Event Holidays and when to see them
By Jack Stacey
20 November 2018
We’ve all had this experience, haven’t we? The encroaching, heavy and unbearable wait before something we’ve been looking forward to.Read more
The village of Oberammergau is most famous as the location of the renowned Passion Play for the last 376 years. Once every ten years, this unassuming village in the heart of the Bavarian Alps hosts this event, which draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors. The moving re-enactment of Christ's suffering, known as the Passion Play, is a five-hour epic - a tragedy of death and the promise of life. During the 17th century, Oberammergau, like much of Europe, was afflicted with the 'Black Death'. As the town's population dwindled, the local government vowed they would perform the 'Play of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ' every ten years if God spared them from the plague ravaging the region.
Great Rail Journeys have three different holiday itineraries visiting the Passion Play in 2020, where we combine Oberammergau with beautiful Lake Garda, Bavaria and the Austrian Alps. However, with every place on our tours in 2010 selling out far in advance of the first performance date, if you are planning to see the Passion Play in 2020 with us, it is vital you book as soon as possible.
Once every ten years, an unassuming village in the heart of the Bavarian Alps holds an event that draws eager crowds from across the world.
Oberammergau is now synonymous with its famous decennial passion play. Telling the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ, it's a wonderful community achievement that sees a cast of more than 2,000 local actors, musicians and technical crew come together for each sell out performance from May through to October. It takes two years to prepare for such a huge event, held in the town's specially constructed 4,700 seat, outside auditorium, and the scale of the project is quite something to behold. Backstage there are 16 wardrobe rooms housing over 1,000 costumes as well as a myriad of props, many of which date back centuries.
Set against the backdrop of the scenic Ammergau Valley the theatre has all the modern comforts you could want, such as under floor heating, while on stage you watch a piece of living history, a tradition that has endured since 1633.
During the Thirty Years War, Oberammergau was afflicted by the 'Black Death', along with much of Europe. As the town's population dwindled, the local government vowed that they would perform the 'Play of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ' every ten years if God was to spare them from the plague ravaging the region. The death rate slowed to a halt and the following year, the townsfolk performed the first Passion Play on a stage erected above the graves of their countrymen who had been claimed by the deadly disease. The Oberammergau villagers believed that they had witnessed a miracle, and have held up their end of the pledge ever since, performing the Passion Play 41 times so far with 2020 marking the 42nd time these experienced performers will take to the stage.
Oberammergau in 2020
Oberammergau isn't the world's most famous Passion Play for nothing, and every ten years more than 500,000 visitors descend on this picturesque Bavarian village, the majority coming from abroad for a taste of one of the most renowned cultural events in history. 2020 looks to be no different, and preparations are already well under way to make sure plans for the upcoming extravaganza go off without a hitch.
In 2015 the Oberammergau Council appointed a production team who will oversee all the administrative, creative and technical aspects of the show - everything from casting to marketing and admission prices. Things start to ramp up in 2019 with parts being allocated to the actors who, from Ash Wednesday onwards, will not be allowed to cut their hair and for the men, shave their beards, until November 2020, thereby adding that extra touch of historical authenticity. Rehearsals will begin in the Autumn of 2019 in order to make sure everything is ready for opening night on May 16th 2020.
The Passion Play itself
Soon the curtain will rise on over 2,000 participants who'll bring the story of Jesus of Nazareth to life over the course of a five-hour performance on the imposing open-air stage. The play covers the period of time from Jesus entering Jerusalem, and continues up to his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. The new production, under the direction of Christian Stückl and his artistic team including stage designer Stefan Hageneier and musical Markus Zwink, reflects this tremendous community achievement.
For ten months the villagers will rehearse the newly revised script, which has been adapted from the Joseph Alois Daisenberger text written between 1860 and 1870, whilst the orchestra and singers study the exceptional music created for the performance by the composer Rochus Dedler in 1820. A three-hour interval provides plenty of time to enjoy a meal served in a local restaurant before the dramatic culmination of the second half.