The online opera guide to DIE FLEDERMAUS
Johan Strauss’ Fledermaus reflects the unforgettable magic of the belle epoque and the charm of Vienna.
Overview and quick access
♪ Act I (House scene)
♪ Act II (Ball scene)
♪ Act III (Prison scene)
♪ Dieser Anstand ist so manierlich (Duet of the hours)
♪ Klänge der Heimat (Csardas)
Roles and Synopsis
Carl Haffner and Richard Genée, Based on the comedy by Meilhac and Halévy, who in turn based it on Das Gefängnis (The prison) by Roderich Benedix.
The main roles
Eisenstein, wealthy reindeer (tenor) - Rosalinde, his wife (soprano) - Frank, prison warden (baritone) - Dr. Falke, notary and friend of Eisenstein (baritone) - Dr. Blind, Eisenstein's lawyer (baritone) - Adele, Rosalinde's parlor maid (soprano) - Orlowsky, prince and host (mezzo-soprano) - Alfredo, singer (tenor).
NVC ARTS (DVD), Hermann Prey, Kiri te Kanawa, Hildegard Heichele, Bejamin Luxon conducted by Placido Domingo and the ROH Convent Garden Choir and Orchestra.
Die Fledermaus is one of the few operettas that has remained in the repertoire of opera houses. The music sparkles with ideas and the scenes are hilarious. The plot and the underlying textbook of this opera is simply masterful. Originally written for Offenbach by the successful duo Meilhac and Halévy, it was adapted for Johann Strauss, with a large ball scene at the center of the action.
Music and history
The music was mostly written within 2 months. Strauss mainly composed the melodies, while large parts of the instrumentation were written by Genée. The Csardas and the Overture are the only pieces written entirely by Strauss.
The male lead role was set for tenor, but is often sung by baritones.
The premiere of the operetta in 1874 at the Theater an der Wien was conducted by the composer. It followed shortly after an enormous stock market crisis. The Viennese audience did not feel like comedy and it remained on the program in the Austrian metropolis for only a short time. From the beginning, however, it was a great success throughout Europe. The Vienna Court Opera declared it an opera in order to be able to perform it in their house.
DIE FLEDERMAUS ACT I
The famous ouverture
The overture is a wonderful potpourri of some of the best ideas of this opera and is also an often heard piece in the concert hall and must not be missed in any New Year’s Eve gala.
For the friends of Tom and Jerry you see the amusing cartoon version.
Ouverture Fledermaus – Tom and Jerry
Synopsis: The maid Adele receives an invitation from her sister to Prince Orlofsky’s ball. So Adele asks her mistress Rosalinde if she can take the evening off. But Rosalinde refuses. Because her husband, Eisenstein, has to go to jail that evening, and she wants to grant him one last supper. Suddenly Alfredo appears. He is a former lover of Rosalindes, he sees his chance when Eisenstein is in jail. Rosalinde can only get rid of him with the promise to receive him later. Eisenstein appears accompanied by his lawyer Blind, whom he insults because he did not represent him well in court and he has to take his eight-day detention. Rosalinde tries to comfort him. Eisenstein throws the lawyer out without further ado.
A lively trio with Eberhard Wächter and Gundula Janowitz in the production of Otto Schenk.
Nein mit solchen Advokaten – Wächter / Janowitz / Kuchar
Synopsis: Dr. Falke appears. He is a friend of Eisenstein and persuades him to visit Prince Orlofsky’s ball today. Dr. Falke knows the prison director Frank and a postponement of a night could certainly be organized. Falke suggests introducing Eisenstein to society as Marquis Renard.
Komm mit mir zum Souper – Wächter / Holocek
O je wie rührt mich dies – the comedy starts
Synopsis: When Eisenstein is getting dressed, Falke starts an intrigue. 3 years earlier, Eisenstein had left the drunken falcon alone outside the city after a costume ball, and he had to walk home in the morning in a bat costume. So he got the nickname Dr. Bat. He predicts to Rosalinde that Eisenstein would not go to prison. As proof, he invites her to go to Prince Orlowsky’s ball in disguise. So it happens that Rosalindey gives Adele the evening off. She says goodbye to her husband, who claims to be on his way to prison.
Anything is allowed in this comedy. As in this recording with Hermann Prey and Kiri te Kanawa the farewell of the husband Eisenstein is introduced by his wife with a quote from the Valkyrie and in the “O je wie rührt mich dies” (“Oh Lord, how sad it is”) where the two hypocrites utter their regrets about the situation.
So muss allein ich bleiben (Terzett).. Oh je wie rührt mich dies
Synopsis: Alfredo appears. In revenge, Rosalinde decides to take him to Prince Orlofsky’s party. He accepts and helps himself in Eisenstein’s wardrobe.
A next earworm in ¾ time. The quote “Happy is he who forgets what cannot be changed” “Glücklich ist, wer akzeptiert, was sein muss”) has become famous. It stands for the content of many operettas and also for the waltz-like atmosphere of the Danube Monarchy and the Viennese soul.
