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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, July 2010.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
THE OBERAMMGAU PASSION-PLAY 2010!
Jesus' Last Week on Earth--the Passion of the Christ--Is Recreated in the Bavarian Alps Every Ten Years!
A New Look for Oberammergau: Passion-Play 2000 With New Sets & Costumes
Robert Wilson's Oberammergau Installation: A New Vision of The Stations of the Cross
Report on the Decadal-Production, running from 15 May to 3 October 2010
Jesus' Last Week on Earth--the Passion of the Christ--Is Recreated in the Bavarian Alps Every Ten Years!
In Bavarian Oberammergau, the hills are alive with the sound of music, but it's not Julie Andrews singing about the Salzburg Alps!
No, indeed not. Instead, it's the Born-in-Oberammergau Citizens who are singing about the Last Week of Christ's Life, culminating in His Crucifixion on a cruel Roman Cross! This is the now-world-famous Oberammergau Passion-Play.
Your Reporter has been attending this amazing show every ten years, since 1960. After Germany's Defeat in 1945, it was revived in 1950, but I was then a Senior at UC/Berkeley, with no idea that I'd be teaching in Europe some six years later. In fact, even before the 1960 performances, I was teaching in Oberammergau for the University of Maryland Overseas. At the US Army Intelligence-School--but that's another story…
As few readers of this column will have book-marked my report of ten years previous--also in keeping with our current efforts to Conserve-Energy to protect an ever-warming Planet--I'd like to begin this report by recycling what I wrote ten years ago, followed by comments on how this astonishing staging has been even more improved.
Plus some comments on the Excellent-Adventure of getting to Oberammergau when the Deutsche-Bahn rail-lines failed to function & trying to return to Munich, when the last train had already departed from Murnau--where I also once taught US Army Personnel for the University of Maryland Overseas…
A New Look for Oberammergau: Passion-Play 2000 With New Sets & Costumes
America has its own Passion-Plays--the most notable having been that established in Spearfish, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This was actually a kind of European import, inspired by the original Oberammergau Passion-Play.
Unfortunately, Oberammergau and the rest of Germany suddenly come under Nazi dictatorial rule in 1933. The Nazi ruling clique was--privately at least--opposed to orthodox religions.
But, amazingly enough, the Führer, Adolf Hitler, admired the famous centuries-old Oberammergau drama of Jesus Christ's last days on earth. He is reported to have viewed it as an authentic Aryan example of Native Peasant Art & Culture.
So he approved of the special 300-year Jubilee performances in 1934.
These were the last until 1950, for Germany was at war in 1940. Although the sacred play is traditionally only performed at the beginning of each decade, there was another Jubilee in 1984--the 350th anniversary.
After World War II and Germany's defeat, the drama's Nazi approbation and charges of Anti-Semitism by American-Jewish leaders posed problems for its revival.
Even the American playwright Arthur Miller--as well as Elie Wiesel and other Jewish activists--signed Letters of Protest about the text of the play and the way it has been performed in recent decades.
Portrayals of the High Priest and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin--in text and in performance--have been denounced as Anti-Semitic-Stereotypes.
[It's highly unlikely that Arthur Miller--even with his wife, Marilyn Monroe, in tow--actually came to Oberammergau to inspect the performances. Or even that he even read the play-text…]
Beginning with the 1960 performances--when the Passion-Play was still eight hours long--local attempts were made to overcome such objections. Pater Stefan, of nearby Kloster Ettal, had even written a new version, designed to remove the taint of Anti-Semitism. I went to the Monastery to talk with him about it and to read the new text.
His problem--and that of many devout Christians even now--was that the New-Testament accounts of Jesus' final days and Crucifixion are fairly specific--and in agreement. They do make it clear, however, that the Romans, not the Jews, actually executed Him.
But the Gospels do indict the High Priest of the Temple, the Sanhedrin, and the Ruling-Clique in Jerusalem for demanding Jesus' arrest, trial, and death. And for inciting a rabble of common people to echo their demands in the streets of the Holy City.
