The Lowlands by Eugene d’Albert
The Lowlands is not an opera one immediately brings to mind but deserves recognition for its symbolic significance of untouched uplands and the artificial lowlands. This is, in essence, the difference between truth and pretence.
The Lowlands is a ‘musikdrama’ in a prologue and two acts. The libretto was produced by Rudolph Lothar who based it on the play Terra baixa by Angel Guimera. The first version premiered with three acts on the 15th November 1903 in Pargue. The second version premiered on the 16th January 1905 in Magdeburg. It is set on a high alpine meadow in the Catalan Pyrenees and a valley village around 1900.
Sebastiano, a rich landowner (Baritone)
Tommaso, the village elder who is 90 years old (Bass)
Morucco, a miller (Baritone)
Pedro and Nando, shepherds (2x Tenor)
A Voice (Bass)
The Parson (silent)
Peasants (the Chorus)
In a high alpine meadow, the two shepherds Nando and Pedro live in the hills with the animals though Pedro longs for a wife. One day, Sebastiano, his secret lover Marta and Tommaso arrives. Sebastiano now wants Marta to marry Pedro as he needs a rich wife to pay off his debts but confesses to her that he hopes she’ll continue to be his lover. As a wedding present, Sebastiano plans for Pedro to take over the mill. Marta is furious and runs off. Pedro learns of his upcoming good fortune and leaves his animals in the care of Nando. He ignores his friend’s warnings and heads off into the lowlands.
At the mill, Pepa, Antonia and Rosalia have found out about the plans of Pedro marrying Marta. They encourage Moruccio to tell them more but he remains silent so they press the innocent Nuri. Nuri is Marta’s confidant and tells them everything. Pedro is greeted mockingly and despite Marta’s resistance to the wedding, the ceremony begins. Tommaso wants to know the truth and once Moruccio tells him, he rushes to the church to stop the wedding. However, by the time he arrives it has been done. Marta is quite chilly towards her new husband but once she realises that he was innocent in the plan, does she become more friendly.
At the mill, the newly married couple are awakened by the morning serenade by Nuri. Tommaso urges Marta to be nice to Pedro. However, Pedro has learnt the truth about his marriage without knowing the other party’s name. Sebastiano arrives with some peasants and orders Marta to dance for him. She reveals the truth. The rich woman Sebastiano had planned to marry has come to nothing since Tommaso has warned her and the family. Now he wants to return to Marta. Pedro challenges him to a wrestling match and strangles his master to death. He makes the peasants witness his revenge and then escapes into the lowlands with Marta.