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Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the…

Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Passion Play

by James Shapiro

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A history of the world's longest running and most famous passion play. The author examines the background of the play in depth, and visits with individuals in the village that perform in the play, and also visits with individuals who have problems with perceptions of anti-Semitism in the script. The author writes with lucid prose, weaving the story in a way that attempts to take account of all sides, rather than jumping with both feet into the fray. As a Jew, he has problems with the play, but attempts to understand the village and the attempts in recent years to reform the play to conform to the desire of interfaith alliances, while retaining the spirit of the gospels. A good introduction to a thorny subject; the only downside is the author's false presentation of the enlightenment as a period of regimented thinking and book burning. This cost the book an entire star. ( )
  Devil_llama | Sep 24, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375409262, Hardcover)

In 1633, the residents of the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau made a vow that, if they were spared from a plague that was sweeping the countryside, they would perform a Passion play in perpetuity. Legend has it that no more villagers died; and the town has famously kept its vow. Every decade for centuries, the people of Oberammergau have presented their play. As described by theatrical historian James Shapiro, Oberammergau is a fascinating cultural, commercial, and religious saga. The book is sharpest in its analysis of the villagers' ambivalent efforts to rid their play of anti-Semitism. (Hitler, who attended the play twice, praised its convincing portrayal of "the menace of Jewry.") Recent revisions in the play's text, as well as casting and costume changes, have restored an historically accurate, Hebrew quality to Jesus and the other major characters in the drama. James Shapiro, who spent a great deal of time in the village gathering material for this book, observes in detail the anxieties and scandals that attended these changes--as well as the empathy and understanding that they occasioned. --Michael Joseph Gross

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A fascinating portrait of a German village and the millennial production of its controversial Passion play, which has been staged once in each decade since 1634. In the summer of 2000, a half-million spectators from around the world will once again descend upon the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau, which despite wars, military occupation, religious censorship, and threats of boycott, has continued to honor its ancestral vow to stage the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus once every ten years. In this wide-ranging cultural history, James Shapiro discusses the traditions and troubles of Oberammergau, from the legendary origins of its Passion play in the seventeenth century to the villagers' current--and ambivalent--efforts to rid their play of anti-Semitism, a charge that has stuck ever since Adolf Hitler praised its portrayal of "the whole muck and mire of Jewry." Shapiro illuminates the ways in which the Oberammergau Passion play has become a litmus test of tradition, interfaith dialogue, and the role of spectacle in reawakening belief. His book also reveals how Oberammergau has become a remarkable prism through which we can view divergent ways of thinking about culture, commerce, and religion.… (more)

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