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Original libretto by Carl Haffner & Richard Genée
English translation by Ruth & Thomas Martin
English dialogue adapted by Bill Fabris
World Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna - April 5, 1874
Two characteristics distinguish operetta (literally small opera) from grand opera. First, operettas include spoken dialogue rather than sung recitatives. Second, the music is generally delightful, effervescent, and without the dramatic impulse of grand opera music. The melodies are always memorable, and in no operetta is this more true than in Die Fledermaus. This beloved operetta opens with the famous overture.
The Strauss family was Vienna's popular musical aristocracy. Johann Strauss Sr. is acclaimed for having popularized, along with Josef Lanner, the Viennese Waltz throughout Europe. His son, Johann Sebastian Strauss II, would take up the family business, along with his brothers Josef and Eduard, and eventually eclipse his father's compositional achievements, elevating the waltz from a provincial dance into a sparking entertainment for the royal Hapsburg court, with such pieces as The Blue Danube Walt.,
There is much irony in this, since the elder Strauss did not want Johann to become a musician. He encouraged him to avoid the rigors of a musical career and to become a banker. The adolescent Johann had to study in secret, and was not able to fully concentrate on his musical career until he was 17. When his father died suddenly of scarlet fever in 1849, the younger Strauss merged their orchestras and engaged in extensive touring that would win over the Imperial Court and the public alike.
Johann Strauss II would become so influential and highly regarded that the famous Parisian operetta composer Jacques Offenbach suggested that he find a librettist and write an operetta himself. Strauss' first attempt The Merry Wives of Vienna was abandoned, but his second try, entitled Indigo and the 40 Thieves enjoyed much success. So much so that the Viennese impresario, Steiner, bought a script from Offenbach's own librettists, Mielhac and Halevy, which would be adapted into German for Strauss' next venture – Die Fledermaus or The Bat as it is translated into English.
The new operetta was premiered in April 1874, and its triumphant premiere was followed by similar success in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris, probably to the chagrin of Offenbach himself. But to Strauss' friends, among which were Wagner, Brahms and Richard Strauss (not related), his music was loved and admired; so much so that when composing the waltzes for his Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss referred to the Waltz King with this comment -- "How could I forget the laughing genius of Vienna?"
For more information about Die Fledermaus, download An Irreverent Guide for Enjoying: Johann Strauss' (II) Die Fledermaus (The Bat or if you prefer, The Flutter Mouse) (PDF).
ACT II. In an antechamber at the palace of Prince Orlofsky, the nobleman's guests, Adele and her cousin Ida among them, await the arrival of their host. Orlofsky enters, quite bored — even with Falke's promise of a comedy of errors. The prince proclaims his guests free to do anything that suits their fancy — "Chacun à son gout." Adele, dressed in one of Rosalinde's most elegant gowns, laughs off Eisenstein's suggestion that she resembles his wife's chambermaid. Frank enters, and Rosalinde, also invited by Falke, arrives disguised as a temperamental Hungarian countess; she is soon wooed by her own reeling husband, whose pocket watch she steals to hold as proof of his philandering. Rosalinde agrees to sing a song about her "native" land, a spirited czardas, after which the guests move on to a magnificent dining area to toast the joys of wine, good fellowship and love. Champagne flows, and the guests dance wildly until dawn. When the clock strikes six, Eisenstein staggers off to keep his appointment at the jail.
ACT III. Moments later at the prison, Frosch, a drunken jailer, tries to keep order among the inmates, who are unable to sleep because of Alfred's singing. Frank arrives, still giddy with champagne, followed shortly by Ida and Adele, who, thinking him a theatrical agent, believes he might further her stage aspirations. Frank, hearing someone at the door, hides the girls in a cell and then admits Eisenstein, who has come to begin his sentence. The new prisoner is surprised to learn his cell is already occupied by a man who claims to be Eisenstein and who was found supping with Rosalinde; to obtain an explanation from the impostor, Eisenstein snatches a legal robe and wig from his astonished lawyer. No sooner is he disguised than Rosalinde hurries in to secure Alfred's release and press divorce charges against her errant husband. With her would-be paramour, she confides her flirtation to the "lawyer." Enraged, Eisenstein removes his disguise and accuses his wife of promiscuity, at which Rosalinde whips forth the watch she took from him at the ball. Orlofsky and his guests arrive to celebrate the reconciliation of Rosalinde and Eisenstein, singing a final toast as Eisenstein is taken away.
– courtesy of Opera News
Strauss was born in Vienna to the well-known composer Johann Strauss I. Despite his father's wishes for him to become a banker, Strauss II secretly learned to play the violin from one of his father's protégées, Franz Amon.
In 1844, Strauss II appeared as the conductor at Dommayer's hall, and his father abandoned his dreams for his son as a banker and acquiesced to his son's obvious talent. While his two brothers Josef and Eduard Strauss were also composers, Johann Strauss II was soon recognized as the superior musician in the family and was later dubbed "the Waltz King" of the 19th century.
After his father's death in 1849, Strauss II merged his father's orchestra with his own and began touring through Austria, Poland, Germany, and made a summer stay in St. Petersburg.
In 1863, Strauss was granted the position as Music Director of the Royal Court of Balls, a position that he had previously applied for and had been rejected.
Strauss married his first wife, Mezzo-Soprano Jetty Treffiz, in 1862; she died in 1878. Later that year, Strauss married Angelika Dittrich. Their relationship was fraught with artistic differences that ultimately led Strauss to seek divorce. Since he was a Roman Catholic, Strauss changed his religious denomination in order to dissolve his marriage. In 1887, he seemed to have met his match in his third wife, Adele, whom he felt was the catalyst for some of his most inspiring work.
Throughout his lifetime, Johann Strauss composed an extraordinary amount of music mostly within the dance genre, including waltz, ballet, polka, and march. His operas and operettas were not as widely known, with the exception of his masterpiece Die Fledermaus.
Strauss died from pneumonia in Vienna in 1899 at the age of 74, leaving Aschenbrödel, his final ballet, unfinished.
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Enjoy the beauty of the original language and understand it all with English translations. The English text is projected on a screen above the stage for each opera. Easy to follow, and easy to understand every twist and turn of the plot!