Once every 10 years, the Oberammergau Passion Play attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. In 2018 preparations are taking up speed for the 42nd Passion Play 2020, directed by Christian Stückl. A press conference at the world’s leading travel trade show in Berlin marks the beginning of the pre-sales of tickets including overnight stay(s) called “arrangements” for private individuals. This conference includes a presentation of the time table with all key dates until the premiere on 16th May 2020, a short overview of recent news and a review of the ticket sales so far. The Play dates back to a pledge made in 1633 when the people of Oberammergau pledged to act out the suffering and death of Jesus Christ once every ten years in exchange for no further Plague deaths. This year’s highlight is 20th October 2018, when the pledge will be renewed and the actors will be announced.
“Traditionally, the Oberammergau Passion Play is one of the most important trademarks of the cultural destination of Germany”, explains Petra Hedorfer, chair of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB). “Around one million additional international overnight stays in the years of the Play are a clear proof of the international attraction of this event”. A high level of organisational professionalism and several years of forerun guarantee a smooth course. The village traditionally offers arrangements to manage the extraordinary number of visitors. These package-deals include a ticket as well as one (min. 294 EUR per person in a double room) or two (min. 394 EUR per person in a double room) overnight stays and dinner. Pre-sales are organised in three steps: Travel agencies can purchase the package-deals since March 2017; starting on 9th March 2018, the package-deals can also be purchased directly in Oberammergau at Passionsspiele Oberammergau Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG and online at www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de. Tickets without overnight stay will be available at a later date.
Director Christian Stückl at the press conference in Berlin
Left to right:
Mayor Arno Nunn, Director Christian Stückl, Managing Director Walter Rutz, Press Spokesman Frederik Mayet, Managing Director Gerhard Griebler
Tickets have sold very well so far, explains Gerhard M Griebler, Managing Director of Passionsspiele Oberammergau Vertriebs GmbH & Co. KG: “Exactly one year ago, we began selling arrangements to commercial resellers (travel agencies, bus companies and incoming agencies). By now, 65 percent of the 220,000 available contingents for touristic resellers have been contractually fixed”.
In total, Oberammergau expects 450,000 visitors at 103 playing dates. The Passion Play is actively advertised in 27 markets together with the German Tourism Board. “North America, Great Britain and Scandinavia continue to be the most important foreign markets. But we also try to develop new markets such as France, Poland and the Benelux states”.
As Petra Hedorfer points out, the Passion Play is uniquely connected to the culture of Bavaria and its well-preserved tradition. Ever since 1634, the world’s most successful amateur dramatic performance keeps finding new ways to tell the story of the last days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The text versions are always a reflection the respective time period and its political circumstances. “The staging changes fundamentally every time”, says Christian Stückl, who will direct the Play for the fourth time in 2020. “Since the Passion Play takes place once every ten years, I keep having to write the text in a new way, tell the story in a new way. I’ll include things I learned from the previous Play”.
The next Passion Play will come in a completely new appearance, he explains: “In a great community effort starting in Autumn, new costumes and set designs designed by Stefan Hageneier will be made. What is more, 120 new choir members and the 70-member-passion orchestra must be re-cast in the course of the next few weeks upon instruction by the music director Markus Zwink”.
Rehearsals will start in November 2019, lasting eight months and involving more than 2,000 people. The five-hour-show with its three-hour-break begins in the afternoon with the entry into Jerusalem and tells the passion story from the last supper to the crucifixion. It ends in the evening hours with the resurrection. 103 shows are scheduled in total; the last show will take place on 4th October 2020.
Did you know? Only those who were born and raised in Oberammergau or who have been living in the village for at least 20 years may take part in the Passion Play. One highlight leading up to the passion for every citizen of Oberammergau is the great church service on the large open-air stage of the Passion Theatre on 20th October of this year: The pledge of 1633 will be renewed and the actors of the 42nd Passion Play will be publicly announced and introduced. Aside from the main roles of Jesus, Mary, Petrus, Judas, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, there will be 120 major and minor speaking roles. The broadcasting channel Bayerischer Rundfunk will cover the great church service.