Three years ago, pompous man-about-town Gabriel Eisenstein played a prank on his friend, the legal minion Dr. Falke. After a masquerade ball, Eisenstein put Falke on display in the town square—passed out and dressed as a bat! Falke was already far below Eisenstein in the pecking order, so this humiliation needs an elaborate payback. Now it is time for the next big masquerade ball, and Falke will arrange for Eisenstein to be embarrassed by two glamorous strangers…who just happen to be Eisenstein’s own wife and chambermaid in disguise.
But even Falke has no idea what doors and paths his prank will open up. Rosalinde, Eisenstein’s wife, is bored of her gilded cage and the pestering of ex-lovers, and is eager to cut loose. Meanwhile, downtrodden chambermaid Adele dreams of shaping her own destiny, rising to glory and power on the stage. Both of these heroines will seize their chance at Prince Orlovsky’s party, an international feast of bubbling waltzes and bubbly drinks. So pour the champagne and enjoy the revenge of “the bat”…or, as we say in German, Die Fledermaus.
Die Fledermaus premiered in Vienna in April 1874. Originally a German farce by comic showman Roderich Benedix, it was revamped as a French comedy by the prolific duo Meilhac & Halévy, then ported back into German by Karl Haffner, with new lyrics and complications by Richard Genée.
The music had a far less complicated start—an astonishing amount of it was roughed out in just six weeks—and was fresh and new. Johann Strauss II, waltz-king of “Blue Danube” and “Vienna Woods” fame, found his biggest theatrical success with Die Fledermaus, and nearly 150 years of productions worldwide have cemented its reputation at the forefront of the operetta canon.
Then as now, audiences embraced the joy and variety of the score—waltzes, coloratura showpieces, ensembles, comic numbers—as well as the gala atmosphere. Beneath the surface of the champagne, too, some perennial themes bubble up: cosmopolitan goodwill, dreams of working toward a brighter future, the complicated dance of justice and mercy, the tangled course of love.
Die Fledermaus has been performed and adapted for every context from grand opera house to television special to silent film. Now, thanks to an international ensemble of young professionals and skilled choristers, collaborating across a wide array of time zones and online platforms, it takes on its latest, pandemic-safe, incarnation to share its magic with the digital world.