Opera in three acts, with a prologue, by Eugen d’Albert. Text by Lothar.
Until this opera was produced in New York, the composer was known in America only as a pianist. Earlier works for the stage, while not unsuccessful, had their vogue chiefly in Germany, but “Tiefland,” first performed in Berlin in 19o8, was immediately claimed for the world at large. The book is based on the Catalonian play by Angel Guimera known as “Terra Baixa.”
In the prologue Pedro is tending his sheep in the highlands of the Pyrenees, and when Sebastiano, his master, promises him wealth and a pretty bride in the person of Marta, a damsel from the plains, he is de-lighted.
In the first act the scene shifts to the lowlands, where preparations have been made for the wedding. Pedro, dazed by the change in his fortunes, and deeply in love with Marta, fails to note the jeering attitude of the villagers, and not until after the ceremony has taken place does he learn the truth. Marta, who has felt for him only contempt, experiences a complete revulsion of feeling at his profound depression when she has told her story. Daughter of a strolling player, she has aroused the admiration of Sebastiano, who bought her from her father by giving him a mill which would afford an easy living. This relationship, a common scandal in the village, had continued until Sebastiano found an opportunity of marrying a wealthy heiress. Then, as a means of freeing himself, Sebastiano had determined to provide a husband for Marta, and Pedro had been the unsuspecting victim. En-raged against his wife, Pedro becomes calmer as he realizes that she too has been the victim of Sebastiano, and he determines to revenge her as well as him-self.
Sebastiano, who has never meant to relinquish hisclaims on Marta, comes to her home as boldly as ever, and though Marta repulses him, and calls on Pedro to protect her, the peasants who have accompanied Sebastiano eject the husband from the house, then leave Marta and Sebastiano together. Marta faints away, but recovers herself a moment later as Tommaso enters to say to Sebastiano that he has already denounced him to the family of his prospective bride.
In the third act Sebastiano, again alone with Marta, continues to force his unwelcome attentions on her, when Pedro returns. “Man to man !” cries Pedro, in whose hand a knife is gleaming. “I have no weapon,” shouts Sebastiano in reply, as he seeks to escape from the house. “Then I need none,” is Pedro’s rejoinder, and flinging away his knife, he closes in on his former master, and after a desperate struggle succeeds in strangling him.
Meantime the noise of combat has again brought the villagers about the cottage, and they are clamoring for admittance. Having satisfied himself that Sebastiano is beyond earthly help, Pedro throws open the door, boldly proclaims his deed, then clasping his wife in his arms, leads her through the group of awestruck peasants. The lowlands shall know them no more, for in the pure surroundings of their mountain home they are to begin life anew.