In 1633, in the middle of the Thirty Years War, Bavaria was being swept by a plague epidemic and more than 80 lives had been lost in Oberammergau alone. The local elders vowed that if the village were purged of the plague, they would ‘keep the Passion tragedy every 10 years’. The epidemic came to a standstill and in 1634 the villagers fulfilled their solemn promise for the first time. Ever since they have loyally kept their vow and in 2020 Oberammergau will, for the 42nd time, be staging the Passion Play telling the story of Christ’s Passion, from his entry into Jerusalem and ending with the Resurrection and Ascension.
The Play is performed exclusively by amateur actors, who were either born in Oberammergau or have lived there for the past 20 years. In 2010, over 2,000 of the 5,300 or so inhabitants were involved either on stage or backstage. A special feature of the Oberammergau Passion Play is its living tableaux: colourful scenes from the Old Testament, which are woven into the story of the Passion in the form of still life pictures.
Programme of Performances
From 16th May to 4th October 2020, the Passion Play will be performed every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Performances will run from 2.30pm till 10.30pm until 16th August and from 1.30pm till 9.30pm from 18th August, in each case with a three hour break for included dinner.
The roofed auditorium has seats for nearly 4,500 spectators. The terraces rising towards the back of the auditorium ensure a good view from every seat of the open air stage, where the play is performed whatever the weather. Click here to see a seating plan of the theatre.
The music, with choral and prologue performances, was composed between 1811 and 1820 by Oberammergau’s teacher and church musician Rochus Dedler. Markus Zwink added his own compositions and some contemporary touches for the Passion Play 2000.
Video copyright: Gemeinde Oberammergau