American Christians for and against Parsifal: Debating the Holy Grail Opera in New York

In die Skriflig. 2017;51(1):e1-e9 DOI 10.4102/ids.v51i1.2267


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Journal Title: In die Skriflig

ISSN: 1018-6441 (Print); 2305-0853 (Online)

Publisher: AOSIS

Society/Institution: Reformed Theological Society

LCC Subject Category: Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Practical Theology: Practical religion. The Christian life

Country of publisher: South Africa

Language of fulltext: English, Afrikaans

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Frederick Hale (Faculty of Theology, North-West University)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 11 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

The appropriateness of Christian themes in the performing arts has often been debated. Defenders have argued that various media, including drama, can serve as instruments of spiritual edification, while critics have contended that such efforts often eventuate in sacrilege and a vulgarising exploitation of the sacred for commercial and entertainment purposes. A heated debate took place in 1903 when Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal, which since its première at Bayreuth in 1882 had been hailed as a magnificent representation of redemption and other themes central to Christianity, was staged at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York – its first performance as an opera outside its original venue. Numerous clergymen and lay people in several denominations sought to have the production banned and cautioned fellow Christians against seeing it. Others, generally of a theologically more liberal bent, defended the work. The heated public controversy is placed into historical context and compared with the history of Parsifal in the United Kingdom, where it was widely appreciated without noteworthy opposition.