Parsifal, Wagner’s final opera, is considered by many to be one of the greatest religious musical works ever composed; but it is also one of the most difficult to understand and many have questioned whether it can be considered a “Christian” work at all. Added to this is the furious debate that has surrounded the composer as an anti-Semite, racist, and inspiration for Hitler. Richard Bell addresses such issues and argues that despite any personal failings Wagner makes a fundamental theological contribution through his many writings and ultimately in Parsifal which, he argues, preaches Christ crucified in a way that can never be captured by words alone. He argues that Wagner offers a vision of the divine and a “theology of Good Friday” that can both function as profound therapy and address current theological controversies.
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- Discusses Richard Wagner’s final opera, and its religious implications
- Analyzes the way that Wagner’s theological viewpoints affected his work as a composer
- Includes an extensive bibliography and indexes, including one of Wagner’s works
- How Can Wagner Inform the Christian Theologian?
- Background to Parsifal I: Development of Wagner’s Thought
- Background to Parsifal II: Wagner’s Development of the Drama
- The Dramatic Outline of Parsifal
- Encounter with “Christ” in Parsifal
- Theological Reflections I: Christology and Atonement
- Theological Reflections II: Sin, Sex, and Suffering
- Theological Reflections III: Predestination, Free Will, Conversion, and Denial of the Will
- Theological Reflections IV: Parsifal, Judaism, and the Jewish People
- Theological Reflections V: To What Extent Is Parsifal a Christian Work?
- Revealing the World and the Divine through Parsifal
- Wagner in the Pew and Pulpit
Praise for the Print Edition
It is impossible to overstate the profundity, insight, and illumination of this extraordinary study. Richard Bell combines his detailed knowledge of Wagner’s music and writings with his professional expertise as theologian to offer a series of theological reflections on the composer’s last masterpiece, culminating in a view of its revelatory nature. The book represents a major contribution to Wagner studies and is simply a must for all lovers of the composer.
—Robert Pascall, honorary professor of music philology, University of Cambridge
Richard Bell has done Wagner scholarship an enduring service. Wagner’s theology is an aspect of the composer’s intellectual universe that is seldom even acknowledged, let alone researched or understood; yet as Professor Bell demonstrates beyond any doubt, it is crucial to an understanding of Parsifal. . . . Bell is an eloquent and sure-footed guide through the labyrinth of theological and philosophical discourses that nourished Wagner’s final opera.
—Roger Allen, fellow and tutor in music and dean of St. Peter’s College, Oxford
Whoever may be interested in Richard Wagner’s music will appreciate this book, full of biographical, historical, philosophical, and musicological background information on the origins of his final stage work, Parsifal. But for a theologian interested in Wagner . . . this book can be an eye-opener. It demonstrates convincingly how many of Wagner’s literary motifs and musical/dramatic ideas have been deeply rooted in biblical tradition and Christian faith.
—Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, professor for New Testament studies, University of Jena, Germany
About Richard H. Bell
Richard H. Bell is professor of theology at the University of Nottingham, UK. He studied theoretical physics at University College London and theology at Oxford and Tübingen. His areas of expertise are the theology of Paul, the theology of composer Richard Wagner, and the relationship between physics and theology. Bell is an ordained priest in the Church of England, and the author of several books, including Provoked to Jealousy, No One Seeks for God, The Irrevocable Call of God, and Deliver Us from Evil.