’s Christianity as "a grim cult of chastity, obedience, order, and war, a Spartan vision of a master race of true believers -- a death cult that gains its legitimacy from its possession of relics, a possession that forces them into an iron-clad submissiveness.... His hortatory drama conjured a supposedly holy simplicity of self-abjuring dedication." On the other hand Derrick Everett has insisted that the "primary purpose of the drama is to convey to the audience the importance of compassion.... It is through compassion for the suffering of other beings that the fool acquires wisdom and becomes a sage. It is through the perfection of wisdom that he is able to bring salvation."
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