Published on Dec 3, 2014
Over 2000 participants brought the story of Jesus of Nazareth to the ears and eyes of the audience in a five-hour presentation on the imposing open-air stage. Almost half of the inhabitants of Oberammergau enacted with great devotion the story of Jesus whose message gives billions of people hope and strength. The play covers the period of Jesus entering Jerusalem and continues up to his death on the Cross and his resurrection. The new production, under the direction of Christian Stückl and the artistic team of the Passion Play in 2000, the stage designer Stefan Hageneier and the music directors Markus Zwink and Michael Bocklet, reflected the tremendous community achievement.
For ten months the villagers playing the roles of Jesus, Mary, Pontius Pilate and the apostles, of the children, soldiers and priests rehearsed the newly revised text whilst the orchestra and the singers studied the exceptional music created for the performance by the composer Rochus Dedler.
Oberammergau: Germany’s 376-year-old Passion Play Before and After the Holocaust, Vatican II, and Ongoing Research into Early Christianity
Anna Lisa Ohm
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, email@example.com
The postwar controversy regarding the play devolved initially into a stand-off between
reformers from outside Oberammergau and traditionalists from within. The Oberammergauers
regarded the play as a re-enactment of a historical event based on authentic
biblical narrative contained primarily in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John, the first four books of the New Testament. Most play-goers, too, believed that
the play represented the true story of Jesus in the final week of his life.
Any criticism of that belief raised broader concerns beyond the play itself to the very
basis of its creation, the biblical Gospels. Uncovering anti-Semitism in a play based
on the Gospels inevitably led to uncovering anti-Semitism in the Gospels. A recent
catalog for a lecture series, for example, places the New Testament “among the most
significant writings that the world has ever known,” but “also among the most widely
disputed and least clearly understood works in history” (Great Courses, Summer 2010,
45). Recent historical studies on the founding of Christianity and the authenticity of
the Bible have, in turn, led from the Gospels to the teachings of Christianity, and the
Oberammergau Passion Play has become a focus of interfaith dialogue. Only by revising
Christian teachings through a new interpretation of the Gospels can passion plays
ultimately be revised to everyone’s general satisfaction.