Die Fledermaus

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Die Fledermaus (German: [diː ˈfleːdɐˌmaʊs], The Bat, sometimes called The Revenge of the Bat) is an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II to a German libretto by Karl Haffner (de) and Richard Genée.


The original literary source for Die Fledermaus was Das Gefängnis (The Prison), a farce by German playwright Julius Roderich Benedix[1] that premiered in Berlin in 1851. On 10 September 1872 a three-act French vaudeville play by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, Le Réveillon, loosely based on the Benedix farce, opened at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.[2] Meilhac and Halévy had provided several successful libretti for Offenbach and Le Réveillon later formed the basis for the 1926 silent film So This Is Paris, directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Meilhac and Halévy's play was soon translated into German by Karl Haffner (1804–1876), at the instigation of Max Steiner, as a non-musical play for production in Vienna, the French custom of a New Year's Eve réveillon, or supper party, was not considered to provide a suitable setting for the Viennese theatre, so it was decided to substitute a ball for the réveillon. Haffner's translation was then passed to the playwright and composer Richard Genée,[1] who had provided some of the lyrics for Strauss's Der Karneval in Rom the year before, and he completed the libretto.

Performance history[edit]

Die Fledermaus, Düsseldorf, 1954

The operetta premièred on 5 April 1874 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna and has been part of the regular repertoire ever since:[3]

It was performed in New York under Rudolf Bial (de) 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.[4]

When the operetta came to Paris in 1877 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, as La Tzigane, with Ismaël and Zulma Bouffar in the cast, it was not a success;[5] only in 1904, with Meilhac and Halevy's original roles names and the words adapted by Paul Ferrier to the music (with Max Dearly and Ève Lavallière in the cast) did it find success in Paris and enter the repertoire there.[6]

The first London performance in German did not take place until 1895.[4] According to the archivist of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, "Twenty years after its production as a lyric opera in Vienna, [composer and conductor Gustav] 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."[4]

The role of Eisenstein was originally written for a tenor, but is nowadays frequently sung by a baritone, the role of Orlofsky is a trouser role, usually performed by a mezzo-soprano, but sometimes by a tenor.[7]


Role[8] Voice type Premiere cast, 5 April 1874
(Conductor: Johann Strauss II)[9]
Gabriel von Eisenstein tenor/baritone 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)


Act 1[edit]

Eisenstein's apartment

It's New Year's Eve, 1899, and the tenor Alfred is serenading his former student Rosalinde outside the apartment she shares with her husband, Gabriel von Eisenstein. Inside, Rosalinde's chambermaid Adele wonders how to get the night off. She's received a letter inviting her to Prince Orlofsky's glamorous New Year's Eve ball; she opts to tell her mistress that it says her aunt is sick ("Da schreibt meine Schwester Ida"/"My sister Ida writes to me"). Rosalinde refuses to let Adele leave for the night, but she's distracted by Alfred, who arrives proclaiming love. Unable to resist his singing voice, Rosalinde agrees to let him return to her later.

Alfred departs and Eisenstein enters, along with his incompetent attorney Blind, their court appointment has not gone well: Eisenstein has been sentenced to eight days in prison for striking an officer, and he dismisses Blind angrily. Eisenstein's friend Falke then appears to invite him to the prince's ball (Duet: "Kommt mit mir zum Souper"/"Come with me to the souper"), particularly urging him to bring along his "infamous" pocket watch to impress the ladies, the men reminisce about a practical joke which Eisenstein played on Falke a few years before, for which Falke is secretly plotting revenge, and Eisenstein lets himself be persuaded to show up to jail in the morning - on condition that his wife never finds out about it.

While Eisenstein changes, Falke quietly advises Rosalinde to attend the ball in disguise, promising that she'll be able to catch her husband flirting with other women if she does so. When Eisenstein appears, ready to go to "prison" in evening dress, Rosalinde decides to follow Falke's advice and dismisses Adele for the night, the maid and her employers loudly feign distress as they all say their goodbyes (Trio: "O Gott, wie rührt mich dies!"/"Oh dear, oh dear, how sorry I am").