Nonetheless, it is also quite clear in the Gospels that Jesus and his followers were all Jews themselves. They certainly weren't Christians, as the term came to be understood.
Recent biblical scholarship has even suggested that Jesus may have been a Zealot, the militant group that hoped to drive the Romans out of Judea and recover their homeland. Jesus' violent driving the Money-Changers out of the sacred precincts of the Temple could have been the act of a Zealot.
Both Jesus and the Zealots were appalled by rampant corruption in high places and the profanation of their sacred beliefs. This automatically made Him a danger to the priests, merchants, and politicians collaborating with the Roman Overlords.
Their fears concerned loss of power, influence, and luxury.
Worse, the belief of many ordinary Jews that Jesus was indeed the long-promised Messiah could give Him the support needed to make him actually the earthly King and Defender of the Jews.
That, according to the New-Testament, is why King Herod slaughtered all those innocent babies, trying to ensure that no newly-born Messiah could ever unseat him.
But, in His Teachings, Jesus never indicated an interest in earthly power: "My Kingdom is not of this world."
Even if they had heard this, the Ruling-Clique didn't believe it.
Jesus represented a clear & present danger to their authority and their life-styles. But, from the Gospel accounts, it's clear that he was not a militant, seeking to overthrow Roman rule: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
Nor was Jesus the First-Christian. That was St. Paul, for whom Pauline-Christianity is named.
Jesus was essentially a Reform-Rabbi.
In 1960, the pious citizens of Oberammergau should have renamed their historic religious drama: The Death of a Reform-Rabbi. Arthur Miller might have understood and appreciated that title.
In October, the performances must come to a halt. Oberammergauers have other--if more mundane--work to do!
Christmas is coming, and there will be a brisk trade in the beautiful hand-carved Manger-Scenes, Angels, and other traditional religious images for which the town has been known for centuries.
It will be 2010 before audiences can again see the historic Oberammergau Passion Play--with its new sets and costumes. By then, they won't be so new. But the stunning costumes and the renewed multi-area stage will at least be on display to tourists in the Bavarian Alps during the nine long years before the biblical drama is repeated.
The play--based on Bible accounts of the last five days of Jesus' life--was first performed in 1634, as a village-vow of thanks for being spared from the Black-Plague. Since then, it has been staged with a cast of hundreds of local citizens every decade.
In 1960, many spectators found the eight-hour running-time more of a penance than a revelation. In 1970, the playing-time was reduced to five hours.
Now director Christian Stückl has reworked the drama and added an hour. What's more important, he has sought to present Jesus and his followers as poor but pious Jews. Not as the First-Christians, dressed in handsome robes.
Local designer Stefan Hageneier, working with 12 town seamstresses, has created almost 2,000 costumes for the 18 principals and some 1,540 Oberammergau men, women, and children.
Pontius Pilate, his aides, and his Roman soldiers are dressed in armor and rich red and white fabrics. They represent the powers of Imperial-Rome, as often depicted in historical paintings.
Previous costumes for the Jews--especially for the Temple High Priest and his followers--had been based on medieval artworks. Hageneier--a native of Oberammergau, who also designs for major German theatres--decided it was time for a new look.
The most impressive change is the huge hats for Jewish-Officials, plus bold colors for their costumes. The new hats look like Greek-Orthodox priests' stove-pipe headgear gone wild. They also resemble some fashionable Italian-Renaissance men's hats--but outrageously exaggerated.
Stückl--who, like Hageneier, also works in important German theatres & has now staged a new Jedermann for the Salzburg Festival--tried some changes when he first staged the Passion-Play for Oberammergau in 1990. Then there was a lot of resistance to his ideas, but he says: "I've won their confidence now."
In an important scene, the High-Priest, dressed completely in white, complete with a huge white hat, makes a grand entry. He's sitting in a chair borne aloft by lackeys. Designer Hageneier was not about to make him a "black-hat" villain.
Stückl says he's amazed that he's received letters complaining that this costuming and staging mocks the Pope. But the Pope does appear in St. Peter's in white, borne above the faithful on a throne. The visual similarity is there, and it may be intentional.
