Since 1634 the village of Oberammergau has offered, every ten years, a unique show in homage to Christ, attracting spectators from all over the world.

Wandering through the alleys of the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, there is a good chance to stumble upon “Jesusand his apostles. Of the 5,500 inhabitants of this Alpine village, 1,400 of them – babies or octogenarians – take part in a one-of-a-kind show in homage to Christ.

It all began during the Thirty Years War: the locals promised to play the Game of passion, which recounts the last hours of Jesus, to banish the deadly plague. After the first representation in 1634 of the martyrdom, death and resurrection of Christ, the plague disappeared, it is said. Since then, their descendants have scrupulously renewed this vow, challenging the bans of the Age of Enlightenment, wars or epidemics such as the recent Covid pandemic which postponed the show by two years.

Why has the tradition continued over the centuries? “I think we’re a bit stubborn“, Jokes Frédéric Mayet, 42, who plays Jesus for the second time. “But above all we identify very stronglyto the Passion, adds this man with blue eyes and shoulder-length blond hair. “I remember we talked about it in kindergarten. Without really knowing what it was, I obviously wanted to participate!“, Says Cengiz Görür, a 22-year-old young man of Turkish origin who embodies Judas.

From 3 months to 85 years

In Oberammergau, Jesus and his disciples are superstars: they can be seen on the painted facades of old houses, in the shops that store carved wooden statues, another tradition of this postcard village. Also on the street, where a much higher than average number of bearded men with long hair are currently encountered among tourists, as well as on the open stage of the theater, where from mid-May until 2 October the new edition of the Game of passion. The only conditions to participate in the five-hour show in total, as an actor, chorister or behind the scenes: be born in Oberammergau or have lived there for at least twenty years. “What has always fascinated me is the quality of the relationships between all the participants, young and old, it is a beautiful community, a kind of family of Passion “, testifies Walter Lang, a”veteran”Aged 83, regretting that his wife, who died in February, is missing. Generations follow one another, families are created there. “My parents met at a passion play and I also met my future wife there“Says Andreas Rödl, mayor of the village and chorister.

“Hidden talent”

Here too, destinies are at stake. Like that of Cengiz Görür, spotted in 2016 by director Christian Stückl, director of the Munich people’s theater. “I didn’t really know what to do with my life. I probably would have ended up selling cars, the typical storylaughs the young man who will start his drama studies in Munich this autumn. “I discovered my hidden talent“, He rejoices. Christian Stücklhe also did a lot for the fame of the show, which it revolutionizedFor forty years the judge Barbara Schuster, 35, head of human resources, and Marie Madeleine on stage. “First, go to Game of passion, it was like going to mass. Today it is a real theatrical show“, she says. Above all, in the 1980s she purged the text accusing Jews of being responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion of all anti-Semitic connotations.”Hitler had used the Game of passion for its propaganda“, remember.

Hot news

The piece speaks to everyone, because it conveys a topical message. Jesus said “fear rages on Israel, cries of war fill the earth, poverty and disease take hold of you (…)“, Says Frédérik Mayet. “For us it is the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and the growing disparities between poor and rich“, He adds. For fear that the war would extend to Europe, operators in the United States, the main market for game of passion, canceled about 20,000 bookings shortly after its launch in late February, the mayor said.

Revenues from the show could be affected, which on average fluctuate between 25 and 30 million euros. “For me the strongest moment comes at the end of the last performance in October, when the Alleluia is sungafter the resurrection of Jesus, confides Walter Lang, who this year is among the poor, among the people. “Because we don’t know if next time we’ll be here againshe said, her eyes full of tears.

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