The Oberammergau Passionsspiele and Tragic ‘Play’ at Fin-de-Siècle
Despite its ban in England, sacred drama remained a popular genre on the Catholic European mainland. The most famous of the European Passion plays in the Victorian period was the Oberammergau Passionsspiele, which had been staged every ten years since 1634. The large body of accounts, diaries, and newspaper reports written by members of British expeditions to Oberammergau tell us much about what it meant for sacred drama to be performed rather than simply read. Whilst many commentators critiqued the Passionsspiele in the terms that have become familiar throughout this study (including its Catholic ‘materialism’, and the betrayal of a sacred ‘Ideal’ by the flawed bodies of the all-too-human actors), others saw nothing less than a harbinger of renewal for the English stage if it could only foreground ‘genuine folk art’ in the way that Bavaria had done.
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