|Johann Strauss II|
The original source for Die Fledermaus is Das Gefängnis (The Prison), a farce by German playwright Julius Roderich Benedix (1811–1873). Another source is the French vaudeville play Le réveillon, by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, which was first translated by Karl Haffner into a non-musical play to be produced in Vienna. However, the peculiarly French custom of the réveillon (a New Year's Eve supper party) caused problems, which were solved by the decision to adapt the play as a libretto for Johann Strauss, with the réveillon replaced by a Viennese ball. At this point Haffner's translation was handed over for adaptation to Richard Genée, who subsequently claimed not only that he had made a fresh translation from scratch but that he had never even met Haffner.
It was performed in New York under Rudolf Bial at the Stadt Theatre on 21 November 1874. The German première took place at Munich's Gärtnerplatztheater in 1875. Die Fledermaus was sung in English at London's Alhambra Theatre on 18 December 1876, with its score modified by Hamilton Clarke.
The first London performance in German did not take place until 1895. According to the archivist of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, "Twenty years after its production as a lyric opera in Vienna, Mahler raised the artistic status of Strauss's work by producing it at the Hamburg Opera House [...] all the leading opera houses in Europe, notably Vienna and Munich, have brightened their regular repertoire by including it for occasional performance."
The role of Eisenstein was originally written for a tenor, but is nowadays frequently sung by a baritone. The role of Orlofsky, a trouser role, is occasionally performed by a tenor or baritone, notably in Vienna.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 5 April 1874
(Conductor: Johann Strauss II)
|Gabriel von Eisenstein||tenor||Jani Szika|
|Rosalinde, Eisenstein's wife||soprano||Marie Geistinger|
|Adele, Rosalinde's maid||soprano||Caroline Charles-Hirsch|
|Ida, Adele's sister||soprano||Jules|
|Alfred, a singer teacher||tenor||Hans Rüdiger|
|Dr Falke, a notary||baritone||Ferdinand Lebrecht|
|Dr Blind, a lawyer||tenor||Carl Matthias Rott|
|Frank, a prison governor||baritone||Carl Adolf Friese|
|Prince Orlofsky||mezzo-soprano (en travesti)||Irma Nittinger|
|Yvan, the prince's valet||speaking role|
|Frosch, a jailer||speaking role||Alfred Schreiber|
|Party goers and servants at Prince Orlofsky's (chorus)|
Gabriel von Eisenstein has been sentenced to eight days in prison for insulting an official, partially due to the incompetence of his attorney, Dr. Blind. Adele, Eisenstein's maid, receives a letter from her sister, who is in the company of the ballet, inviting her to Prince Orlofsky's ball. She pretends the letter says that her aunt is very sick, and asks for a leave of absence ("My sister Ida writes to me"). Falke, Eisenstein's friend, arrives to invite him to the ball (Duet: "Come with me to the souper"). Eisenstein bids farewell to Adele and his wife Rosalinde, pretending he is going to prison (Terzett: "Oh dear, oh dear, how sorry I am") but really intending to postpone jail for one day and have fun at the ball.
After Eisenstein leaves, Rosalinde is visited by her former lover, the singing teacher Alfred, who serenades her ("Dove that has escaped"). Frank, the governor of the prison, arrives to take Eisenstein to jail, and finds Alfred instead. In order not to compromise Rosalinde, Alfred agrees to pretend to be Eisenstein and to accompany Frank. (Finale, drinking song: "Happy is he who forgets" followed by Rosalinde’s defence when Frank arrives: "In tête-à-tête with me so late," and Frank’s invitation: "My beautiful, large bird-cage.")
A summer house in the Villa Orlovsky
It turns out that Falke, with Prince Orlofsky's permission, is orchestrating the ball as a way of getting revenge on Eisenstein. The previous winter, Eisenstein had abandoned a drunken Falke dressed as a bat (and thus explaining the opera's title) in the center of town, exposing him to ridicule the next day. As part of his scheme, Falke has invited Frank, Adele, and Rosalinde to the ball as well. Rosalinde pretends to be a Hungarian countess, Eisenstein goes by the name "Marquis Renard," Frank is "Chevalier Chagrin," and Adele pretends she is an actress.
The ball is in progress (Chorus: "A souper is before us") and the Prince welcomes his guests ("I love to invite my friends"). Eisenstein is introduced to Adele, but is confused as to who she really is because of her striking resemblance to his maid. ("My lord marquis," sometimes referred to as "Adele's Laughing Song" or "The Laughing Song").
Then Falke introduces the disguised Rosalinde to Eisenstein (Csárdás: "Sounds from home"). During an amorous tête-à-tête, she succeeds in extracting a valuable watch from her husband's pocket, something which she can use in the future as evidence of his impropriety. (Watch duet: "My eyes will soon be dim"). In a rousing finale, the company celebrates (The Drinking song: "In the fire stream of the grape"; followed by the canon: "Brothers, brothers and sisters"; the polka "Unter Donner und Blitz", and the waltz finale, "Ha, what joy, what a night of delight.")
