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Wagner's Parsifal$
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William Kinderman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780195366921

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195366921.001.0001

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Wagner's Late Style

Wagner's Late Style

(p.194) (p.195) Chapter 3 Wagner's Late Style
Wagner's Parsifal

William Kinderman

Oxford University Press

Theodor W. Adorno regarded Parsifal as an example of “late style,” a notion he associated with a “withdrawal from appearance” as if the music wore a “black visor,” as does the drama’s hero when he returns to the Grail realm in Act 3. Alfred Lorenz’s attempt to discover a “secret of form” in the music of Parsifal is too artificial to be convincing; a more promising approach to analysis recognizes how Wagner allies his hierarchical configuration of characters and dramatic spheres with the resources of his musical language. In the musical-dramatic framework of the Grail Scene in Act 1, the lament of Amfortas (Amfortasklage) lies at the center of the action. The song of the Knights refreshed by the Grail Service, on the other hand, raises uncomfortable ideological issues. Comparison with Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus puts into perspective the status of Parsifal as Wagner’s “last card,” as the composer himself expressed it.

Keywords:   Late style, Theodor W. Adorno, Secret of form, Black visor, Alfred Lorenz, Amfortasklage, Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus, Grail service, “last card”

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