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Strauss wrote Die Fledermaus as his third operetta for the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. The piece was based on a popular French vaudeville comedy, but the action was changed to suit what was thought to be the more sophisticated tastes of Viennese audiences. At its first showing, critics still thought it was scandalous, partly because the story of a practical joke gone wrong didn't seem like a good fit for Easter Sunday. But the audience loved it right away.
Eisenstein has to go to jail on New Year's Eve because he punched a police officer. He stays out of prison for one night to go to Prince Orlofsky's fancy party. Eisenstein lies to his wife, Rosalinde, and tells her he's going to jail so he may go with his friend Falke. On the other hand, Rosalinde knows that Eisenstein is lying, so she dresses up as a Hungarian countess and goes to the ball with him. Adele, who works for them, also makes up a reason to get out of work that night so she can go to the ball as a Russian actress named Olga. After being mistaken for someone else more than once, Eisenstein tries to seduce his wife without knowing. The terrific farce has a happy ending for everyone, even though there was a lot of fun and partying.
History of Performance
The first performance of the operetta was on April 5, 1874, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. Since then, it has been a regular part of the show.
On November 21, 1874, Rudolf Bial put it on at the Stadt Theater in New York. In 1875, the first performance in Germany took place at the Gaertnerplatz Theater in Munich. Die Fledermaus was sung in English for the first time on December 18, 1876, at London's Alhambra Theatre. Hamilton Clarke changed the score.
The operetta premiered in Paris in 1877 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance under the title La Tzigane, starring Ismal and Zulma Bouffar. However, it was not until 1904, when the roles were renamed after Meilhac and Halevy, and the words were adapted by Paul Ferrier to the music (starring Max Dearly and ve Lavallière), that the operetta was a hit and entered the Parisian repertoire.
Originally intended for a tenor, the role of Eisenstein is frequently performed nowadays by a baritone. Mezzo-sopranos, countertenors, and even tenors who sing an octave lower often take on the trouser part of Orlofsky.