Thursday, November 25, 2010


Passionsspiele--Passion Play
Oberammergau, Germany
May 15-October 3, 2010
The Passion Play was the primary reason that we went on our tour this year. The passion play had been on our "bucket list" since we visited Oberammergau in the summer of 2004. While strolling through the town, we came upon the auditorium of the play site and read the advertisements for the upcoming 2010 season. Christine and I both expressed a "wouldn't it be nice to come back and see the play." Neither of us had any idea that it would come about. 
The passion play, a "Play of the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ", had its origins in 1633. During the Thirty Years War, the Oberammergauers were among the many who suffered and died from the plague. The Oberammergauers swore an oath that they would perform a play of the suffering and death of Jesus every ten years if they were spared from the bubonic plague. By July 1633, the death rate had subsided to one. The villagers believed they were spared, and the first performance took place at Pentecost 1634. The stage was put up in the cemetery above the fresh graves of the plague victims. Thus began the history of the passion play. The 2010 season marked the 41st performance spanning 376 years.
The present stage was built in 1928 and the auditorium in 1998. The theater has about 4,700 seats.
The actors, musicians, singers, director, technicians, etc. have all been born in Oberammergau or have lived in the village for at least 20 years. Approximately 2,400 villagers, or one half the population,  are in the play.
There are 21 principal parts (Jesus, Mary, John, Judas, Peter, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas and others).

The cast includes 120 smaller and bigger speaking parts, solo singers, 100 male and female choisters, orchestra, Apostles, priests and scribes, Roman soldiers, and temple guards. It also seemed as if every youngster in the village played a part in the performance.

The citizens of Oberammergau devote a year of their lives to re-enact the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  All performers are laymen and pursue their usual careers as wood carvers, house wives, and so forth.
In real life for instance, the actor who portrayed Jesus is a psychologist, and the Mary Magdalene player works as a flight attendant.

Consistent with the devotion of performing in the play, the houses and shops display religious scenes. The frescos in this village are extraordinary and can last hundreds of years.

"Jesus" and "Mary" are ordinary people. Likewise, the people who live in the houses and work in the shops, all displaying beautiful designs, are ordinary people. But we wish to express our gratitude for their participation in an epic performance of Passionsspiele which runs for seven hours with a three hour intermission for supper. Whereas they fulfilled the tradition of some 376 years, they also wonderfully fullfilled another of our fantasy tours. On behalf of the half million people who shared in your devotion and were grateful for your efforts this year, Thank you, Oberammergaurers!!


1 comment:

  1. Wow! I had heard of this but never attended. I had no idea it was such an involved, long (7 hours?) play. What a wonderful heritage to have and be part of, living in the village. So glad you shared this.