For close to 400 years the villagers of Oberammergau in Bavaria have, every 10 years, put on a performance re-enacting the Passion of Christ. This has grown and changed over time with more and more people hearing about and coming to see the performances. The play itself is now performed over 100 times between May and early October with over 5000 audience members attending each performance.
Due to the growing of audiences over the years there have been a number of changes involving the stage, the music as well as updating of the play itself. Originally the play took place in the parish church which soon proved to be too small as more and more people showed up for the performances, so the re-enactment was moved to the Church graveyard, which also very quickly became too small. The town then decided to use a nearby field which entailed building a new stage each year. This also, became unsuitable and by the end of the 19th century a new permanent stage was built that included seating for approximately 4000 audience members, which has now been renovated and the venue now has comfortable seating for more than 5000 visitors, it also has underfloor heating, modern toilet facilities and is wheelchair accessible.
The original music for the Passion Play was composed by Rochus Dedler a composer from Oberammergau whose music has continuously been improved over the years with the orchestra being expanded and the number of vocalists increased until a sizable choir has been achieved. Only when Professor Eugen Papst professionally revised Dedler’s music in 1950 did the continuous changes end.
Oberammergau is very firm about adhering to an unceasing policy of ever-evolving stage scenery, text and music.