There are some events around the world that you simply have to experience in your lifetime and the once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play is one of them. That's why we decided to combine it with a spectacular trek in the Bavarian Alps! We'll follow a stretch of the St James Way and then veer off the trail to finish in Oberammergau to see the Passion Play!
If you're not familiar with the play, you may be wondering why it's so special. Let us fill you in and before you finish reading this blog post, you'll be just as excited to trek to the Passion Play as we are!
The Oberammergau Passion Play was born in 1633 after citizens of the charming Bavarian village of Oberammergau made a solemn vow to perform a play once every 10 years that depicted the story of Christ’s life, suffering, death and resurrection if their lives were spared from the deadly plague, and, after no further deaths, the first iteration took place just one year later.
The play was due to be held in 2020, but was rescheduled to 2022 as a result of the pandemic – and this wasn't the first time it has been cancelled. It was cut back in 1770 when the Duke of Bavaria banned all passion plays, it was also cancelled in 1920 due to the number of local lives lost in World War I and then it was cancelled again in 1940 because of World War II. The first 2020 staging of the 100-day-plus run of the Oberammergau Passion Play had been due to go ahead in May of that year, but after careful consideration, the organisers eventually decided to postpone the entire event until 2022.
Now that we're just a few months away from its launch, our amazing sister company, Andante Travels, caught up with one of the main cast members to find out how plans for the performance were impacted by the delays. Eva-Maria Reiser will play the coveted role of Mary in the 2022 play, the 42nd iteration, and she also played the role of Mary Magdalene for the last Passion Play in 2010. Read what she had to say below.
1) What is your earliest memory of the Passion Play?
My earliest memory of the Passion Play is walking as a 5-year-old child with a palm leaf in the scene Entry to Jerusalem.
2) What was the process like to be cast in the play, from the audition right through to finding out you got a part?
In 2010 I played Mary Magdalene, after that I took part in many theatre productions in Oberammergau. I hoped to get a main part in 2020 as well, but as there are only a few main female roles in the play I was not sure if it would work. When I saw my name written on the big wall in front of the Passion Theatre at the day of the announcement of the roles, I was really excited to be chosen as Mary.
3) What makes the village of Oberammergau so special to you?
It is a beautiful village in the Bavarian alps. Besides the beautiful landscape, the Passion Play makes this place unique. Every 10 years we experience the biggest social event in the village. Different generations are performing together and getting along with each other, it’s really fantastic.
4) If you could recommend something local to a visitor who might have some free time in Oberammergau, what would it be?
Strolling around the village and popping in to the different shops, drinking coffee, and visiting restaurants where you can maybe find some actors from the Passion Play. I would also recommend having ice cream at Paradiso in the centre of the village.
5) What was the experience of the pandemic like in terms of the play being postponed for two years? When did you find out it was postponed and when did rehearsals start again, for example? Did it change the experience?
When we heard about the postponement of the play in March 2020, we were totally shocked. In May 2020 the premiere night was planned, so in March we were busy with the preparations. Some weeks before, we hoped it would work even with this new virus but then we knew that it was not possible. The worst after the postponement was not to be able to meet each other to speak about this. Everyone had to come along alone with the special situation. For every one of us ,the postponement had its own tragedy because you plan your life around this special event, if it won’t take place, then you have to start totally new. Now, after two years of the pandemic everyone has their own ‘new pandemic life’. When the rehearsals will start again, we’ll get a piece of our normal life back and I think everyone is looking forward to starting up again.
Meet Frederik, Oberammergau's Jesus in the 2022 Passion Play
In 2020, before the play was postponed, Andante Travels also interviewed cast member Frederik Mayet, who will play the role of Jesus. He talked to us about the village's unique spirit along with the logistics of performing in a play, and you can read his interview below.Read the interview with Frederik
Trek to the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2022
Our extraordinary challenge starts in Munich and leads us alongside rivers, through rolling fields and forests on part of the Way of St James pilgrimage. Staying by night in biscuit-tin villages and tiny hamlets, we'll gain excellent insight into the local lifestyle. By day, we'll keep our eyes peeled for an array of wildlife, hike past extraordinary historical sites, like the 739 AD Benediktbeuern Abbey and marvel at unsurpassable natural scenery roaming alongside glacial lakes.
Then, we'll veer off the path of the pilgrimage and venture instead across a chain of mountain passes through the heart of the Bavarian Alps, all the way to our unforgettable finishing point of Oberammergau. Here, we'll enjoy a celebration like no other: a chance to experience the once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play. What's more, we have amazing seats for the performance, charming accommodation in the town of Oberammergau itself.
Limited places remain for this once-in-a-lifetime challenge and once they're gone, they're gone - there won't be another Passion Play for another ten years, so we won't be able to open another group. Therefore, unless you want to miss out on this extraordinary opportunity, please secure your place today.