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Sickness, healing, and opera: Wagner’s Parsifal
  1. K L Dunn
  1. Correspondence to:
 K L Dunn
 Chaplaincy Office, The Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester M20 4BX, UK; Kevin.Dunn{at}


Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal is examined as a study in illness, pain and healing. Wagner’s intention was to communicate directly to the audience the “emotional content” of the suffering of the character Amfortas. This presentation of suffering allows us to take from the opera some general ideas about the nature of illness and healing and their metaphorical representation in art. Further insights can be gained from the genre of classical tragic drama, of which Parsifal is a modern example.

  • opera
  • drama
  • tragedy
  • guilt
  • sickness
  • healing

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  • An earlier version of this paper was written as an essay for the MA course in Medical Humanities at the University of Wales Swansea.