Experience the Thrill of the Oberammergau Passion Play
We are all accustomed to planning our travel adventures to coincide with certain annual milestones – it might be a particular season, a festival, religious pilgrimage, garden blooms, special occasion, school holidays, Christmas markets … yearly planning is what we do again and again.
But when an event comes along just once a decade, it’s clearly a very, very special event, one that requires forward planning and let’s face it, you won’t get too many chances to see it in a lifetime. This version of The Passion Play that chronicles Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is an internationally acclaimed, multi-million dollar spectacle that takes place in a picture postcard Bavarian village every 10 years; a tradition that started in 1634!
In 2020, the 42nd staging of the play will be performed and the world is waiting. To understand why this production with more than 2000 local performers, 100 choristers and a 55-piece orchestra - also the longest-running play in the world - is so significant, you need to understand the context behind its creation. Today the gorgeous hamlet of Oberammergau is home to around 5000 people and is a stunningly beautiful and well-preserved piece of German history in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district of the Bavarian alps, about 100 kilometres south of Munich.
At the time of the Reformation, like much of Europe, villagers here lived in fear of the curse of the Black Plague which spread as one of the legacies of The Thirty Years War that crippled much of the region with the rapid spread of sickness, disease and hunger. This tiny community determined that if it committed to performing The Passion Play as an act of devotion every 10 years, they prayed God would keep the plague away from their village. History records Oberammergau was largely spared and the locals, through the ages, kept that pledge made almost 500 years ago. The script is based on manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries and has also been modified for modern audiences. To appear in what has become the largest amateur theatre production in the world, you have to have been a resident of Oberammergau for at least 20 years. Men of the village who successfully audition for a role are asked to stop shaving and cutting their hair from Ash Wednesday 2019 to be ready for the 2020 production which has been in planning for three years already.
“In early 2018, everyone received a questionnaire in which they expressed their wishes. I want to be on or behind the stage, I want to be a scene shifter or I want to receive people outside … all these requests can be made,” said Passion Play Director, Christian Stückl. “I will collect all of them, but the final decision will be made by myself and the conductor, because this is the second important aspect, of course, the conductor will choose his musicians. I will decide on the rest.” The current adaptation of the Play has become of the world’s signature cultural experiences with 102 performances scheduled over five months. The five-hour performance commences in the afternoon and breaks for three hours for a three-course dinner (included) before its resumption in the evening. While the dialogue is German, English scripts are available so you can follow along with ease. The thrill of seeing the Passion Play is all encompassing, the incredibly detailed hand made costumes, the heartfelt performances, the location and of course, the history and the meaning. This is something to behold. Even with covered seating for 4720, tickets are at an absolute premium and as you would expect, there are varying seat categories based on proximity to the open-air stage that is dramatically framed by the Ammergau Mountains and the stunning Kofel Peak. (In the event of rain, a mechanical roof covers the stage which guarantees all scheduled performances go ahead). For our third Passion Play series, Albatross Tours has secured the best premium seating for guests and we can offer seven unique tours ranging from five to 22 days that all feature the Play but offer different, wider touring options. Contact us for more information or request a copy of the brochure.