Christian Stückl has been intent on subtly underscoring the sincere religious belief--and poverty--of the Jewish people, as opposed to the luxury, greed, and abuse of power by those over them, both Jewish and Roman.
Considering the current power, influence, and apparent wealth of the Vatican--especially in this Holy Year--Stückl may be visually, but subliminally, suggesting a parallel to the biblical pomp & circumstance recorded in the Gospels.
The agonies of Jesus after he has been betrayed and arrested are not down-played in Stückl's staging. The Crown of Thorns is woven of really thorny briars. But the blood is stage-blood.
After Roman soldiers have nailed Jesus to his Cross, he hangs there for some 20 minutes, before being lowered with a long white cloth. The harness which holds him aloft is concealed in his loincloth. The Two Thieves are also crucified on either side of Him, as specified in The Gospels…
For the Millennial production, the 4,700-seat covered auditorium--open at one end--was renovated for $7.5 million. The permanent stage structures were also resurfaced. They include a large proscenium stage-house at the center of the very wide stage and two smaller semi-stages at either side, linked by large arches revealing streets of Old Jerusalem.
Hageneier also designed new tableaux vivants for the proscenium-space.
Traditionally, these Living-Pictures present frozen moments from the Old-Testament and from Jesus' earlier life. The sets for each of these posed scenes were colorful and abstract, painted largely in two-dimensions. The Worship of the Golden Calf was especially effective.
Large crowd-scenes--involving scores of Oberammergauers--were spread out across the very wide open-stage. But important smaller-scale confrontations and intimate scenes were set inside the proscenium-stage. The sets for these--in contrast to the Living-Pictures--were three-dimensional, using a variety of constructual-elements.
From May into October, there will have been well over a hundred performances of the Passion-Play this year. The cast of hundreds has been performing five times a week. Families and friends have been staffing the hotels, shops, and restaurants.
As everyone in the production must be an Oberammergau native--and as the play is produced only every ten years--audiences this summer could well have expected to see pious but unprofessional lay-actors.
The Piety is certainly there. Each morning before the play begins, everyone backstage--including technicians and visiting journalists: your Reporter included--kneels in prayer, asking blessings for a good performance and a richly rewarded audience.
I've now seen the Passion-Play five times over a span of forty years: 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, and this Millennial-Year, 2000! In former years, the acting was not much above the level of dedicated amateurs.
The only scenery-chewing was customarily done by the members of the Sanhedrin, demanding Jesus' arrest and death. They did this so lustily that I could understand why some Jewish critics regarded the play and performances as Anti-Semitic.
[They could have been in a Mel Gibson movie about the Passion of Christ, or was that film about the Passion of Mel Gibson?]
Christian Stückl has changed all that, beginning back in 1990, when he had difficulties with some older players--who had very set ideas on how the characters should be played.
In the past decade, working in several major German theatres, Stückl has matured as a director. He is especially good working with crowds--of which the Passion-Play has a plenitude.
In fact, he has become so skilled in working with folk-themes and Bavarian comedies and dramas of ordinary farming and working people that he has been made Artistic Director of Munich's Volkstheater--or Peoples' Theatre!
Actually, there are now some small theatre-groups in Oberammergau. So they don't have to wait ten years to put on a play. Or go to Munich to see the professionals at work.
The result is a much higher level of performance now. The first half of the current production was a bit routine: just getting through the Gospel preliminaries--before the real horrors began after the luncheon-intermission was over.
In the second half, the players were really seized with the passions involved. Scenes leading up to Christ's Crucifixion were often emotionally powerful--and certainly visually memorable.
Still, anyone playing Jesus has to be a bit of a Masochist, with all the torments the actor has to endure. Including hanging on the Cross so long. This year--2000, that is--Anton Burkhart and Martin Norz shared the agony and the ecstasy of playing this role.
They could give lessons in dignified restraint to those super-pious Holy Week flagellantes in Spain and Mexico!
Many of the spectators--who arrive by car, train, and platoons of tour-buses--do not come, however, for mere spectacle and entertainment. Going to Oberammergau is something of a Religious-Pilgrimage for thousands of Christians.
