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Professor Marjorie Wade – The Genealogy of Parsifal
October 25, 2014 - 8:00 am
In a recent e-mail exchange with Professor Wade regarding the Covent Garden HD’s of Parsifal, the family tree of Parsifal came up. It seems Professor Wade had just finished teaching courses on medieval studies and Parsifal at California State University Sacramento.
Like much of Richard Wagner’s work, his final opera, Parsifal, was inspired by his interest in German medieval literature. The earliest complete Grail romance in European literature is Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, which appeared during the first quarter of the 13th century. The 84 surviving manuscripts of the 25,000 line romance attest to the immense popularity of Wolfram’s work, relating the adventures of the knight from Arthur’s court in his quest for the Grail. The epic scale of Wolfram’s Parzival made it however unsuitable for opera.
In Parsifal Wagner has condensed the story, simplified the action, reduced the number of characters, and eliminating entirely the hero’s family history and his genealogy. The medieval audience, however, would have been familiar with the essential facts about Parzival’s heritage from Wolfram’s Books (chapters) I and II: a prehistory naming his ancestors, the romance of the hero’s parents, the adventures of Gahmuret as knight errant, his two marriages and the complex family genealogy which links the Arthurian and the Grail circles. A familiarity with the genealogy of Parzival and the complex family relationships binding him to both the Arthurian circle and the family of the Grail king deepens our appreciation of both the epic and the opera.
A look at Parzival’s family tree confirms not only his place in the Grail dynasty, but that of his eldest son and successor, Lohengrin. Like in any genealogical quest, we may discover open questions that we can continue to pursue.
We are very excited to welcome Marjorie Wade to our lecture series. Dr. Wade is a Professor of German in the Foreign Language Department at CSUS. She also teaches courses on German Civilization,Culture, Folklore and Legends.
Program begins at 1:00 p.m. Free to members, non-members $10
3200 California Street (at Presidio)
San Francisco, CA 94118
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