September 23, 2022
The purpose of our European adventure was to attend the once every 10 years Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. It was enthralling, powerful, beautiful—bottom line, over the top.
Performed entirely in German, we were able to follow along with an English translation. My impressions:
The centuries old script was artfully written to incorporate the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament account of Jesus’ ministry and life from the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem until Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. For instance, the OT story of Abraham going to sacrifice his son Isaac—who was spared because God provided a ram (an illustration of Christ Jesus) in his place was incorporated into God the Father sacrificing His Son Jesus on the cross.
The script did rearrange some of the timeline of Jesus’s ministry prior to Passion Week into the Passion Week events. For instance, while Jesus had taught His disciples to pray (our Lord’s Prayer) prior to Passion Week, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer at the Passover Meal (the Institution of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion).
The acting by local villagers—the cast, choir, crew are are all local villagers—was dramatic, powerful and professional in every degree! Riveting, really. The crucifixion scenes were difficult to watch, so real was the acting. Jesus heaving his last breaths was…”Oh, sorrow dread-God’s Son is dead.”
The staging was magnificent. The huge stage was always in motion from every angle. The sound projected magnificently. The rear center stage was used to illustrate the Old Testament portions of the play. When the curtain opened it was still life with opulent colors and costuming from that time period. The scenes changed regularly throughout the performance. To see children and adults in those beautiful settings in difficult body positions not moving as if mannequins was awesome. Meanwhile, the New Testament portions continued to be acted out in the front portions of the stage. One’s mind was totally engaged.
The music was sensational! I was spiritually enriched, moved and captivated by the 64 voice choir and huge orchestra (all local). The script used the music to enrich the story. What totally took me by surprise was the beauty of the music and the premier quality of the singers and players. Honestly, I cannot adequately describe the beauty of the sound and the quality of the words! Because the singers sometimes spread across the slightly curved stage before us the music was stereophonic. It was haunting, eloquent, soul enriching and uplifting— masterful! These sounds will reverberate in my soul my lifetime.
The total “Oberammergau Experience” was wonderful. Four years ago I had awakened at 2am to call to the German National Tourist Bureau to be early in line to buy tickets to the 2020 performance. I was calling for a group of friends who also wanted to attend. I was able to secure best in the house seats and wonderful accommodations on what the German government called a package. Covid came, and the once every ten year play was cancelled and eventually rescheduled for 2022. We were appreciative of the absolute security of the arrangements. Everything was in order! The hotel had our information in hand. Our bus was prompt and we arrived on time to lunch in Oberammergau before the production began. When we arrived at our appointed restaurant, our table was ready for us and the meal amazing. Our center stage seats a few rows back were perfect. No head swiveling for the massive stage in front of us.
While six hours long, we were captivated, although the seats were a little hard on the rear several hours in. The stage is covered but open air. We were dressed adequately to stave off the 46*F cool in the evening hours. The play is the result of the villagers’ pledge over 400 years ago that if they were spared from the plague they would honor God with something special. They were spared, and the play is the result. Oberammergau is a lovely painted village and carving wood into figurines is a local craft. What an inspiring adventure we (Standly’s, Steele’s, Nichols/Hunt, and Graumann’s) had!