Richard Wagner – Parsifal
Parsifal isn’t really an opera, but what Wagner called a “stage-festival consecration play”. The aura of religiosity that hangs over that description fits it well. Parsifal’s journey from swan-killing holy fool in the first act to king of the holy grail at the end of the third act centres on the overtly Christian imagery of the knights of the grail. There’s a moment where the only woman in the opera, Kundry – the single most complex character Wagner ever created – washes Parsifal’s feet, echoing Mary Magdalene, and the villain of the piece is a castrated sorcerer who stole the spear that wounded Jesus’s side. At the end of the opera, as the brotherhood of the grail is renewed, the final words sung by the choirs of knights are “redemption to the redeemer”.