Half a million people will have seen the drama in the new sets, costumes, and staging--with over 60 per cent of them from the United States!
During the nine years that there is no Passion-Play, hordes of tourists nonetheless still flock to Oberammergau just to see where the play is performed.
But Oberammergau is also a center of woodcarvers of remarkable ability.
It has outstanding Alpine-Scenery, excellent both for summer hikes and winter sports. Its rustic chalet-hotels and restaurants are laden with historic charm and Luftmalerei, or colorful wall-paintings.
In the off-years, tourists line up and pay to see the Passion-Play stage, auditorium, dressing-rooms, props, and costumes. But, when the current production ends in October, everyone will have to wait for 2010 to see the play again.
[When the current 2010 production ends in October, the wait will extend to 2020!]
Every decade that I've been reporting on the Passion-Play, I've always asked why they don't offer some smaller-scaled summer musical production in the other nine years?
A beautiful, but serious, musical offering--in keeping with the character of the theatre--which wouldn't require most of the townspeople to devote themselves to it?
Now this idea is finally being considered, says Christian Stückl.
Oberammergau and not-far-distant Füssen are planning to help each other welcome the increasing numbers of tourists coming to the Bavarian Alps in all four seasons for sports, relaxation, and folk-crafts & culture.
Füssen now has a handsome new musical-theatre for Ludwig the Musical.
Oberammergau could try out a staged-version of Handel's overwhelming oratorio, The Messiah. Why not? It could certainly be something to remember!
Robert Wilson's Oberammergau Installation: A New Vision of The Stations of the Cross
[This was only on-view in AD 2000…]
As an avant-garde complement to the historic but visually renewed Passion-Play, local designer Stefan Hageneier helped theatre-innovator and artist Robert Wilson set up a special light & sound installation behind the Passionspiel Playhouse: "14 Stations."
Inspired by--but not remotely resembling--the 14 Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross, it consists of six small wooden houses with displays inside, plus two larger symbolic Stations. Only one person at a time can look inside the houses and hear the music and sound-effects that Wilson has devised for each symbolic scene.
In one house are two files of Shaker women knitting. St. Veronica wiping Jesus' sweat with her handkerchief is represented in another house by a Shaker woman holding a flat-iron.
In yet another, there are raging red wolves backed by the Alps. This represents Jesus' agony on the Cross.
Fortunately, there is a brochure explaining the correspondences. Old-time Oberammergauers weren't too pleased with this Artistic-Creation, but it was rather hidden behind the theatre. It is scheduled to tour, unlike the actual Passion-Play.
For those who missed both the play and the Stations, Munich's Prestel Verlag has published very handsome books on both, lavishly illustrated. There's even a children's version of the drama of the Passion-Play!
In addition, there's a CD of Rochus Dedler's historic music for the Passion-Play, as well as Markus Zwink's more modern settings. There are also sets of color-postcards of scenes from the drama. As well as sets of color-slides, one of which totals 36 stunning images!
Those who want to check out possible instances of Anti-Semitism can obtain the actual Passion-Play textbook. It is published in two versions. One is in German, but when you turn it over, the English version is in the back. The second version does the same with French and Spanish.
If you want to know more about Oberammergau and its famed Passion Play--or purchase any of the items above--try the website: www.passionspiele2000.de
[Change 2000 to 2010, or try www.oberammergaupassion.com…]
Even revisiting my report for AD 2000, I don't have Total-Recall of how all aspects of the Passion-Play functioned back then. But there are now some obvious Optical-Improvements worth mentioning.
Traditionally, the large white-robed Chorus would slowly enter from both sides of the extremely wide stage, meeting in the center, forming a White-Wall of Singer-Commentators. Then they would all--just as slowly--file off to the side-wings. This was very dignified, but it slowed-up an already long production.
Now, they still often form the White-Wall, but entrances are more artfully Choreographed, with Chorus-members entering in from the side-stages & down their steps to the Main-Stage. In effect, they are more often integrated into the actual Passion, rather than merely being Commentators.
