It matters little that Parsifal requires two nameless attendant characters in a long opening scene, for the sole purpose of telling the antecedents of the story, when a situation is thereby revealed which for subtlety and power has hardly a parallel since Greek tragedy.
Wagner's earlier works have too long been treated as if they represented the pure and healthy childhood of his later ideal; as if Lohengrin stood to Parsifal as Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven stand to Beethoven's last quartets.
But, whatever our doubts, we may safely regard Parsifal as a work which, like Beethoven's last fugues, invites attack rather from those critics who demand what flatters their own vanity than from those who wish to be inspired by what they could never have foreseen for themselves.
Where the orchestra shows that Parsifal is becoming half-conscious of his quest while Kundry is beguiling him with memories of his mother, - and also during the two changes of scene to the Hall of the Grail, where the orchestra mingles the agony of Amfortas and the sorrow of the knights with the tolling of the great bells, - the polyphony is almost as dramatic as in Tristan; while the prelude and the Charfreitagszauber are among the clearest examples of the sublime since Beethoven.
Again, while the Eucharistic features in Parsifal attract some listeners, the material effect of their presentation on the stage has been known to repel others who are beyond suspicion of prejudice.