The Story of the Oberammergau Passion Play
How a Village Captivates the World
Die Geschichte der Oberammergauer Passionsspiele jetzt auch in englischer Sprache
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von Viola Schenz
Every ten years a small village on the northern edge of the Alps enters onto the world stage as Oberamergau’s Passion Play attracts half a million spectators from around the globe. It is the most successful amateur play in history and has been designated an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO. At the close of every decade Oberammergauers stage more than one hundred performances between May and October. The Play depicts the last six days in the life of Jesus on the world’s largest open-air stage.
The Play’s origin was a vow in 1633. As the plague swept through Bavaria, killing tens of thousands, the people of Oberammergau promised to regularly re-enact the suffering and death of Jesus if the “Black Death” vanished from their village and they were spared. They were, and duly the Play was performed for the first time the following year. At the time, such religious dramas were staged all over Europe, but only Oberammergau has managed in keeping this tradition alive continuously up to the present day.
Journalist Viola Schenz looks behind the scenes and explains why the Passion Play has survived, what its connection is to fairytale king Ludwig II, how the Oberammergauers outsmarted the church and secular rulers, what tortures the Christ performer sometimes goes through or how director Christian Stückl has been turning “the Passion” upside down.
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