School dropout, wood sculptor, theater director: Christian Stückl, 60, on his stage in Oberammergau
Photo: Finn Winkler
The plague once made Oberammergau the site of the Passion Play. Today they are a million dollar business. But whether they can take place again this May is uncertain. A meeting with Christian Stückl, the director.
Mith epidemics they know their way around in Oberammergau. Almost 400 years ago, the plague raged in the remote town in the Bavarian Alps. When the residents ran out of ideas, they made an offer to the Lord God: they would reenact the story of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection every ten years, provided they were spared further deaths. It is doubtful whether the disease lost its horror because of this. In any case, the people of Oberammergau turned their vow into a brilliant business. There are Passion Plays in many places, none comes close to this one: a global trademark, worth its weight in gold for tourism, and by far the largest source of income for the community.
Christian Stückl should ensure that it stays that way. He is the director in Oberammergau, that’s the official name here, i.e. the director of this uniquely idiosyncratic mixture of joy in playing, business acumen, customs and popular piety, for which almost half the city spends hours every day from May to October in apostolic, Egyptian, Pharisee or Roman costumes stand on the stage, sing in the passion choir or play music in the orchestra. The other half entertains the guests, usually very many from America, where big shows are particularly popular. Admission tickets cost between 30 and 180 euros, and arrangements with hotel accommodation are particularly profitable. Most recently, 510,000 paying viewers came. Oberammergau only has 5500 inhabitants.