Passion plays have been an essential part of the Tyrolean cultural landscape since the Middle Ages.
They were often the result of vows. As a “border town” Erl suffered greatly throughout its history from repeated battles.
Since 1613 Passion plays and Easter performances have been spreading the Christian message of peace.
The roots of the Erl Passion can be traced back to an Easter performance by the master singer Sebastian Wild from Augsburg, which is attested by the oldest script from the year 1613.
In the words of the composer the music of Cesar Bresgen, which was played between 1979 and 2002, is, “…a bridge between the stage and the audience.” The vocal arrangements were rooted for the most part in traditions of the Alps, stopping just short of quoting from folk songs. All of the melodies were new creations. More independent, and following the dramatic action were the parts played by the organ and wind instruments.
The music of Cesar Bresgen for organ, choir and wind instruments was an essential element of the meditative play.
In previous years church songs and church music was played during the Passion plays in Erl.
Lois Egg created the sets in 1959. At that time, he was the properties manager and set designer for the Burgtheater in Vienna, and had created sets for many playhouses and opera houses throughout the world. He was the Director of the master’s class at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Lois Egg also wrote a dissertation on Passion plays. The set design in the Passion playhouse is his work as well.
The play ran mornings and evenings from 1959 through 1973, from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., and from 3:30 p.m. until 5:15 p.m. Since 1979 the Passion plays have been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, from May to October.
Between Passion play years first rate orchestral concerts were, and continue to be held in the Passion playhouse.
Since 1998 operas and orchestras have been a part of the Tyrol Festival in Erl. General Director: Prof. Dr. Gustav Kuhn.