|Premiere||26 July 1882|
Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857, but did not finish it until twenty-five years later. It was his last completed opera, and in composing it he took advantage of the particular
Wagner described Parsifal not as an opera, but as Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel ("A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage"). At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there be no applause after the first act of the opera.
Wagner's spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by an erroneous etymology of the name Percival deriving it from a supposedly Persian origin, Fal Parsi meaning "pure fool".
Wagner first read von Eschenbach's poem Parzival while
According to his own account, recorded in his autobiography Mein Leben, Wagner conceived Parsifal on
Good FridayI awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise. Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram's Parzival. Since the sojourn in Marienbad [in the summer of 1845], where I had conceived Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday 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.
R[ichard] today recalled the impression which inspired his "Good Friday Music"; he laughs, saying he had thought to himself, "In fact it is all as far-fetched as my love affairs, for it was not a Good Friday at all – just a pleasant mood in Nature which made me think, 'This is how a Good Friday ought to be'".
The work may indeed have been conceived at Wesendonck's cottage in the last week of April 1857, but Good Friday that year fell on 10 April, when the Wagners were still living at Zeltweg 13 in
Wagner did not resume work on Parsifal for eight years, during which time he completed
In September 1877 he began the music by making two complete drafts of the score from beginning to end. The first of these (known in German as the Gesamtentwurf and in English as either the Preliminary Draft or the First Complete Draft) was made in pencil on three
The second draft was begun on 25 September 1877, just a few days after the first; at this point in his career Wagner liked to work on both drafts simultaneously, switching back and forth between the two so as not to allow too much time to elapse between his initial setting of the text and the final elaboration of the music. The Gesamtentwurf of act 3 was completed on 16 April 1879 and the Orchesterskizze on the 26th of the same month.
The full score (Partiturerstschrift) was the final stage in the compositional process. It was made in ink and consisted of a fair copy of the entire opera, with all the voices and instruments properly notated according to standard practice. Wagner composed Parsifal one act at a time, completing the Gesamtentwurf and Orchesterskizze of each act before beginning the Gesamtentwurf of the next act; but because the Orchesterskizze already embodied all the compositional details of the full score, the actual drafting of the Partiturerstschrift was regarded by Wagner as little more than a routine task which could be done whenever he found the time. The prelude of act 1 was scored in August 1878. The rest of the opera was scored between August 1879 and 13 January 1882.