Eugen d’Albert – Der Stier von Olivera
(b. Glasgow, 10 April 1864 – d. Riga, 3 March 1932)
Eugen d’Albert was a Scottish-born German composer and pianist. He was a piano prodigy who studied with Franz Liszt, and was primarily known as a skilled interpreter of a wide variety of German compositions. He collaborated with Johannes Brahms, but also published transcriptions and editions of J.S. Bach’s compositions. Richard Wagner’s operas influenced his compositional style, and inspired d’Albert to compose 21 of his own operas. Although many considered d’Albert’s true talent to be that of a pianist rather than composer, his operas were popular and well-attended. Music historians have categorized d’Albert as an important opera composer of Weimar Republic, as well as an important representative of the fleeting “German Verismo” style.1
Der Stier von Olivera premiered in Leipzig on March 10, 1918. The libretto was written by Richard Batka, and was based on the 1910 drama of the same name by Heinrich Lilienfein. D’Albert cast the role of Manuel as a lyric soprano to highlight his youth and innocence, and Napoleon I as a speaking only role, effectively separating him from the primary dramatic players. The visual and melodramatic elements of the story lend themselves to the screen and were adapted into the 1921 silent film of the same name, with Emil Jannings starring in the lead role.
The three-act opera is set in 1808-09 during the reign of Napoleon I in occupied Spain. The French general, Francois Guillaume, and his men are quartered in the castle of Olivera. The French have angered the local population by killing the bull that had been selected for the upcoming corrida, and the Marqués de Barrios, Lord of Olivera, sees his chance to incite a rebellion against the French occupiers. Before the rebellion can take place, however, the French hear of the uprising and arrest the Marqués and his son, Manuel. Guillaume orders their execution, but Juana, the daughter of the Marqués begs for mercy and agrees to marry Guillaume in exchange for their lives. …
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