The Leader Of The Chorus.
At length, the preliminary music being concluded, a company of twenty-four persons made their appearance, and moved with slow and dignified steps across the stage, to stand there in a slightly curving line. They represented a company of guardian spirits, who through the entire Play were to perform the duty of the old Greek Chorus in the Athenian drama; that is to say, their part was to announce and to explain its various scenes and tableaux, as well as to impress upon the audience their moral lesson.
Their dress was simple but imposing, like their theme.
Over long white tunics, girdled at the waist, were draped mantles of exquisite color, bordered with silver braid. Like all the costumes used in the Passion Play, these must be made of fine material, for daylight makes the use of tinsel and cheap fabrics quite impossible. There are in the Passion Play eighteen acts and twenty-five tableaux, before and after each of which the Chorus sings. These tableaux are regarded as no less essential features of the drama than the acts themselves; their object being to explain to the spectator the Divine Plan of Redemption, as accepted and implicitly believed in by the villagers.
In Gethsemane. (Hoffmann)
It will be seen, then, that the Passion Play not only represents the actual events connected with Christ's life, but also calls to mind the types and prophecies of those events supposed to be revealed in the Old Testament. Accordingly, when the choristers have sung a few explanatory stanzas, they fall back gracefully to the right and left, while the curtain rises to reveal the tableau, which, it is thought, typifies the act that is to follow. Hence, the symbolic groups, dramatic scenes, and sacred songs glide one into another all day long without the slightest interruption.
Tableau Of Joseph And His Brethren.
Tableau Of Adam And Eve Outside Of Paradise.
Thus a tableau of the miraculous fall of manna in the wilderness precedes the scene of the Last Supper; a representation of the despair of Cain over the murder of his brother, Abel, typifies the act where Judas, in his remorse, takes his own life; the scene of Tobias taking leave of his parents prefigures Christ's departure from Bethany; the group of Adam and his family earning their bread by the sweat of the brow, foreshadows Christ's anguish in Gethsemane; and young Isaac bearing the altar-wood up Mount Moriah is emblematic of Jesus bearing His cross to Calvary.
Still another of these tableaux portrays Joseph sold into captivity by his brethren, and is symbolic of the betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Some of these scenes are wonderful, - first, from the multitude of participants (numbering, as they frequently do, three or four hundred persons); and secondly, from the statue-like repose maintained by even the little children two or three years of age. In one of these tableaux there were perhaps a hundred children; yet through a powerful glass we were unable to detect in them the slightest movement, even when fully three minutes had elapsed between the rising and the falling of the curtain. Moreover, in 1890, I was even more impressed than ten years before with the astonishing rapidity with which these groups were formed. Each individual man, woman, and child must move directly to his place with the precision of machinery, for otherwise such crowds could not be grouped in half an hour's time. The management in this respect is nothing less than marvelous, for not a sound is heard behind the curtain, though sometimes nearly half the inhabitants of the village are assembled there.
Going To Jerusalem.