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Die Fledermaus
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Die Fledermaus

Die Fledermaus (The Bat) is a comic operetta by Johann Strauss II (music) and Carl Haffner and Richard Genée (libretto). It premièred on April 5, 1874 at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, Austria.

Table of contents
1 Sources
2 Outline of the plot
3 Musical numbers
4 Film adaptations
5 Recent productions
6 External link
7 Reference

Sources

The original source for Die Fledermaus is a farce by German playwright Julius Roderich Benedix (1811-1873), Das Gefängnis (The Prison). Another source is a French vaudeville play, Le Réveillon, by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Their play was first translated by Carl Haffner as a straight play to be produced in Vienna. However, the peculiarly French custom of the réveillon (a midnight 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.

Outline of the plot

The Baron von Eisenstein has been committed to prison for eight days for insulting an official, partly through the inefficiency of his attorney, the stuttering Dr. Blind, and is to begin his imprisonment this day. His friend, Notary Falke, however, persuades him to postpone it until the morrow and to accompany him to a ball at the residence of Prince Orlofsky, where he will meet the handsome ladies of the opera ballet. Falke had been at a masked ball the previous winter, costumed as a bat, and had been compelled by Eisenstein to walk to his home in broad daylight to the joy and amusement of the populace. He hopes to find an opportunity for vengeance at the coming ball. Eisenstein accepts the invitation, and telling his wife he is going to prison, and taking a mournful farewell of her and the maid Adèle, hastens with Falke to the ball. After his departure Rosalinde, his wife, is visited by a former admirer, the singing teacher, Alfred, whose behaviour is rather free. The night has set in and Frank, the governor of the prison, has come to take Eisenstein to jail. He finds Alfred taking his ease attired in a smoking jacket, and he, in order not to compromise Rosalinde, moved by her prayers, is induced to represent himself as Eisenstein and to accompany Frank. Falke, who has received plein pouvoir from Prince Orlofsky, has also invited the governor of the prison, Frank, the maid Adèle, and to complete the joke, Rosalinde, to be his guests at the ball. The latter, in order to observe her husband, appears masked. She is introduced by Falke as an Hungarian countess, and succeeds during an amorous tête-à-tête in abstracting from the pockets of her husband his valuable watch, to use in the future as a corpus delicti. Frank has paid court to Adèle, and the next morning they all find themselves in prison, when the confusion increases, for Falke has introduced Eisenstein as Marquis Renard, Frank as Chevalier Chagrin and Adèle as an actress. It is still further increased by the jailer, Frosch, who has profited by the absence of the prison director to become gloriously drunk. Adèle arrives to obtain the assistance of the Chevalier Chagrin, Eisenstein to begin his prison term, Alfred wants to get out of jail, Rosalinde to commence action for divorce, and Frank is still intoxicated. Frosch locks up Adèle and her companion, and the height of the tumult has been reached when Falke arrives with all the guests of the ball and declares the whole as an act of vengeance for the "Fledermaus." Everything is amicably arranged, but Eisenstein is compelled to serve his full term in jail.

Musical numbers

Act I. Apartments of Eisenstein. Alfred serenades his former sweetheart. ("Dove, that has escaped.") Adèle has received the invitation to the ball ("My sister Ida writes to me"), and asks for leave of absence. Eisenstein comes to Rosalinde in altercation with his attorney. (Terzett: "Well, with such an attorney.") Falke brings the invitation to the ball. (Duet: "Come with me to the souper.") Eisenstein’s farewell to Rosalinde and Adèle. (Terzett with the refrain: "Oh dear, oh dear, how sorry I am.") Alfred arrives. (Finale, drinking song: "Happy is he who forgets"; Rosalinde’s defence when Frank arrives: "In tête-à-tête with me so late," and Frank’s invitation: "My beautiful, large bird-cage.")

Act II. Summer house in the villa Orlofsky. (Chorus: "A souper is before us.") Departure of the chorus, introduction of Eisenstein and song of the prince. ("I love to invite my friends.") Eisenstein meets Adèle. (Ensemble and song of Adèle: "My dear marquis.") Falke leaves Rosalinde to Eisenstein. (Watch duet: "My eyes will soon be dim.") The company approaches, Rosalinde is introduced as an Hungarian. (Czardas: "Sounds from home" and finale. Drinking song: "In the fire stream of the grape"; canon: "Brothers, brothers and sisters"; Ballet; waltz finale, "Ha, what joy, what a night of delight.")

Act III. Office of the governor at the prison. Appearance of Frank. (Melodrama; Couplet of Adèle: "I am an innocent from the country"; Terzett between Rosalinde, Eisenstein, Alfred: "A strange adventure"; and finale, "Oh bat, oh bat, at last let thy victim escape.")

Film adaptations

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

  directed by Eisenstein Rosalinde Adele Orlofsky Frosch
Germany, 1923 (silent movie) Max Mack -?- -?- -?- -?- -?-
France/Germany, 1931 Carl Lamac -?- -?- -?- -?- -?-
UK, 1933 (entitled Waltz Time) Wilhelm Thiele Fritz Schulz Evelyn Laye Gina Malo George Baker Jay Laurier
Germany, 1937 Paul Verhoeven -?- -?- -?- -?- -?-
Germany, 1945 (released 1946) Géza von Bolváry; Johannes Heesters Marte Harell Dorit Kreysler Siegfried Breuer Josef Egger
East Germany, 1955 (entitled Rauschende Melodien) E. W. Fiedler Erich Arnold Jarmila Ksirová -?- Gerd Frickhöffer Josef Egger
West Germany, 1959 (TV) Kurt Wilhelm Friedrich Schoenfelder -?- -?- -?- -?-
Austria, 1962 Géza von Cziffra; Peter Alexander Marianne Koch Marika Rökk Boy Gobert Hans Moser
Denmark, 1968 (entitled Flagermusen) John Price Poul Reichhardt Birgitte Bruun Ellen Winther Susse Wold Buster Larsen
West Germany, 1972 Otto Schenk Eberhard Wächter Gundula Janowitz Renate Holm Wolfgang Windgassen Otto Schenk
UK, 1984 (TV) Humphrey Burton Hermann Prey Kiri Te Kanawa Hildegard Heichele Doris Soffel Josef Meinrad
West Germany, 1986 Brian Large Eberhard Wächter Pamela Coburn Janet Perry Brigitte Fassbaender Franz Muxeneder
UK, 1990 Humphrey Burton Louis Otey Nancy Gustafson Judith Howarth Jochen Kowalski John Sessions
Australia, 1997 Lindy Hume Anthony Warlow Gillian Sullivan Amelia Farrugia Suzanne Johnston Geoff Kelso
France, 2001 (entitled La chauve-souris) Don Kent Christoph Homberger Mireille Delunsch Malin Hartelius David Moss Elisabeth Trissenaar

Recent productions

Over the decades, the non-singing role of Frosch, the drunken jailer, who first appears in Act III, has come to be seen as the comic highlight of each production. Accordingly, casting usually pays special attention to that character, and Frosch is almost always played by a well-known and much-loved comedian.

While being the show traditionally performed in theatres on New Year's Eve, Die Fledermaus has recently also seen more provocative productions, for example the one directed by Hans Neuenfels at the 2001 Salzburg Festival. With the action transposed into the 1920s, the ball at Orlofsky's metamorphoses into an orgy where decadent guests preferring cocaine to champagne meet some of the harbingers of Nazism -- a place where any waltz immediately becomes a waltz into darkness. The scandal had been announced by artistic director Gérard Mortier, but nevertheless part of the audience reacted with fierce criticism. Among the critics was a 57 year-old general practitioner who, supported by Austria's authority on opera, Marcel Prawy, at least one tabloid, and the Austrian Freedom Party, sued the Salzburg Festival, demanding his money back. The ensuing trial triggered a heated debate on the state of the freedom of the arts in Austria.

External link

Reference