29th Play year
Oberammergau builds a gigantic auditorium with 4,200 seats - an iron scaffolding construction with six high beams. On this there rests a hall made of wood that is open to the front to the open-air stage.
Guest arrive from all over the world. The offering box of the church includes coins from Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Dollars from the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. This year, the Passion Play is analysed by a Jewish theologian for the first time.
Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf writes a long essay entitled “A Rabbi's Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play”.
The Prologue Joseph Mayer
Christ actor Anton Lang
In his book FAMOUS VILLAGE - FAMOUS VISITORS Otto Günzler writes: “The turn of the century is a period of social and political upheaval, everything seems to be in jeopardy. Oberammergau becomes a symbol of the fight against the demise of the old order. And this development is reflected in the guest list of the Passion Play in 1900 and 1910. On the eve of the First World War, almost all representatives of the European aristocracy, the oil magnate John Davidson Rockefeller, the architect August Eiffel, Count Zeppelin, Ernst von Possart, Director of Münchner Hofbühne, the opera singer Adelina Patti, the conductor Felix Mottl and a myriad of Bishops from all over the world are assembled in Oberammergau.“
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Founder of the airship sector
Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, Director of the Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, engineer
30th Play year
With an increase to 223,548 visitors in 56 shows, the Play achieves a unique mass impact. The composition of visitors is similar to that of 1900.
Gusts include the president of the United States William Howard Taft, the conductor and composer Richard Strauß, the author Hugo von Hofmannsthal, King Gustav V. of Sweden and the archbishop of Milano Achille Cardinal Ratti, who is later to become Pope Pius XI.
Christ and John
William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States
Richard Strauß, composer
The archbishop of Milano Achille Cardinal Ratti, who is later to become Pope Pius XI.
Gustav V., King of Sweden
In view of the high number of fallen troops of the First World War, the Community Council decides in the spring of 1918 not to proceed with the preparations of the Passion, but to wait and see. Many musicians and actors had participated in the war and were severely injured or killed in action. Among the 60 soldiers killed in action there were 16 musicians. The play of 1920 was cancelled. On 21st March 1921, the citizens of Oberammergau in a citizens’ poll voted for a Passion Play in 1922.
View on Oberammergau from the crucifixion group
31st Play year
A new beginning: The young sculptor Georg Johann Lang (1889–1968) is elected play director. With 311,127 visitors, ca. 100,000 of them from abroad, the Play receives an unexpectedly high number of visitors. The Atlantic-Film-Company makes an offer to the community for recording the Passion Play. The proceeds of the Passion Play of 1922 amount to ca. 21.5 million Marks. The offer of the Atlantic-Film-Company was 14 billion Marks. The community refused it.
In 1922, famous visitors of the Play include: the author Joachim Ringelnatz, trade minister and later president of the United States Herbert Hoover, Nuntius Pacelli, the later Pope Pius XII., and the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini.
Nuntius Pacelli, the later Pope Pius XII. with the Christ actor Anton Lang
trade minister Herbert Hoover, the later president of the United States
Giacomo Puccini, composer
32nd Play year
In 1929, play director Johann Georg Lang strives to completely re-stage the Play for the year 1930 and manages to convince the community that he needs a new stage for this project. The stage of the Passion Play Theatre is newly erected based on the plans of Georg Johann Lang and his brother, government master-builder Raimund Lang. The auditorium is extended to 5,200 seats.
In 1930, Johann Georg Lang carries out a comprehensive new staging.
Play director Johann Georg Lang and his brother, Major Raimund Lang.
The clear, ascetic, monumental style of the stage is also reflected in the artistic concentration of the set designs and accompanied by an impressive mass direction. His stage designs were implemented by the painter Michael Zeno Diemer. All initial fears of Lang’s staging being too modern prove to be unfounded. The praise given by directors like Max Reinhardt or Charles Dullin indicates that with this staging, Oberammergau keeps pace with the times.
The Living Image “The Resurrection” in 1930.
The poet and first Indian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Rabindranath Tagore, the American industrialist Henry Ford, the Prime Minister of the United James Ramsay MacDonald and Queen Elisabeth of Greece all grace the guest list.
Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Elisabeth, Queen of Greece
James Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Henry Ford, Automobile manufacturer
33rd Play year - Special show for the 300th anniversary
In 1933, the community decides to perform a Jubilee Passion Play in the following year on the occasion of the 300th anniversary. The influence of the Nazi-movement doesn’t spare the Oberammergau Passion Play: The village lets itself get instrumentalised by the new power. Major Raimund Lang likens the plague of 1634 to the “plague of Marxism who the Führer Adolf Hitler ended, thus preventing the extermination of Culture and Christianity”. Major Lang, a national socialist, illegally acquired the post of major and then brought the Community Council and the Passion Play Committee into line. Against the intention of the local clergyman Vicar Bogenrieder, he asks the Bavarian minister of Economy and the author of the inflammatory pamphlet “The global Jewish plague”, Hermann Esser, to become sponsor of the Play.
To protect it against “foreign domination” and to “keep it clean”, the Passion Committee introduces stricter participation rules.
Even the hair decree became an issue. The Committee discussed if long hair was really fitting for the new age and if it wasn’t a sign of effeminacy. Ultimately, the decree was maintained, but short haircuts were prescribed for advertising events.
On 13th August, Hitler visits the Play accompanied by a large group of leading Nazis. He declares the “play of the parching strength of the home soil” to be “of significance for the Reich”. He calls Pilate the prototype of the Roman who is superior “in race and intelligence” and who seems “like a rock in the midst of the Jewish vermin and swarm”.
Goebbels made the Passion Play an advertising tool for the foreign policy of the German Reich. The entrance fees were reduced by half and the Play was declared a “national people’s pilgrimage”. The rulers demanded the slogan “Germany calls out to you!” to be printed on the posters.
On 24th January 1934, Cardinal Faulhaber demands that the roles be given to Catholics only - because this was “a catholic pledge play” (diary entry of Faulhaber). Cardinal Faulhaber gives the official clerical teaching mission, the “Missio Canonica”.
Play director Johann Georg Lang wants a new Passion Play text - an order is placed with the playwright Leo Weismantel (1888-1964) to rewrite the Passion Play, only to be revoked later. Gauleiter Wagner didn’t approve.
Adolf Hitler on the stage of the Passion Play Theatre
The French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre and the French author and feminist Simone de Beauvoir attend the Passion Play together. Other guests of the Jubilee Play include the media tycoon William R. Hearst, King Prajadhipok - Rama VII – King of Siam Thailand and the actor Hans Albers.
Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir
King Prajadhipok Rama VII.,King of Siam Thailand
Hans Albers, actor
William R. Hearst, media tycoon
Preparations commence in 1938, but the Play is ultimately cancelled due to the Second World War, which breaks out in 1939. This is the second time in more than 300 years that there is no performance.
34th Play year – 87 shows.
After the war, several intellectuals such as Arthur Miller and Leonard Bernstein judge the Passion Play in a petition, saying it was anti-Semitic in its stereotypical and negative portrayal of Jews. The people of Oberammergau react to the petition with indignation and strong opposition.
The Passion Play of 1950 was influenced by the preceding national catastrophe, but there was no willingness for a completely new beginning or for really dealing with the past.
Play director Johann Georg Lang explained: “Our conscience is clear. We have to fulfil a pledge and our play includes nothing that might cause an uprage”. Similarly to 1922, the Play was propagated as being a “Play of Peace”, a sign of the reconciliation of the peoples. It was seen as an opportunity to present the other Germany, the Christian-Occidental tradition, to the international audience, which returned to the play in unexpectedly high numbers.
Nevertheless, this Play repeats the staging of 1930/34 with almost no alterations.
General music director Prof. Eugen Papst, who was born in Oberammergau, completely reviews the music by Rochus Dedler.
Instead of the originally planned 33 shows, 87 are performed in front of ca. 480,000 visitors. Thousands of people can’t be allowed entry.
During the shows in 1950, a part of the Oberammergau population requests a rerun in the following year, justifying it with the cancelled Play of 1940. Bavaria’s minister of culture Alois Hundhammer declared that he could not see how this request might be a breach of the pledge. However, Cardinal Faulhaber speaks out against it and wins the argument.
