A in two acts and a Prelude by EUGENE D'ALBERT.
Text after A. Guivera by RUDOLPH LOTHAR.
With this work the gifted composer has gained a footing, which promises
to be permanent in the musical world, for the opera has been accepted
by all the leading theatres in Germany and Austria, and its
performances in Berlin, in Prague, in Dresden and in Vienna hav
D'Albert's strongest point is his orchestration, which is admirably
adapted to the text. His music, if lacking a personal note is always
noble, harmonious and perfectly clear and agreeable to the ear.
The Prelude is on the whole the finest part of the drama. The broad
flowing motive of the shepherd's pipe is the incarnation of peace and
pure nature, the musical transition from the Prelude to act I is one,
of the best things, that D'Albert ever did, and the peasant scenes, the
trio of the three mocking village lasses are of the most enlivening
The text is ultra realistic, almost brutal.
The name "Tiefland" has a double meaning; this we learn from the
The plot is laid in the Pyrenees. Pedro, the shepherd lives alone in
the high and clear mountain air. His one wish is to have a companion,
a wife. This desire is realised by the arrival of Sebastiano, supposed
to be a wealthy landowner, who offers Pedro a mill and a bride in the
person of Marta.
The girl is Sebastiano's mistress, but financial difficulties compel
him to get rid of her, in order to avoid scandal and to obtain a rich
The simple and unsuspecting Pedro accepts the unexpected gifts with
delight, not heeding Marta's reluctance, and so he leaves the clear
physical and moral atmosphere of the mountains and descends into
"Tiefland", the low valley with its human passions and human tragedies.
The first act takes place in the mill, where three village girls gossip
about Marta's wedding, which is to take place on the very same day.
Nuri, a little girl and Marta's friend, has heard from Tommaso, an
octogenarian, that their rich and mighty master Sebastiano has found a
husband for Marta, and that the latter, being the master's property
like everything else around, has to obey his orders.
Marta herself is in despair; she despises Pedro, her future husband,
suspecting him to have been bribed to consent to this shameful bargain
by her lover and tyrant Sebastiano.
But Pedro is quite ignorant of the true facts as is old Tommaso, who is
only now enlightened by Moruccio, the miller's man, as to Marta's
Horrified at having helped to bring about this sinful marriage, Tommaso
tries to dissuade Sebastiano from his evil designs, but the landowner
drives him away and orders the clergyman to marry the young couple at
Pedro is in high glee, but vainly tries to win a smile or a kind word
from his unhappy bride. While the village lads lead him away to be
dressed for the wedding, Sebastiano, taking Marta aside, once more
impresses upon her, that she is still and always will be his, and that
he will come to her chamber on the bridal night.
Marta shrinks from him in horror, but when Petro returns to fetch her,
she instinctively turns from him to her old master.
Petro has disdained to put on the fine clothes offered him, and goes to
church with his bride in his own old jacket.
When they are gone, Tommaso calls the land-owner once more to account
about Marta, and learns, that everything Moruccio told him is true, for
the young man repeats the story in his master's presence.
Tommaso hastens away, to stop the marriage, but already the church
bells are ringing and the bridal procession returns.
Pedro sends his guests away, and when alone with his wife tries to win
her love by his simple arts and wiles. He shows her the first hard
earned silver coin he gained by killing a wolf, which had made havoc
amongst the master's herds. The coin is still red with Pedro's own
But Marta, though somewhat softened and interested in spite of herself
only points to the room opposite her own, and is about to leave him,
when suddenly a light is seen in her own room. Marta shrinks back
frightened and this awakens Pedro's suspicions.
He too has seen the light, but Marta succeeds in quieting him for the
moment, as the light has disappeared.
Slowly a change is coming over Marta. As she perceives, that Pedro is
quite ignorant of her true position, her heart goes out to him,
but she gives no sign of the love, that has taken possession of her.
She resolves to stay all night in this outer hall and sinks down near
the hearth, while Pedro stretches himself on the floor at her feet and
soon falls asleep.--
The second act still finds them in the same position. Marta, seeing
Pedro asleep, gets up quietly in the early dawn, to attend to her
When she is out of the hall or kitchen, Nuri comes in and awakes Pedro.
The poor lad's suspicions return and are intensified tenfold by Nuri's
remarks about the village people, who laugh at and pity the young
husband, and she wonders, what the reason of this can be.
Marta, finding the two together, drives the girl away. Her love for
Pedro is awakened and with it jealousy. But Pedro, without looking at
his young wife, takes Nuri by the hand and leads her away.
Old Tommaso, who now comes in, reproaches Marta for her evil life.
With bitter tears she tells him her whole story. How she lived in
Barcelona with her mother, a beggar, having never known her
father;--how her mother died after years of misery, and how the old
lame man, who lived with them, took her abroad, and made her dance and
beg for him.
Having one day reached this village, the pretty girl of thirteen
pleased the rich landowner Sebastiano, and he made her his mistress,
after giving her old foster-father this mill by way of
renumeration for his connivance.--She was often about to drown herself,
but her courage failed her, and so her life was passed in misery until
the day of this marriage, into which she was forced by her master.
Tommaso advises her, to confess everything to her husband, and to ask
In the next scene the village girls come to visit the young couple;
they drive Pedro almost mad with their taunts and innuendos, telling
him to ask Marta about their meaning.
When they are gone and Marta brings him the soup for his breakfast, he
refuses to touch it, and abruptly tells her, that he is going back to
the mountains alone.
Full of despair Marta defiantly owns, that she has belonged to another,
and recklessly goads him to such fury, that he seizes a knife and
wounds her in the arm.
She implores him to kill her, but seeing her blood flow, his love gets
the better of him; he presses her to his heart, and persuades her to
fly with him from the baleful air of the plain to the pure heights of
But the door is barred by a crowd of peasants and by Sebastiano
himself, who enters triumphantly and bids Marta dance for him. Pedro
forbids this and the master strikes him.
Still Pedro's respect holds him in check, till Marta whispers to him,
that Sebastiano is the man, who has brought her to shame.
On this Pedro flies at the scoundrel. He is however prevented from
attacking him by being forcibly removed by the peasants at Sebastiano's
Marta sinks back in a swoon.
At this moment old Tommaso returns, and tells Sebastiano, that having
denounced his villany to the rich bride's father, the daughter is now
lost to him.
Recklessly Sebastiano turns to Marta, who, having revived, finds
herself alone with her old tyrant.
She struggles against him, calling to Pedro, who suddenly returns
through another door, and bidding the scoundrel defend himself rushes
upon him with his knife. But Sebastiano has no weapon, Pedro therefore
throws down his knife and says they can wrestle then, and so be on
After a short and desperate struggle Pedro succeeds in strangling
Sebastiano, who falls dead to the ground.
Pedro then calls the villain's servants, and taking his wife into his
arms, rushes away from the "Tiefland" to find peace and happiness in