Passion Play season opens in Oberammergau

Passion Play season opens in Oberammergau
Passion Play director Christian Stückl (left). Photo: DPA
The 2010 Oberammergau Passion Play premiered to nearly 5,000 spectators Saturday. The performance marks the start of the 41st production of the traditional five-hour play.

About 2,400 residents – or half of Oberammergau’s total population – participated on stage or behind the scenes to help with this year’s production.

The Passion Play tradition goes back to 1633, when the plague struck the Alpine village and locals vowed, if they were spared, to put on a play about the crucifixion and reincarnation of Jesus once every 10 years – forever.

Frederik Mayet, a 30-year-old marketing student, played the role of Jesus and braved cool temperatures on the open-air stage – wearing just a loincloth in some scenes.

Fleece blankets from Passion theatre’s souvenir shop were sold out well before the opening scene, and some theatre-goers even brought their own sleeping bags.

“The scenes were so strong and striking, you could almost block out the cold,” said Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, one of the guests attending this year’s premiere.

With the 2010 production, Munich Volkstheater director Christian Stückl is staging the Passion Play for the third consecutive time.

During intermission, Stückl said he was “very happy” with the performance, having watched the premiere from backstage. “I have to be with my people,” the director said.

Musical director Markus Zwink also praised the choir and orchestra’s performance.

Organisers are hoping to match 2000’s 500,000 visitors from all over the world, although the recession has hit ticket sales, particularly from the United States. With more than 100 performances, Oberammergau hopes the Passion Play will bring in €28 million through the final show on October 3.

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