Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oberammergau Passion Play 2010 Part 2

Other interesting points about the passion play:  the script.  For a first-person view of the script from the directors for this season's play, click here.  The viewpoint of the director, Christian Stückl, is very interesting. 

Passion plays generally limit their text to the time period between Jesus' cleansing of the temple through his death and resurrection.  This is the pattern that the Oberammergau play has followed over the centuries. However, the village is proud to point out that the uniqueness of their play is that the script is constantly evolving rather than remaining static or tied to one point of view.   It is said that the early versions of the play were written in rhyming verse. 

The oldest manuscript of the Oberammergau Passion play in existence originates from 1662.  In the Oberammergau museum.
It was not until 1810 that a monk from the nearby Ettal monastery wrote a prose version, which was then adapted in 1860 by the parish priest, Josef Alois Daisenberger.  Daisenberger's adaptation forms the basis of the play now performed.  The music used now was also composed in 1820 by an Oberammergau villager, Rochus Dedler.  Adaptations were made from that to suit this season's play. 

Costumes used in the Rosner script 
Historically, passion plays performed throughout Europe began as an expression of faith and rapidly became "people's theatre" or "popular theatre," with plenty of allegory, humor and crowd-pleasing spectacle taking place (such as Judas being accompanied to hell by roaring devils, or falling down dead and spilling his innards, which were represented by sausages spewing out to the audience).  This approach was banned during the Enlightenment.  In 1977, the village of Oberammergau held test performances of the Rosner script of the passion play.  The Rosner Experiment, as it was called, staged a revised version of the play written by the Benedictine monk Ferdinand Rosner (1709-1778), as an alternative to the Weis/Daisenberger script.  The experiment was preceded by decades of discussions on the problems of how to use this text.  The main different the Daisenberger text lies in the fact that in the Rosner version allegoric figures play a key role.  Lucifer and the Demon Spirits symbolize human vices, which ultimately bear the responsibility for the death of Christ on the cross.  The villagers voted on their preference by referendum and ultimately chose to stay with the Daisenberger script.

Concern over anti-Semitism within the script caused the village to look at revising the script further.  Stückl , particularly, has been very concerned over removing anti-Jewish elements from the play, studying the issue long before he became director of the project.  Since taking over the directorship in 1990, he has step by step removed elements which served the stereotype of the evil Jews who crucified Christ.  He and Otto Hüber, among others, have consulted with Jewish rabbis and leaders, as well as consulting with Catholic theologians, in order to present an accurate, yet fair, script that focuses on the person of Jesus and the complex society he lived in.  They have an ongoing dialogue with, and exploration of, the Biblical text, what it meant 2000 years ago and what it means today.  Stückl told me that the more he studied the scriptures, the more he was drawn to the person of Jesus and his message.  He has moved from presenting Jesus as a revolutionary (in 1990) to the current production that seeks to show more of who Jesus was and what he stood for, and not focus only on his suffering and death, as is traditional.  This year's Jesus is rooted in his Jewishness, praying the "Shema Israel" after driving the merchants fromt he temple.  His love for man and concern for justice is also seen by the inclusion of large portions of earlier gospel portions into the passion week (for example, large portions of the Sermon on the Mount given while he is in the temple).  In the words of Stückl:  "The life of Jesus cannot be reduced merely to his suffering. First and foremost, our concern must be for the teachings of that young man from Nazareth, on his challenge to us which in the Greek of St. Matthew's Gospel reads "Metanoeite", translated as "Rethink!". Jesus expressed this demand of a radical rethink most explicitly in his Sermon on the Mount. It shows clearly that there is no higher commandment in his eyes than that of love, love for God and for human beings."

Oberammergau Passion Play Time Line
First performance of the Passion Play in Oberammergau.
Schedule changes to a ten-year cycle in years ending with zero.
New Passio Nova script by the Benedictine monk Ferdinand Rosner (1709-1778). Rossner's text becomes a model for other Bavarian passion plays.
Two performances for an audience of 14,000.
A royal edict forbids all passion plays in Bavaria, including Oberammergau.
The Napoleonic Wars reduce play attendance to 3,000 - with a loss of 205 guilders.
The 1810 performance is delayed by a year and uses a revised script by the monk Othmar Weis.
King Ludwig I allows the play only under the condition that it be moved from the church graveyard to a new 5,00-seat theater north of town. Ten performances draw only 13,000 spectators.
French and English media report on the Oberammergau play for the first time.
Joseph Alois Daisenberger makes a major revision of the script.
40,000 spectators see the play, including Crown Prince Edward of England.
174,000 guests from many lands see the play in a new covered theater with 4,200 seats.
WWI delays the play by two years.
A special production marks the 300th anniversary of the play. Hitler praises the play as important for the Reich.
WWII prevents any production in Oberammergau.
This year’s 480,000 visitors include Germany's first Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Allied leader Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Despite growing criticism of the play's anti-Semitic elements, only minor changes are made.
American Jews boycott the play to protest the lack of revisions.
The town is split over reforms, but only minor changes are made to the play's anti-Jewish text.
The 350th anniversary performance.
The 25-year-old woodsculptor Christian Stückl is chosen to direct the 1990 play.
A growing battle over anti-Semitism leads to only limited changes.
This year, under director Christian Stückl, marks the biggest revision of the script since 1860. Some 520,000 guests see the play.
The 41st production year incorporates more changes to reduce anti-Judaism in the play.

No comments:

Post a Comment