Germany's 400-year-old Oberammergau Passion Play delayed due to Covid-19

Author
CBA,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Apr 2020, 4:02PM
Photo / NY Times

Germany's 400-year-old Oberammergau Passion Play delayed due to Covid-19

Author
CBA,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Apr 2020, 4:02PM

A once-a-decade performance of a 400-year-old Passion Play has been delayed due to the Coronavirus lockdown. 

In 1633, the black plague threatened the German town of Oberammergau. Villagers prayed to God to spare them and, in return, promised to reenact the story of Jesus' death, and resurrection - every decade. 

The villagers kept to their word and nearly every decade have put on the performance which now attracts thousands of people from across the world, including New Zealanders. 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant the play has been postponed until 2022.

Petra Bagust spoke to actor Frederik Mayet who plays Jesus. 

"I didn't think of playing Jesus so when it was announced I was very overwhelmed," Mayet said. 

"There was a little bit of pressure put on my shoulders because suddenly everyone knows you."

Only those born in the village, or have lived in Oberammergau for more than 20 years, are able to perform in the play. The cast rehearses six evenings a week.

"It is really important for everyone in Oberammergau. Everyone is so proud of being part of this play," he said. 

Mayet said it was hard to continue with rehearsals as they watched Coronavirus take hold of northern Italy which is two and a half hours drive from the village. 

Instead of getting together as a cast of thousands, they broke down into little groups before the decision was made to call off the production. 

This is not the first time the play has been postponed. In 1770, all passion plays were banned by the order of the Ecclesiastical Council of the Elector. The World Wars also interrupted the performances.

Ruth Bucknell, from Palmerston North, has been to the village of Oberammergau four times and watched the play twice - after hearing about the passion play year's ago as a high school student. 

"It's an absolute fairytale," Bucknell said. 

Despite it being a six-hour play in a foreign language, Bucknell said the music, live animals and costumes were amazing.

"It took a minute or two to get into the swing of it but if you know the bible story you can exactly work out what they are saying even if it's in German."