Alfred returns to resume his suit ("Täubchen, das entflattert ist"/"Dove that has escaped"), which is interrupted when Frank, the warden, comes to arrest Eisenstein. To save Rosalinde's reputation, Alfred pretends that he is Eisenstein, and Frank escorts him to jail - though not before Alfred extracts a "wifely" kiss goodbye from his old flame (Finale, drinking song: "Glücklich ist, wer vergisst"/"Happy is he who forgets" followed by Rosalinde’s defense when Frank arrives: "Mit mir so spät im tête-à-tête"/"In tête-à-tête with me so late," and Frank’s invitation: "Mein schönes, großes Vogelhaus"/"My beautiful, large bird-cage").

Act 2[edit]

A summer house in the Villa Orlofsky

Falke is already at the ball, explaining to Prince Orlofsky the revenge he hopes to exact on his friend, and promises that the fallout will be highly entertaining, the prince (who pays good money to be made to laugh, according to the other guests' gossip) has his doubts, but welcomes his friends ("Ich lade gern mir Gäste ein"/"I love to invite my friends") to the ball by declaring that they may behave however they please.

Adele arrives, having helped herself to one of Rosalinde's dresses, her sister Ida, a dancer, is shocked to see her there and swears she didn't send Adele any invitation. They decide to pass Adele off as a Russian actress. Eisenstein is introduced by Falke as "Marquis Renard" and recognizes Adele, not to mention his wife's dress, immediately. However, she laughs it off, teasing him that he must be so besotted with his maid that he sees her everywhere ("Mein Herr Marquis"/"My lord marquis," sometimes referred to as "Adele's Laughing Song"). Frank, too, appears, posing as "Chevalier Chagrin," and he and Eisenstein form a boozy bond over the course of the night. What's more, Frank is so taken by Ida and "Olga" that he tells them he's an impresario, hoping to impress the sisters.

Then Rosalinde arrives, in disguise as instructed, and Falke introduces her as a Hungarian countess, she reinforces the ruse by singing the "Czardas", a passionate song about her betrayed homeland ("Klänge der Heimat"/"Sounds from home"), and a fitting one for her state of mind: she's spotted Adele too, as well as her husband starting to flirt with the maid. Soon Rosalinde settles into an amorous tête-à-tête with Eisenstein herself. Though he fails to unmask her, she succeeds in obtaining his pocket watch ("Dieser Anstand, so manierlich"/"Her bearing, so well-mannered"), and evades his pleas to return it for the rest of the night.

As midnight approaches, Falke entertains the crowd with the story of how he earned the nickname "Dr. Fledermaus:" after a costume party several years before, Eisenstein had abandoned him, very drunk, in the center of Vienna, leaving Falke to wander home in his bat costume the next morning. Orlofsky makes a toast to champagne, and the company celebrates a new year and a new century (The Champagne song: "Im Feuerstrom der Reben"/"In the fire stream of the grape"; followed by the canon: "Brüderlein, Brüderlein und Schwesterlein"/"Brothers, brothers and sisters" and the waltz finale, "Ha, welch ein Fest, welche Nacht voll Freud'!"/"Ha, what joy, what a night of delight"). Eisenstein and Frank finally remember that they're both supposed to be at the jail, and dash off as the clock strikes six in the morning.

(Note: The "Champagne song", which is sung by the entire ensemble, should not be confused with the baritone aria "Fin ch' han dal vino" from Don Giovanni, which is often called the "Champagne aria.")

Act 3[edit]

In the prison offices of Warden Frank

Frosch, the jailer, has taken advantage of Frank's absence by spending the entire night getting gloriously drunk. Alfred, sitting in the cell meant for Eisenstein, has spent it irritating the other prisoners by incessantly singing operatic arias. Frank arrives, tipsy and happy, and generously assents to Alfred's request for a lawyer.

