Appeals against violence and war at the start of the Passion Play

After a two-year delay, Oberammergau celebrates the premiere of the Passion Play. The template: The Bible, which provides up-to-date templates with its stories of war, flight, expulsion and poverty.

the essentials in brief

  • Passion under the sign of crisis and war: The Passion Play in Oberammergau began on Saturday with appeals for peace on the stage and from the major Christian churches.

“In any case, these days you can’t just see the Passion Play as a historical play. People’s passions are far too obvious today,” said the Evangelical Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm in the opening service before the premiere, referring to crisis and war zones such as the Ukraine or Yemen.

Postponed due to Corona

After twelve years, Oberammergau is once again the scene of the passion, which goes back to a plague vow in 1633. Every ten years, the residents perform “the play of the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ”, but due to the pandemic, the Passion, which was actually scheduled for 2020, was postponed to 2022.

“Violence does not have the last word, power does not have the last word,” said the Catholic Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The passion story of Jesus contains a fascinating message about overcoming violence, healing the world, and giving people hope. Bedford-Strohm emphasized that violence is always defeat and that weapons can never bring about peace. At the same time, however, one cannot stand by and watch when people are at the mercy of the brutal violence of an aggressor and when, in the end, only the stronger prevail.

Jesus against violence

The character of Jesus, played by Frederik Mayet in a pugnacious and angry, sometimes also desperate, fights against violence and for peace and the poor. An idea by director Christian Stückl, who is staging the passion for the fourth time. «The Christian has the feeling that today’s time needs a Jesus who is louder, who shouts the message into the world. He has to be more combative. We’ve been working very hard to ensure that Jesus has a different presence and a different anger, »said Mayet.

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) was impressed. “That’s the story of all stories,” he said after the first part of the five-and-a-half-hour performance, at the end of which soldiers captured Jesus on the Mount of Olives. “In difficult times, this year’s passion will be particularly impressive.”

Ben Becker sees himself firmly in the Bible

Around 4,400 guests were invited to the premiere. Actor Ben Becker said he was very knowledgeable about the Bible and could have a say in the story, TV presenter Eckart von Hirschhausen referred to the climate crisis: “What the climate crisis will cause in terms of suffering and passion is what I love most today in the mind busy.” Uschi Glas was pleased that the staging was somewhat classic – and the actors weren’t on stage in jeans.

Director Stückl modernized the play fundamentally and freed it from Christian anti-Judaism. He brings in many elements of Judaism and thus shows that Jesus was a believing Jew and that the conflict surrounding him was an inner-Jewish one. On stage, the choir sings the “Shema Israel”, one of the most important prayers of the Jews.

Game director Stückl takes a critical view of the church

The theater maker describes himself as a Catholic, but sees the church critically. After the abuse report, he “made his way to the service because there are people in town who care about it,” he told the “Spiegel”. Oberammergau belongs to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which caused horror with the report in January.

A total of 2100 of the approximately 5200 inhabitants of Oberammergau take part in the Passion Play. 450 children are there, among them refugees. Only those who were born locally or have lived there for 20 years are allowed to play with the adults. Two main characters are of Muslim faith. Up to 450,000 spectators from all over the world are expected to attend the more than 100 performances until October 2nd.

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