Kundry and the Jewish Voice: Anti-antisemitism and Musical Transcendence in Wagner's Parsifal

Binder, Benjamin

Kundry, the only female character in Richard Wagner's last opera, Parsifal (1882), is also the only character to make an overwhelming impression with the raw power and extreme versatility of her singing voice. Binder explores some pertinent aspects of Wagner's anti-Semitic ideology in order to set up a close reading of what happens to Kundry's voice in Acts II and III- how even beyond her last vocal utterance, Kundry's "voice" remains, although its potency is subjugated and channeled into the work of transfigurative redemption whose blinding musical sublimity moves us at the same time that it requires complicity with its deep-seated anti-Semetic agenda. Finally, in an epilogue, Binder will suggest another view of Kundry's voice, inspired by a different facet of Wagner's thought, that may help with understanding more fully why antisemitism and transcendence are so inextricably and uncomfortably linked in Parsifal, both musically and dramaturgically: the voice of an animal.



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October 10, 2014