Crowd-Management seems much more orchestrated, as well.
Where they keep all those hordes of Jerusalemites backstage--as well as getting them into & out of Period-Costumes swiftly--must be a mystery to many spectators.
When the stage is swarming with eager followers of Jesus, as he enters into Jerusalem on a Donkey--there are other livestock in the show, as well!--you may well wonder who is back at the Hotels & Inns, preparing your Post-Show Dinner?
The entire town seems to be On-Stage at some moments!
Although the Austrian village of Erl also has a Passion-Play, going back over the centuries--with a 20th century Passion-Theatre as well--and America has had its imitations, there is surely no town or village anywhere in the world that can match Oberammergau for the power, professionalism, & quality of its home-grown play-production!
This year's Jesus is played on alternating days by Frederik Mayet--who is also the Passion Play's Press-Officer--and Andreas Richter, whose daytime job is Psychologist.
The Double-Casting continues, with Peter played by Jonas Konsek & Maximilian Stöger; Judas by Carsten Lück & Martin Norz, & John by Benedikt Geisenhof & Martin Schuster.
[Obviously, the Blessed Virgin Mary--The Mother of God, after all!--has to be played by a real live Virgin Oberammergau-born girl. There have been Whispers from the Past that this was not always the case: Chaste when initially cast, but chased in the interim, before the actual performances began…]
This year's Marys--both the BVM & Mary Magdalene are Very-Important in this Traditional-Narrative--are Ursula Burkhart & Andrea Hecht, with Barbara Dobner & Eva-Maria Reiser as the Magdalenes.
St. Veronica--she who wipes the sweat with her Holy-Handkerchief from Jesus' Brow, as he staggers under the weight of the Cross--is piously played by both Elisabeth Aurhammer & Dominika Killer. [Yes, that's her real name…]
For decades, Passion-Play audiences sat on benches under the open skies. Nor were the actors protected from the elements either. Nestled high up in the Bavarian Alps, Oberammergau is not always sunny: storms can rage out of nowhere, even in High Summer.
Even when the large auditorium was constructed, with the huge audience covered, the wide, wide stage was still open to the Heavens. It still is today, when platoons of spectators file into the auditorium.
But what the audiences do not see--unless a storm comes up--is an immense artfully-designed clear plastic-cover, mounted on tracks that run from behind the festival-theatre along the sides of the building.
If it begins to rain, this cover silently slides up, over, & into place over the open stage…
Because the Oberammergau Passion-Play on-stage is such an extended, busy, bustling Panorama--which I had not seen for ten long years--I really didn't notice that the individual characterizations had been deepened in rehearsals with director Christian Stückl.
For instance, Judas is not simply a venal rat who betrays his Dearest-Friend & Potential-Saviour for Thirty Pieces of Silver. No, indeed! Judas is a very complicated, confused, conflicted man, in Stückl's vision of the character.
Even in the over-simplified Gospel-Accounts, this may be sensed. The very fact that Jesus tells Judas to go & do what he has to do, suggests--as some biblical-scholars have noted--that this was Ordained: that it was necessary for this Betrayal to set in motion the Passion that was to follow.
So Judas was an essential part of the Divine-Plan…
But I really wouldn't have noticed all these & other character-subtleties--ex post facto--had I not paid close attention to the 2010 DVD: Die Oberammergauer Leidenschaft.
This is actually a dual-video: There are first some 44 minutes of Stückl brain-storming new interpretations & working with the cast in rehearsals, plus performance-scenes, the pre-season excitements of waiting for the posting of the actual cast, & other aspects of Passion-Play-dominated Life in Oberammergau.
The second half of the DVD is perhaps even more unusual, as it features a pre-season Trip to the Holy Land by cast-principals & others involved in the production: Bayerische Passion im Heiligen Land.
What most American-Christians still regard as The Holy Land is now mostly Israel. But the Passionate-Players do visit some sites in neighboring Jordan, where I recently photographed that Historic Church, including the Tree that the Polish-Pope personally planted!
