Since June 12 – and until October – it’s Passion Play time in Thiersee, like every six years. A total of around 250 residents of the Unterland community sacrifice their free time and holidays for months so that they can continue the oath of their ancestors for “God’s reward”. This year for the first time in a completely renewed staging, which one would not have believed them capable of.
In order to be spared from the fighting in 1799, the people of Thiersee vowed that they would perform a mystery play every year as a thank you. As if by a miracle, they were also spared in the picturesque high valley above Kufstein. The people of Thiersee have remained true to this oath made out of fear and need. However, over time the annual passion play has become a cycle in which it is now played every six years. In the course of this period, the Passion Play will take place from June to October this year, the premiere of which took place on Sunday. In the building, built in 1926, there is a very special architectural masterpiece with the vaulted ceiling consisting of four pointed arches (Stefan arches), which serves as a template for the border of the stage. The stage itself is in the shape of the Star of David. Director Norbert Mladek gives an indication of the connection between Christianity and Judaism. But not only the elaborate stage design is new – the entire Passion Thiersee is simply unrecognizable. It was not only very colorful thanks to a sophisticated lighting design, but also modern in content, understandable and extremely family-friendly. Although one cannot claim that its deeper meaning – not to be a theater but a mystery play – has not been lost. The almost 100-year-old text has been replaced by the new version by the South Tyrolean writer Toni Bernhart. Over the course of the 150-minute production, Bernhart’s text enters into a symbiosis with the music composed by Josef Pirchmoser, which is performed by 36 musicians and the 48-voice choir the stage in larger and smaller roles. It is surprising to note that more than half are children and young people. In 2016 there were still two Jesus who played alternately, this year there are three. Christian Juffinger plays the role of the “human” Savior until his death on the cross, his cousin Michael Juffinger plays the divine, risen Christ, and Leo Lamprecht (14) very convincingly plays the “difficult” child Jesus. Worth mentioning in this production is the part of the New Testament in which Jesus is beaten, tortured and nailed to the cross. This part is often portrayed in an almost voyeuristic and very brutal way in the drama. The plot goes far beyond the crucifixion. There is no brutality here, the violence is illustrated by blood-red stage lights and the whiplashes by strobe flashes. A blessing, especially in times like these, when we are constantly receiving images of the real cruelty of war. Evil has many faces and is a central subject of religious and cultural studies. However, the book of books does not speak about a general, abstract evil, but personifies it and calls it by name: Satan. And this is part of the production in two versions and is almost omnipresent in the foreground and background. who not only promises “eternal life”, but also implements it. The final scene is touching, in which old and young Thierseers of both sexes weave a net between the pointed arches of the stage with red ropes, the red color of which makes clear: “I died for you, so that you can live!”