Choir and orchestra of the Passion Play in 1950
The visitors include Dwight D. Eisenhower, US-general and president of the United States from 1953 - 1961, the German Federal President Theodor Heuss, chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Michael Cardinal Faulhaber, archbishop of Munich and Freising.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, US-general and president of the United States from 1953 - 1961
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Federal President Theodor Heuss
Michael Cardinal Faulhaber, archbishop of Munich and Freising
35th Play year
Christian and Jewish critics once again accuse Oberammergau of portraying Judaism in a negative way. The Ettal abbot Dr. Johannes M. Höck makes minor corrections to the text. Johann Georg Lang acts as play director of the Passion Play for the fifth and last time.
After the shows of 1960, a ‘consulting committee on the question of amendments to the text of the Oberammergau Passion Play’ led by Dr. Clemens Duke of Podewil (Akademie der Schönen Künste) - is created. In one of its sessions, Hans Schwaighofer and Carl Orff suggest to draw back on the Passio Nova of 1750 by Father Ferdinand Rosner. Orff agrees to compose the music for this. The proposal is well received in the committee as well as in the Community Council.
Curial Cardinal Gustavo Cardinal Testa, Joseph Cardinal Wendel, archbishop of Munich, and publicist Erich Kuby all attend the Passion Play of 1960.
Cardinal Joseph Wendel, archbishop of Munich and Freising
Curial Cardinal Gustavo Cardinal Testa on the stage of the Passion Play Theatre
Erich Kuby, publicist
36th Play year
More and more people in Oberammergau demand a renewal of the Daisenberger text. In 1966, the Community Council appoints Hans Schwaighofer as play director for 1970 and decides to conduct a public rehearsal show on the basis of the Rosner text.
Hans Schwaighofer had presented the Rosner text in a lecture in 1966 while also showing some initial stage design drafts. In the following year, a decision is made against the rehearsal show.
Christ actor Helmut Fischer
With his version being rejected, Schwaighofer resigns from this post as play director for 1970. He is succeeded by Anton Preisinger.
Cardinal Döpfner demands a new way of thinking, saying this was not about “any guilt or even collective guilt of the Jews”. The old text is maintained. All attempts for a reformation fail. Jewish organisations in America declare a boycott of the Play. Cardinal Döpfner revokes the Play’s official clerical teaching mission, the “Missio Canonica”.
The Living Image “The Lord gives the Israelites the Manna” in the Passion Play of 1970.
The visitors include Julius August Cardinal Döpfner, archbishop of Munich and Freising, and Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum.
Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum
Play Director Hans Schwaighofer
Julius August Cardinal Döpfner, archbishop of Munich and Freising
In 1975, the community commissions the sculptor Hans Schwaighofer to create a show on the basis of the Rosner text, also known as the “Rosner rehearsal”. The artist creates set designs, masks, costumes. Alois Fink creates a play scenario and the composer Wolfgang Fortner writes the music.
Seven months of rehearsals with ca. 700 committed participants are followed by 8 shows that are very well received by the audience and the critics. However, in a subsequent citizens’ poll, the majority decides against choosing the Rosner staging for the playing year of 1980.
Schwaighofer promoted the modernisation of the Passion Play with great enthusiasm, which ultimately led to a cultural-historical revolution in Oberammergau. In retrospect, the Rosner rehearsal must be evaluated as an important impulse for the progression of the Passion Play.
Hans Schwaighofer in rehearsals with “Judas” Peter Stückl
37th Play year
Following major conflicts within the village about the right form of the Passion Play, the people of Oberammergau return to the text by Weis and Daisenberger. Hans Schwaighofer takes a back seat; the Play is directed by the sculptor Hans Maier. In 1978, the American theologians Swidler and Sloyan upon commission by the Anti-Defamation-League make suggestions for a more positive portrayal of Judaism. Minor changes are made to the text, but a fundamental reform of the text is rejected. For the first time, the 18 leading roles are cast with two equal actors. The first of these two equal Christ actors are Gregor Breitsamter and Rudolf Zwink. 460,000 visitors come to Oberammergau.
Cardinal Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, later to become Pope Benedict XVI., attends the Play
The Living Image "Joseph is sold away by his brothers” in 1980.
38th Play year - Special play for the 350th anniversary
Hans Meier directs the Play again. He makes major changes to the stage sets of Johann Georg Lang. The son of the play director of the period 1922 – 1960, the architect Ernst Maria Lang, sues the community for copyright infringement. 480,000 visitors pour into the Passion Play Theatre.
