OBERAMMERGAU PASSION PLAY
This week, in honor of Easter, I wanted to feature an event instead of an itinerary. This event is the Oberammergau Passion Play. It happens every 10 years and will be presented from May–October, 2020 in Oberammergau, Germany. There is an amazing story behind this event, and it goes like this:
Nearly 400 years ago the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play began. The plague raged in many parts of Europe and did not spare Oberammergau. In 1633, the villagers of Oberammergau, after months of suffering and death from the plague, vowed to perform the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ every tenth year if no one was to die of the plague anymore. The villagers were answered by God and therefore in 1634 the first Passion Play took place. The promise to perform this play has been kept until today and the 2020 performance will be 42nd Passion Play to take place in Oberammergau.
The Oberammergau Passion Play begins with the entry into Jerusalem and tells the passion story from the Last Supper to the crucifixion ending with the resurrection. In 2010, the Passion Play was divided into eleven acts, also known as presentations. The presentations 1 to 5 formed the first part, which began at 2:30 pm. After a three-hour-break (at which time you can get dinner), presentations 6 to 11 followed. The performance ended at about 11 pm. The play is comprised of alternating forms of spoken introductions, drama and the special feature of the tableaux vivants (living images), a format kept from the 18th century. The living images are presented along with observational and interpretational choir songs accompanied by the orchestra and usually create a typological reference to the Old Testament at the beginning of each act. They are devotional images and thus allow the audience to pause and reflect.
In 1634, the villagers fulfilled their pledge for the first time on a stage they put up in the cemetery above the fresh graves of the plague victims. Today, in a five-hour-performance, more than 2000 participants bring the story of Jesus of Nazareth to the impressive open-air stage of the Passion Play Theatre. Almost half of Oberammergau’s population will devotedly act out the story of the man whose tidings have brought hope and power of life to an incredible number of people.
All actors of this large amateur performance come from the village as a special play law is in effect. All participants, from actors through to members of the choir, orchestra members, firemen and ushers, must have been born in Oberammergau or have lived there for at least 20 years. Today, the Passion Play has over 2,000 actors, singers, and instrumentalists who are all residents of the village.
Nestled in a high Alpine valley in Bavaria, the town of Oberammergau is very quaint, with a backdrop of picturesque mountains that make it an amazing place for photos. The streets are lined with charming shops offering cuckoo clocks, Christian carvings, mugs, stained glass, wool sweaters, wooden toys and other unique gifts. Many houses are decorated with baroque facade wall paintings called Luftlmalerei—often depicting religious characters, figures of saints and scenes from the Passion Play.
This week, to go along with this event, I have featured Munich as my destination because it ties in nicely with the Passion Play. This is where you can fly in to see the play and of course, spend a few days exploring Munich either before or after the performance. There are also many escorted tour companies and river cruise companies that offer the opportunity to experience Oberammergau in 2020. Many are sold out but there are some tours and river cruises that have availability. And remember, if you miss your opportunity to see it in 2020, you can start making plans to see it in 2030!
Information for this blog article obtained from https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home .