Made by Bayerische Rundfunk/TV, this video also is clocked at 44 minutes, though there is a fair amount of digital-camera picture-taking & lusty eating & drinking on view.
But Mark Twain would have loved watching the Oberammergauers trooping through all the Holy-Places that various religions have been fighting over for almost two-thousand years. No Souvenirs on sale in the Holy-Sanctuaries, but just outside: they seem mostly Arab headware anyway…
In the first video on the disk, Stückl makes the important point that he is now interested in the Political-Jesus, bringing this aspect to the fore in the 2010 production!
On the Holy-Land jaunt, the company was closely accompanied, monitored, & ministered-to by a special representative from the Vatican, concerned with Spiritual-Education. He didn't seem as enthusiastic as Stückl about Jesus as a Political-Trouble-Maker.
But it's all there in the Gospels, after all.
If he stirs the Jewish common-folk up--as with His Beatitudes, in the so-called Sermon on the Mount--that means trouble not only for the Temple-Priests & Money-Changers, but also for their Roman-Overlords!
The Romans do not need more trouble in Judea: those Jews were always a difficult people to govern: always arguing, disputing…
But Pontius Pilate "finds no Fault in this man" & publicly washes his hands of the entire affair…
But the Common-Rabble--egged-on by the Temple-Priests--demand Jesus' Death. Only the Romans, however, can execute Criminals & Trouble-Makers on the Cross.
So the Romans Did It, not the Jews!
[At midnight, during Vatican II, my old friend Marvin Konigsberg called me: "Glenn, we're off the hook!"
["Marvin! It's Midnight! Why are you calling so late? Who's off the hook? Why?"
["The Jews! The Pope says we didn't do it! The Romans did!"]
Actually, although the Jews could not Crucify, they could stone to death such Unfortunates as The Woman Taken in Adultery. Jesus rebuked them famously with: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!"
[Devout students of the Old-Testament may have noticed that Stoning a Naughty Man is never mentioned: the Woman is always at-fault. This goes back to Adam, who blamed Eve for tempting him & she blamed the Snake…]
In the Leidenschaft DVD, concerned Jews--including some from the American-Jewish-Committee--come to Obergammergau to express their worries about Anti-Semitism in the Passion-Play text & performances.
But there will always be a Problem--no matter how the text is revised--because it is based on Gospel-Accounts which outline the Passion as now presented on-stage.
Roman-Catholics have believed this for centuries, followed later by Lutherans & other brands of Christians, for whom the Gospels are virtually Articles of Faith.
The fact that the Four-Gospels were certainly not written by the Four-Evangelists whose names they bear, but perhaps a century or so after Christ's Death--by unknown writers who never saw the Living-Christ--presents an Awkward-Complication…
But that has never stood in the way of True-Belief!
In any case, for Believers--or just lovers of Great-Theatre--Leidenschaft is a DVD to own! As is the CD of the soaring music & songs for the Passion-Play, both by Rochus Dedler & Markus Zwink.! Both those disks & the beautiful Prestel-Verlag book of the production can be ordered online.
In previous incarnations of the Passion-Play there have always been a handsome variety of press-production-photos: black & white prints or color-slides.
Unfortunately, this Year of Our Lord, 2010, the few online press-photos are all cluttered Crowd-Scenes: not very interesting or Optically-Outstanding, alas…
So I have taken the Liberty of borrowing some elements of the dazzling photos in the Prestel-Verlag book--THE PASSION PLAY 2010 OBERAMMERGAU--to give a more impressive idea of how the production really looks.
These highly dramatic photos were made by Brigitte Maria Mayer, who must have excellent cameras & certainly had remarkable subjects to photograph!
Even if you are not a Christian, this is book well worth owning & sharing! Order it online from the O'gau website. It is, in fact, "Edited by the Community of Oberammergau."
As Prestel also has offices in New York, it may even be available in some Manhattan bookstores, or can be easily ordered. Handsome Prestel & Taschen books also often end-up on the counters of the Strand-Bookstore, down on East 13th Street in Greenwich Village.
