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Eugen d’ALBERT (1864 - 1932)
Tiefland, Opera in a prelude and two acts (1903) [132.19]
Libretto by Rudolph Lothar after the Catalan play "Terra Baixa" by Angel Guimerá.
Aga Joesten - Marta, Sebastiano's servant (dramatic soprano)
Max Lorenz - Pedro, shepherd (helden-tenor)
Carl Kronenberg - Sebastiano, a rich landowner (helden-baritone)
Otto von Rohr - Tommaso, village elder 90 years old (bass)
Hedda Heusser - Nuri, Sebastiano's servant (soprano)
Franz Fehringer - Nando, shepherd (lyric tenor)
Georg Stern - Moruccio, miller´s boy and Sebastiano's servant (bass)
Maria Madlen-Madsen - Pepa, Sebastiano's servant (lyric soprano)
Helene Bindhart - Antonia, Sebastiano's servant (mezzo)
Christa Ludwig - Rosalia, Sebastiano's servant (alto)
A Voice. Bass
The Priest, peasants
Recorded in mono, Frankfurt, Germany, 3 June 1953
Tiefland, Opera in a prelude and two acts (1903) [20.29]
Excerpts from the finale to Act 1 and Act 2 scene three.
Lieslotte Enck - Marta, Sebastiano's servant. (dramatic soprano)
Will Störring - Pedro, shepherd. (helden-tenor)
Lore Hoffmann(?) - Nuri, Sebastiano's servant. (soprano)
Margrete Düren - Pepa, Sebastiano's servant. (lyric soprano)
Lore Hoffmann - Antonia, Sebastiano's servant. (mezzo)
Elfriede Marherr-Wagner - Rosalia, Sebastiano's servant. (alto)
Staatsoper Berlin/Robert Heger
Recorded in mono June 1943.
Track list in German. No timings, texts or synopsis. Autographed photo of Max Lorenz.
WALHALL WLCD 0049 [74.15 + 78.24]


Complete libretto - in German - no translation
Eugen d’Albert site
Leni Riefenstahl’s film of Tiefland

Tiefland ("The Lowlands") is one of the earliest verismo operas, dealing with the contrast between simple innocence and ingrained depravity. The wealthy landowner Sebastiano many years ago purchased an orphan girl, Marta, from her stepfather and has kept her imprisoned to serve his lusts. Now in financial difficulties he proposes to marry a rich woman, but to quell the village gossip and appear honourable, he sets about to marry Marta off to Pedro, a simple mountain-dwelling peasant, giving as a dowry a mill in the lowlands. At first Marta fears this is just a change of slave-masters, but Pedro is truly kind and comes to love her, and she returns his love. Sebastiano’s marriage plans fall through; when he comes by to take Marta back by force, Pedro kills him and the two lovers escape back to Pedro’s high mountain homeland.

I subjected this recording to the ordeal I always perform when approaching an opera I’ve never heard before: Ignoring the libretto, I put it on in the background and get busy with something else and dare the music to gain my attention, purely as dramatic music. This recording passed the test well. The overture begins with shepherd’s flute sounds, then proceeds directly into the drama which at once engrosses. D’Albert was one of the most famous and successful of Liszt’s later students and had the taste to borrow only from Wagner’s better music. His own musical ideas, when they appear, aren’t bad either. The orchestration is skilled and some scenes are effectively atmospheric.

Technically this (monophonic) recording is exceptional considering the time it was made. The lack of a text or translation with this recording should be no problem if you have a reasonable command of German (I don’t) as the singers project the text with great clarity and the story is a simple one. I was unable to find a public domain translated libretto on the Internet, but your local music library may be able to provide one. The opera libretto has been translated back into the Catalan language for performances in Barcelona. Catalá is generally more like Castillian Spanish (e.g., Terra Baixa = Tierra Baja) than is Portugese, but in the case of this title the Catalá and Portuguese are identical (Terra Baixa = Terra Baixa).

The excerpts from the 1943 recording are less clear and a little distorted but still quite thrillingly urgent, and different enough from the later production to be well worth hearing, although the tenor drifts off pitch on loud high notes.

Don’t buy this recording just for the magic name of Christa Ludwig; her part is a walk-on and there is no opportunity for her special talent to shine. I probably know the sound of her voice as well as any of her admirers, and without a libretto I couldn’t recognise her in the ensembles where she appears.

Paul Shoemaker

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