The Production of “Parsifal”: Is It, After All, a Comedy?

The Sun

Dec. 22, 1903, p. 6

To the Editor of The Sun—Sir: Nietzsche—a Copernicus in psychology, a Dowie in constructive philosophy—asks in “The Genealogy of Morals,” apropos of “Parsifal,” whether that music-drama is not the “secret laugh” of Wagner; whether, in other words, “Parsifal” is not a comedy! I quote the great German soul-rummager:

Every artist only reaches the last summit of his greatness when he learns to see himself and his art below him, when he knows how to laugh at himself. Is Wagner’s “Parsifal” his secret laugh of superiority at himself?

The “healthy sensuality” that Wagner embraced in his younger days—did he unlearn all that? Or did he intend “Parsifal” as a sly, satiric dig? Did he really forsake Aristippus with “vine leaves in his hair,” for the pallid, obscurantist ideals of á Kempis?

As Shakespeare’s greatest comedy is “Hamlet,” as Ibsen’s smile is embalmed in the “Wild Duck” and as George Bernard Shaw is most tragic in his wittiest comedy, “Candida,” may it not be, as Nietzsche intimates, that “Parsifal” is, after all, really a smile from the heights?

Benjamin De Casseres.
New York, Dec. 21.


Reprinted in the article “High-Class Music in New York,” The Indianapolis Journal, Dec. 27, 1903, section 3, page 5.