Alma Rosen, a Jewish journalist from New York, has come to Bayreuth on the trail for information about her German grandfather, a pianist, conductor, and ardent devotee of Richard Wagner’s music. But all traces of him have vanished in the Nazi death camps.
It’s Festival Time in Bayreuth. The city is shocked by the sudden death of Siegfried Sörgel, Director of the Richard Wagner National Archive. Was it murder or suicide?
What was so fascinating about the music of the anti-Semitic Wagner, who was Hitler’s favorite composer, that would keep her grandfather from fleeing the hatred and persecution in Germany, and risk his life for Wagner’s music?
Alma intends to write a book about this. But her plans meet with mistrust in Bayreuth. She receives anonymous death threats. Are they from neo-Nazis who want to kill her? Heavy suspicions hover over Alma. Did Archive Director Sörgel give her access to the explosive correspondence between Hitler and the Wagner family? Historians conjecture that in these private letters Hitler wrote to members of the Wagner family about his plans to exterminate the Jews, and that the family never raised any objections. Is that why Sörgel had to die? Will Alma publish these letters and thereby plunge the Bayreuth Festival into a serious existential crisis?
In Bayreuth Alma encounters Professor Jonathan Murphy, the American “messiah of gene techonology.” He is enthusiastic about Wagner’s opera Parsifal and the myth of the Holy Grail. What attracts him to this city? Alma also meets Firmian von Dall’Armi, a criminal psychologist from Munich who has come to Bayreuth at the request of the Bavarian state government to help clear up the puzzling circumstances of Sörgel’s death. Alma falls in love with Dall’Armi, but fights hard against her feelings for this man from the land of the perpetrators. Together they stray into the mysterious Wagner universe, finding their way around with difficulty in the delusional world of the Holy Grail and its myth of eternal youth and beauty, until in an unexpected way they come upon the solution to the puzzle of Sörgel’s death…