Synopsis: The prison warden Frank appears to pick Eisenstein up. He thinks Alfredo is Eisenstein. At Rosalindes insistence, Alfredo plays along and leaves the house for prison.
DIE FLEDERMAUS ACT II
Handlung: In Prince Orlofsky’s ballroom. The guests look forward to the evening.
Ein Souper uns heute winkt – Karajan
Synopsis: Prince Orlofsky appears accompanied by Dr. Falke. He explains to Orlofsky the intrigue he is planning. Adele is also part of the intrigue and Dr. Falke also invited her. Falke introduces Eisenstein to Orlofsky as a French nobleman.
Usually the role of the prince is a trouser role and is sung by a mezzo-soprano. In this recording the role is sung by a male voice: Wolfgang Windgassen shows that he was not only a great Wagner tenor but also a wonderful comedian.
Ich lade gern mir Gäste ein – Windgassen
„Mein Herr Marquis“ – the glamorous appearance of Adele
Synopsis: Eisenstein gazes at Adele in amazement. But she passes herself off as Olga. Orlofsky and Falke amuse themselves.
“Mein Herr Marquis, ein Mann wie sie” is one of the earwigs of this opera. With a teasing waltz, the maid exposes her master with the words “No, Mr. Marquis, a man like you should understand that better”.
Next you will hear another convincing version from Regula Mühlemann with a brilliant ending.
Mein Herr Marquis – Mühlemann
Synopsis: And now the prison director Frank arrives, who was invited under the name Chevalier Chagrin. Orlofsky introduces the two false Frenchmen Renard and Chagrin to each other, and the two have to converse in French. Finally, the masked Rosalinde appears, disguised as a hungarian Countess. First she sees her husband and to her astonishment also Adele. Eisenstein alias Renard is introduced to the mysterious countess and he immediately catches fire. While he flirts with her, Rosalinde swears revenge. As proof, she gets her hands on Eisenstein’s pocket watch.
This pieces is known under the name „Uhrenquartett“ („Duet of the hours”).
Dieser Anstand so manierlich (Duett) Prey / te Kanawa
As second version the recording with Gedda and Schwarzkopf
Dieser Anstand so manierlich (Duett) – Schwarzkopf / Gedda
Synopsis: the mysterious Countess from Hungary sings a Csardas.
The name of this dance comes from the Hungarian Csárda, which refers to a puszta tavern. It became a fashion dance in the middle of the 19th century and found its way into the Viennese operetta.
Listen to an expressive interpretation by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Klänge der Heimat – Schwarzkopf
Synopsis: The party takes off and Prince Orlofsky sings the champagne Song.
Im Feuerstrom der Reben – Soffel
Synopsis: As the party progresses, Dr. Falke asks the guests to fraternise. Eisenstein fraternizes with Rosalinde and Frank with Adele.
The announcement of Falke leads to another catchy tune of this work, the Waltz for Choir “Brüderlein”.
Synopsis: Orlofsky invites the guests to dance. While the party is at its climax, Frank and Eisenstein realize, without knowing from each other, that it is suddenly time to leave. Eisenstein tries in vain to get the countess’s watch back again.
DIE FLEDERMAUS ACT III
Synopsis: In prison, the drunken prison servant Frosch is on duty. Frank arrives in prison. Shortly after him, Adele, accompanied by her sister and Falke, knock on the door. She confesses that she is Eisenstein’s maid. She wants to audition Frank so that he can get her an engagement at the theater.
You will hear this piece in a virtuoso interpretation by Lucia Popp. Famous for her role as Queen of the Night, she is able to play out her perfect coloratura abilities in this piece.
Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande – Popp
The great Finale
Synopsis: The next one is already waiting. Eisenstein is waiting outside. Frank quickly instructs Frosch to hide the two women in a cell. Pleased, Falke says goodbye to the two stunned men. Eisenstein learns that Frank has personally picked up a man in a dressing gown from Eisensteins house. In the meantime, the lawyer Blind has also appeared. Eisenstein has an idea. He goes with the lawyer into an adjoining room and disguises himself as Blind. When Frosch brings the alleged Eisenstein from his cell, Rosalinde also appears to free her husband from prison. While she sees Alfredo, Blind alias Eisenstein enters the office. Eisenstein seeks revenge. Rosalinde asks Blind for advice on how to explain Alfredo’s visit to her husband, since nothing had happened. Alfredo also asks the lawyer how he can best get out of the situation. Eisenstein reveals himself and accuses his wife of the crime. But Rosalinde still has the clock. With relish she pulls it out of her pocket and holds it in front of Eisenstein’s nose. When Adele and Falke reappear, they are all reconciled and are convinced, all was caused by the champagne.
“He is a real musician, he’s ideas are so rich,” Brahms said about his friend Johannes Strauss. The anecdote is famous when Strauss’ stepdaughter asked him for a dedication. Instead of writing a quotation from his own work, Brahms wrote a motif from the blue Danube with the words “unfortunately NOT by Johannes Brahms”.
Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide to DIE FLEDERMAUS by Johan Strauss