I bought my copies of all these treasures--no Freebies for the Press, alas--in the Passion-Play's shop, then dragged them all over Europe to other fests, as mailing them would have cost more than actually buying them did.
There's no more Drucksache cheap-rate for Printed-Media. You have to use DHL: Deutsche Handels Lieferung…
Way back in 1960, I had a Volkswagen Blue-Beetle, so it was no problem to drive back to Munich, where I was then billeted, even after eight-hours of Passion-Play.
In later decades, with the production clocking only five hours, I could take the train from Munich to Murnau, changing to a Murnau-Oberammergau Pendel-Zug.
After the play, I'd take the two trains back, even when Christian Stückl had added an hour to the running-time.
But this time no one told me that the production would finish in the very late evening. That there would be no way to make connections with Munich in Murnau…
Already in Munich for the annual summer Opera-Festival, I had invited Nathan Baer--a remarkable, but as yet Undiscovered American Bass-Baritone--to come with me to Oberammergau for this Unparalleled-Experience.
Nathan had already been engaged to help create a new Contemporary-Opera in August in a small Umbrian Hill-Town, Citta della Pieve. But his arrival by plane in Frankfurt was his first experience of the New/Old Europe
When he turned up unannounced early one morning at my Hotel in Munich I wasn't there--having gone off to Cologne to photograph the Cathedral for Infotography™--but, on my return, I was treated to a torrent of Impressions, especially about the differences between Modern Germany & infrastructure-challenged New York.
The next morning we went early to Munich's Hauptbahnof, only to discover that there would be no Through-Train to Murnau, where we'd have to change for the local-train to Oberammergau. Something was wrong with the electric-circuitry…
So we took a train to Weilheim, where we had to find the local bus that was going on to our next small-town stop on this awkward Pilgrimage to the Passion-Play.
Among the clutter of local buses--each going to a different destination--we had to ask & ask to find the one that would take us onward. But we did see a lot of the beautiful Bavarian Countryside. Agribusiness has not yet taken-over & the Harvest looks good for this Fall!
I didn't realize the actual play would begin later than I remembered, nor that it would end so late in the evening. But I assumed--as in past decades--that the Oberammergau-Murnau & the Murnau-Munich trains would run on schedule & return us to Hotel Luitpold in Munich before dawn…
I couldn't even imagine finding all those local buses in reverse.
In the event, there was a train to Murnau waiting in the Obergammergau Bahnhof.
As we were almost the only people on it, I should have known something was amiss: that we should have booked hotel-rooms for the night in Oberammergau. Unfortunately, they had already been booked weeks before…
Arriving in Murnau on a desolate platform--all the platforms are being rebuilt--we found we'd missed the last train to Munich: the next would be 5:30 in the morning.
Worse, it was cold & raining & the station-building had already closed at 6 pm. There was no place to take shelter & no place anywhere in the vicinity where one might be able to pass the night.
So Nathan & I entertained each other with opera & theatre tales through the long cold night.
What surprised me--considering German attention to details like Security--was that not once during that dark night did a police-car even once drive by to check if anyone had broken into the station. The Murnau Bahnhof is not in the center of the city, but on its fringe…
To my amused surprise, Nathan Baer has been posting a Blog about his Excellent-Adventures on his first-time-in-Europe--including our Long Night in Murnau, home to the interesting 20th century painter, Gabriele Munter, whose house is graced by a wooden staircase decorated by her then-lover, Vassily Kandinsky!
Someone printed-out Nathan's report from the Internet for me, but it has no web-address for the Blog, even though Nathan has provided www's for almost everything else he mentions in the Blog. Try his Code-Name: CYCLESINGSLEEP. That's what he does: he Cycles, Sings, & Sleeps…
But remember the name: NATHAN BAER! He should be singing soon at an Opera-House near you!
Currently, he is studying the role of Hagen, in Richard Wagner's RING Cycle. I wanted to take him to Bayreuth with me, hoping the Festival-Intendant Katharina Wagner would have the time to hear this wonderful voice & recognize a distinctive Performance-Personality…
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