1984 sees a change of generations in the Community Council. It decides to promote the modernisation of the Passion Play and in 1986, the then-24-year-old sculptor Christian Stückl is elected play director of the 1990 Passion Play.
The Pietá. Maria actress Ursula Burkhart und Christ actor Max Jablonka
The state ministers of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, Franz Josef Strauß and Lothar Späth, as well as the Italian actor Terence Hill attend the anniversary Play.
The Bavarian state minister Franz Josef Strauß behind the stage with the passion play actors
39th Play year
Change of generations: Christian Stückl, who is only 27 years old, directs the play. This marks the beginning of a new era. Christian Stückl (*1961) and the deputy play director Otto Huber (*1947) begin a fundamental reform of the Passion Play. They go back to the original manuscript by Daisenberger, but include new exegetic, theological and historical findings in their wording of the text. The main focus of the review is to avoid and eliminate any anti-Judaism in the text of the Passion Play. The musical director Markus Zwink (*1956) simultaneously modernises the music.
The conflicts surrounding Stückl’s direction of the Play begin to take dramatic forms.
Spielleiter Christian Stückl
Even in 1989, there are still members of the Community Council who try to make Stückl and his team resign. The young play director narrowly avoids being voted out of office and the Passion Play Committee revokes its consent to the already-approved set design of Alexander Kraut as a reaction to a collection of signatures by conservative forces. Christian Stückl brings a new, young generation into the leading roles.
Until the Passion Play of 1984, married women and women over 35 years of age had been excluded from participating. In March 1990, the Higher Regional Court Munich abolishes this regulation. This is the end of a litigation between three women from Oberammergau and the community that had lasted for several years.
480,000 visitors come to Oberammergau to see 98 shows.
The German president Richard von Weizsäcker and the later president of the German Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse as well as the Bavarian state president Max Streibl, who comes from Oberammergau, are among the visitors in 1990.
Richard von Weizsäcker, Federal President
Max Streibl, Bavarian state president
Wolfgang Thierse, president of the German Bundestag
40th Play year
Christian Stückl is named play director for the Passion Play of 2000 by a citizens’ referendum. What follows is the most profound text reform since 1860. Play director Christian Stückl and dramatic advisor Otto Huber interpret the Passion Play as an inner-Jewish conflict. Supporters and opponents can be found in the High Council, among the common people and in the inner circle of the faithful.
The author Feridun Zaimoglu writes in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit: “Luckily, the anti-judaistic statements of the original text by the village pastor Alois Daisenberger were removed” (Zeit, 31st May 2000).
Stückl and Huber want to give the character of Jesus more individuality and more space, not restrict Jesus to his suffering, but show him as a strong defendant of his Jewish faith.
In a remarkable collective effort, almost 2000 new costumes are created and Stefan Hageneier, a set designer from Oberammergau, drafts 28 new production designs.
Markus Zwink, who had already been the musical leader in 1990, edits the music by Rochus Dedler.
The right of participation is extended once again. Until the Passion Play of 1990, only Christian citizens of Oberammergau were allowed to take part; for the Play of 2000 this regulation is revoked and Muslim citizens of Oberammergau participate in the Play for the first time.
In total, 1,600 adults and 550 children participate in the Play.
There are 110 shows in total and around 520,000 visitors.
The visitors include the American artist Bob Wilson, the German president Roman Herzog, the president of the German Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse, the Bavarian state president Edmund Stoiber and the author Feridun Zaimoglu.
The Entry into Jerusalem
German President Roman Herzog
Edmund Stoiber, Bavarian state president
Bob Wilson, director
Feridun Zaimoglu, author
41st Play year
Once again, the team around Christian Stückl fundamentally revises the Passion Play. The text is edited and the set designer Stefan Hageneier creates a clear visual language with brightly coloured Living Images. Markus Zwink extends the music which is increasingly involved in the Play processes. This year, after great resistance within the village, the show is extended into the evening.
New erection of a movable stage roof based on the drafts of the architects Jabornegg and Palffy over the formerly open stage of the Passion Play Theatre.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German president Christian Wulff, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, archbishop of Munich und Freising, and Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York, are all guests of the Passion Play 2010.
Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel
German president Christian Wulff
Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York
Reinhard Cardinal Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising