Oberammergau Passion Play - FAQs
What is the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play?
The Passion Play origins date back to 1633, when the community of Oberammergau found itself under threat from the Bubonic plague – the town pledged that if God were to spare them death, they would perform a play each decade to celebrate the life and death of Jesus. Thankfully the vow appeared to work, and as a result the locals were true to their promise – the very first play happened during Pentecost in 1634, where a stage was erected in the local cemetery. Nowadays the performances take place on a much larger scale, with over 2000 of the village’s residents working together to ensure the spectacle honours the vow of their ancestors. Such is the dedication of the residents, all male actors performing in the plays take part in a “Hair Decree”– from Ash Wednesday in 2019, all men are requested to let the hair on their heads and face grow to ensure they have an authentic look in time for 2020!
What are the performance dates?
There will be up to 103 performances between 16 May and 4 October 2020.
There are usually 3, but sometimes up to 5 performances each week, on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Albatross Tours will be operating 7 unique touring itineraries with a total of 78 tour departures which include the Passion Play.
How long is the play?
The play is 5 hours long. It is held throughout the afternoon and evening with a 3-hour break for an included 3 course dinner. Based on the 2010 programme we are assuming there will be 11 Acts featured in the 2020 Passion Play programme.
19 May - 16 August | Part I : 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm Part II : 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Later in the season when the sun sets earlier the times change by one hour
17 August – 4 October | Part I : 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm Part II 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Do we have good seats?
Yes, the best! You will have Category 1 seating – the best seats in house.
How many seats are there?
The audience section is fully covered and contains 4,720 comfortable covered seats.
What language is the show in?
The shows will be exclusively in German. You can buy a programme with an English translation of the text on the day of the performance.
If the stage is open air what happens if it rains?
The massive open air stage has a fabulous backdrop of Kofel Peak and is surrounded by the Ammergau Mountains, all of which enhances the drama. However if it does rain, at the push of a button a giant mechanical cover will extend out and over the stage.
How big is the show?
Enormous! There will be 100 choristers, a 55-piece orchestra and 2,000 actors - all locals. There will be music, singing, vivid and colourful stage settings, tableaux vivants (living pictures) depicting biblical scenes, speeches and dramatic re-enactments of the story of the Passion of Christ - from his entry into Jerusalem until his death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection.
Who are the actors?
They are all locals, and to be eligible they must have lived in Oberammergau for at least 20 years. This means that about 3,000 of the town’s 5,000 inhabitants hold the right to perform; since 2000 people participate, that’s more than 60 percent of the eligible townsfolk!
What is the ‘Hair decree’?
Such is the dedication of the residents, all male actors performing in the play take part in a ‘Hair Decree’. From Ash Wednesday in 2019, all men will be requested to let the hair on their heads and face grow to ensure they have an authentic look in time for 2020! (The ‘Romans’ have shaved heads!)
Who organises the Passion Play?
The local community have an organisation called ‘Passionsspiele Oberammergau’. They appoint the artistic director and his team. They consolidate all ticket sales in co-ordination with all attached accommodation allocations in Oberammergau and within the immediate area.
Where is Oberammergau?
Located in Bavaria about 100 kms south of Munich, Oberammergau is nestled in a beautiful valley in the Ammergau Alps. The village is known for its beautifully painted houses and woodcarving shops. The whole region is delightful. Nearby towns include lively Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Unterammergau, Ettal with its magnificent Kloster Abbey, Murnau am Staffelsee - close to Lake Staffelsee, and the spa town of Bad Kohlgrub.