Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail (12 с.).
Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but did not finish it until twenty-five years later. It was Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882. The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
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 is 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”.
On November 12, 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the Prelude for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich. The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on July 26, 1882 under the baton of the Jewish-born German conductor Hermann Levi.