Adele comes to ask the "Chevalier Chagrin" to sponsor her career as an actress. Frank, who of course is not really wealthy enough to do this (Melodrama; Couplet of Adele: "Spiel' ich die Unschuld vom Lande"/"If I play the innocent peasant maid"), turns her away. Then Eisenstein shows up to serve his time, but is surprised to learn that Frank already arrested an "Eisenstein" in his own apartment. Frank further explains that the man he arrested was singing amorous songs to Rosalinde at the time, and that he warmly kissed her goodbye.

Enraged, Eisenstein snatches wig and glasses from the arriving Dr. Blind and hustles the attorney out of sight, in order to disguise himself and confront the impostor he believes has cuckolded him. Rosalinde enters at that moment to entreat the "lawyer" for Alfred's release, as well as for a divorce from her faithless husband. Eisenstein then reveals himself, retorting that she's been the faithless one. He, Rosalinde, and Alfred sing a trio in which Eisenstein angrily claims the right of vengeance (Trio: "Ja, ich bin's, den ihr betrogen...Ra-ra-ra-ra-Rache will ich!"/"I'm the one who was mistreated....Ve-ve-ve-ve-vengeance is mine!"). He's only chastened when Rosalinde produces his watch, proving that the Hungarian mystery woman he tried to seduce hours before was actually his own wife.

Falke then arrives at the jail to gloat, he reveals that he set up Eisenstein, having invited him, his wife, his maid, and his warden to the last night's ball. Eisenstein begs Rosalinde to forgive him for his attempted infidelity, she refuses at first, threatening to divorce him. Eisenstein blames all his misbehavior on champagne, which provides just the excuse she needs to forgive him. Orlofsky arrives with his guests just in time to hear the entire story, and laughs heartily at Falke's thwarted revenge, the prince promises to finance Adele's acting career, and the company joyfully reprises the "Champagne song" from Act 2.


Film adaptations[edit]

Die Fledermaus has been adapted numerous times for the cinema and for TV:

Year Country Notes Director Eisenstein Rosalinde Adele Orlofsky Frosch
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 Die Fledermaus (silent film) Max Mack Harry Liedtke Eva May Lya De Putti Ernst Hofmann Jakob Tiedtke
1931 France/Germany Die Fledermaus Karel Lamač Georg Alexander Betty Werner Anny Ondra Iván Petrovich Karl Etlinger
1933 Great Britain Waltz Time Wilhelm Thiele Fritz Schulz Evelyn Laye Gina Malo George Baker Jay Laurier
1937 Germany Paul Verhoeven Hans Söhnker Lída Baarová Friedl Czepa Karel Štěpánek Hans Moser
1945 Germany Die Fledermaus
(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 Die Fledermaus (TV adaptation) Kurt Wilhelm Friedrich Schoenfelder Nadia Gray Gerlinde Locker Horst Uhse Michl Lang
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
2004 Ukraine Oksana Bayrak Aleksei Kravchenko Olga Kabo Marina Mayko Nikolai Karachentsov



  1. ^ a b Lamb, Andrew. Die Fledermaus. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  2. ^ Play text for Le Réveillon, viewable at the Gallica website, accessed 1 September 2016.
  3. ^ it appears as number 16 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operatic works. Opera Statistics
  4. ^ a b c The Observer, 4 May 1930, p. 14: interview with ROH archivist Richard Northcott in connection with revival of Die Fledermaus conducted by Bruno Walter
  5. ^ Noel E and Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 3eme édition, 1877. G Charpentier et Cie, Paris, 1878, 452-454.
  6. ^ Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 30eme edition, 1904. Librairie Paul Ollendorff, Paris, 1905, 203-205.
  7. ^ Recordings exist in which Wolfgang Windgassen and Gerhard Stolze play Orlofsky.
  8. ^ 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 (in German). G. Schirmer, Inc. 1986. 
  9. ^ http://www.amadeusonline.net/almanacco?r=&alm_giorno=05&alm_mese=04&alm_anno=1874&alm_testo=Die_Fledermaus


External links[edit]