THEATRE PERFORMANCES IN EUROPE
In the summer
of 2000, Jon Carrow and I made a special trip to the tiny German
village of Oberammergau to see the Passion Play which has been
performed there faithfully every year since the 15th century.
As the "Black
Death" swept across Europe many people in the tiny mountain
village of Oberammergau fell victim to the plague.
in council, made a solemn vow to God that should they be spared
from further deaths, they would commemorate this salvation by
performing the Passion of Christ every ten years thereafter.
people died, and the villagers kept their sacred oath. They erected
a platform stage in the village churchyard, over the graves of
their departed. The village priest wrote a script, with some help
from monks in the nearby Ettelsburg Abbey, and the tradition began.
The play has been presented ever ten years since, with the exception
of some war years. Later, a permanent outdoor theatre was built
when the production became too elaborate for the cemetery platform.
play runs from Spring to Autumn, 100 performances. In 2010 we
returned to Obberammergau. For the first time that year, the play
began in the afternoon, there was a break for dinner, and the
performance resumed in the evening -- with lighting effects.
is not far from the Wagner Festspielhaus, and I expect that the
sophisticated direction, costumes and sets of the Wagner performances
have had an influence on the slow majesty of the Bayreuth productions.
Some 350 amateurs of all ages - who must be residents of the town
- take part. This time we were fortunate enough to have 8th row
seats in an audience of 8,000.
began in mid-afternoon with pleasant mountain breezes, and after
a break for dinner continued until close to midnight when, bundled
against the chill, we came to the Crucifixion and finally, the
Resurrection. We had an English translation to follow, but the
action was clear without all the dialogue. A choir of 50 and a
symphony orchestra, supported a cast of some 300 people. Camels,
sheep, doves and horses also appeared. It was a moving, beautiful
and inspiring event.
was reverent, skilled, and quite sophisticated. Performed against
a classic gray set of arches and stairs, the cast is said to be
some 360 people, including children, and with the addition of
horses, camels and pigeons.
ARENA DI VERONA
Then, from the sacred
to the profane: On the following evening we were in Italy,
where we attended a performance of Bizet’s Carmen in the
ancient Arena di Verona. With long-advance planning, Jon managed
to get second-row seats in an audience of some 18,000 people.
The evening was balmy and the acoustics perfect. The cast, again
about 300, and the large orchestra were both superb. Once more,
spectacle, with animals and much Spanish dancing. The performance
in the Arena di Verona