In the prison offices of Governor Frank
The next morning they all find themselves at the prison where the confusion increases and is compounded by the jailer, Frosch, who has profited by the absence of the prison director to become gloriously drunk.
Adele arrives to obtain the assistance of the Chevalier Chagrin (Melodrama; Couplet of Adele: "If I play the innocent peasant maid") while Alfred wants nothing more than to get out of jail. Knowing of Eisenstein's trickery, Rosalinde wants to begin an action for divorce, and Frank is still intoxicated.
Frosch locks up Adele and her sister Ida, and the height of the tumult arrives when Falke appears with all the guests of the ball and declares the whole thing is an act of vengeance for the "Fledermaus". (Trio between Rosalinde, Eisenstein, Alfred: "A strange adventure"). Everything is amicably arranged (with Eisenstein blaming the intoxicating effects of champagne for his act of infidelity and Frank volunteering to support Adele's artistic career), but Eisenstein is compelled to serve his full term in jail (Finale, "Oh bat, oh bat, at last let thy victim escape").
Die Fledermaus has been adapted numerous times for the cinema and for TV:
|1917||Germany||as Das Fidele Gefängnis (The Merry Jail) silent film||Ernst Lubitsch||Harry Liedtke (Alex von Reizenstein)||Kitty Dewall (Alice, his wife)||Agda Nielson (Mizi, the maid)||Emil Jannings (Quabbe, the jailer)|
|1923||Germany||silent film||Max Mack||Harry Liedtke||Eva May||Lya De Putti||–?–||–?–|
|1931||France /Germany||Karel Lamač||Georg Alexander||Betty Werner||Anny Ondra||Iván Petrovich||Karl Etlinger|
|1933||Great Britain||Waltz Time – new title||Wilhelm Thiele||Fritz Schulz||Evelyn Laye||Gina Malo||George Baker||Jay Laurier|
|1945||Germany||Released 1946||Géza von Bolváry||Johannes Heesters||Marte Harell||Dorit Kreysler||Siegfried Breuer||Josef Egger|
|1955||Great Britain||Oh... Rosalinda!! – new title||Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger||Michael Redgrave||Ludmilla Tchérina||Anneliese Rothenberger||Anthony Quayle||Oskar Sima|
|1955||East Germany||Rauschende Melodien – new title||E. W. Fiedler||Erich Arnold||Jarmila Ksirová||Sonja Schöner||Gerd Frickhöffer||Josef Egger|
|1959||West Germany||TV adaptation||Kurt Wilhelm||Friedrich Schoenfelder||–?–||–?–||–?–||–?–|
|1962||Austria||Die Fledermaus||Géza von Cziffra||Peter Alexander||Marianne Koch||Marika Rökk||Boy Gobert||Hans Moser|
|1968||Denmark||Flagermusen – new title||John Price||Poul Reichhardt||Birgitte Bruun||Ellen Winther||Susse Wold||Buster Larsen|
|1972||West Germany||Otto Schenk||Eberhard Wächter||Gundula Janowitz||Renate Holm||Wolfgang Windgassen||Otto Schenk|
|1979||Soviet Union||Летучая Мышь – new title||Yan Frid||Yury Solomin||Lyudmila Maksakova||Larisa Udovichenko||Yuri Vasilyev||Ivan Lyubeznov|
|1984||Great Britain||TV adaptation||Humphrey Burton||Hermann Prey||Kiri Te Kanawa||Hildegard Heichele||Doris Soffel||Josef Meinrad|
|1986||West Germany||Otto Schenk||Eberhard Wächter||Pamela Coburn||Janet Perry||Brigitte Fassbaender||Franz Muxeneder|
|1990||Great Britain||Humphrey Burton||Louis Otey||Nancy Gustafson||Judith Howarth||Jochen Kowalski||John Sessions|
|1997||Australia||Lindy Hume||Anthony Warlow||Gillian Sullivan||Amelia Farrugia||Suzanne Johnston||Geoff Kelso|
|2001||France||La chauve-souris – French title||Don Kent||Christoph Homberger||Mireille Delunsch||Malin Hartelius||David Moss||Elisabeth Trissenaar|
- it appears as number 16 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operatic works. Opera Statistics
- The Observer, 4 May 1930, p. 14: interview with ROH archivist Richard Northcott in connection with revival of Die Fledermaus conducted by Bruno Walter
- Because many English versions of the opera exist, character names can occasionally vary: Ida, for example, is called Sally in the Schirmer translation, see Die Fledermaus: operetta in three acts. G. Schirmer, Inc. 1986.
- Amadeus Almanac (5 April 1874), accessed 28 January 2009
- "Die Fledermaus" by Andrew Lamb, in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie. (subscription required)
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Die Fledermaus.|
- Libretto to Die Fledermaus in the original German with a literal English translation from Aria-Database.com
- List of upcoming performances from major opera companies from Operabase.com
- The Guide to Operetta – Die Fledermaus
- Die Fledermaus The Guide to Musical Theatre – Die Fledermaus
- (German) Die Fledermaus
- Operetta "Die Fledermaus" ("The Bat") in Moscow Operetta