Outside The Enclosure.
The Stage And Curtain Of 189o.
" How clearly on my inner sense are borne The fresh fair beauty of the mountain morn, And cries of flocks afar, and, mixed with these, The green delightful tumult of the trees. The birds that o'er us from the upper day Threw flitting shade, and went their airy way,- The bright-robed chorus and the silent throng, And that first burst and sanctity of song!"
Among those who were then behind the scenes, awaiting their duties for the day, was the daughter of Biirgermeister Lang, who was to assume the part of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. No better choice could have been made. Before I knew who she was, or even that she would appear in the Passion Play at all, I was impressed with her sweet, intelligent face and pleasant voice, as she emerged from the doorway of her father's house, and paused to answer, in his place, a few important questions. In 1880 this difficult part was not well taken; but in 1890 its rendition was most satisfactory. Every scene in which the young impersonator of that sacred character appeared still lingers in my memory among the ineffaceable recollections of the Play.
Jesus And The Rich Young Man.
It is a remarkable fact that the Virgin in the Passion Play is, from first to last, represented only as a woman, - the loving, tender, broken-hearted Mother of Jesus. This is the more remarkable because these Bavarian peasants are devout Roman Catholics; but the theological presentation of Mary would of course be out of place in this portrayal of her earthly life, and hence, with admirable good judgment it has been omitted from the drama. Another attractive character in the drama was the St. John. In this, too, there was great improvement over the performance of 1880. True, the role of the beloved disciple was not very prominent, but everything he said or did was admirably rendered. His great affection for his Master; his grief at the appalling tragedy, which as a faithful friend and follower he must behold; above all, his tenderness to Mary, when he called her "Mother," obeying thus the thrilling injunction of Him who hung upon the Cross; all these were beautiful expressions at once of a delicate nature and a loving heart.
The Stage Of 1880.
"I venture to make a prophecy," whispered a friend during one of these scenes: "Ten years from now, this young St. John will be selected for the character of Christ."
Another memorable face among the personators at Ober-Ammergau was that of Peter. Apparently, no one could look the character more perfectly than did the worthy peasant who assumed that part. Clad in his Oriental mantle, as he stood in the open air, with the sunlight falling on his silvery hair and beard, he seemed a living reproduction of Peter, as painted by so many artists in the history of Christianity.
Since, therefore, in addition to his looks, he is a faithful and intelligent actor, it is not strange that the festival of 1890 marked the fourth time, that, at intervals of ten years, he has been selected for the part. It was precisely eight o'clock-when a cannon-shot woke the echoes in the neighboring mountains. It was the signal for the drama to begin. As in an ordinary theatre, the leader of the orchestra raised his baton, and the first strains of a solemn overture floated out upon the quiet air. This was the visible prelude to the Play; yet there was one unseen by us, for, during the performance of the overture, all the principal actors were assembled behind the curtain, together with their pastor, engaged in silent prayer.
The music of the Passion Play as now performed was written by an Ober-Ammergau schoolmaster. He was a man of remark-able musical ability, and many of the chorals in his composition are dignified and noble, while, as a whole, the music of the drama is in perfect harmony with the simple, sublime, and pathetic scenes which it accompanies.