Major Operas | Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II | High Romantic

The Bat

Composed: 1874
Premiered: 1874, Vienna
Libretto by Carl Haffner and Richard Genée after Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy’s Le réveillon


Falke wants revenge for a practical joke when Eisenstein left him sleeping, dressed as a bat, outside the Vienna law courts.

Act I

Eisenstein’s wife, Rosalinde, recognizes the voice serenading her as her lover Alfred. Her maid Adele has been invited to Prince Orlofsky’s ball and, pleading her aunt’s illness, tries to get the night off, but Rosalinde refuses since Eisenstein is about to go to prison for a few days. Rosalinde gets rid of Alfred by saying he can return when her husband has left for prison. Eisenstein’s sentence has been increased on appeal. Falke persuades him to delay reporting in until the last moment so they can go to the ball. Now looking forward to her assignation with Alfred, Rosalinde tells Adele to go to her sick aunt. Husband, wife and maid sing of their sadness, while looking forward to romantic entanglements. Eisenstein departs, apparently to prison, in full evening dress. Alfred slips in and is wearing Eisenstein’s dressing gown when Frank, the prison governor, arrives to collect his new inmate. To save Rosalinde’s honour, Alfred pretends to be Eisenstein.

Act II

At the ball Falke explains to Orlofsky, who is bored by everything, that he has arranged an entertainment, The Revenge of a Bat. The first character is Adele, who indignantly denies that she is a maid when Eisenstein, claiming to be the ‘Marquis Renard’, recognizes her in Rosalinde’s dress. Frank is introduced as the ‘Chevalier Chagrin’. Summoned by Falke, Rosalinde arrives as a masked Hungarian countess. Eisenstein proceeds to woo this stranger with his usual bait, a watch, which she pockets. The ‘countess’ sings of her homeland, Orlofsky proposes a toast to ‘King Champagne’ and the guests drunkenly promise eternal friendship. As the clock strikes six, Eisenstein and Frank rush out.


The drunken jailer Frosch is disturbed by Alfred’s singing. Adele has followed Frank, hoping to impress him with her acting talents. Eisenstein finally turns up at the prison, only to find that someone called Eisenstein is already there. He appropriates the gown and wig of his lawyer, Blind, and questions Alfred and Rosalinde about last night’s events. When he dramatically reveals himself, Rosalinde produces the watch. Falke announces it was all a trick and everyone blames the champagne.

Recommended Recording:
Die Fledermaus, Bavarian State Opera; Carlos Kleiber, conductor; Deutsche Grammophon 073 007–9GH; Soloists: Pamela Coburn (Rosalinde), Janet Perry (Adele), Brigitte Fassbaender (Prince Orlofsky), Josef Hopferweiser (Alfred), Eberhard Wächter (Eisenstein), Wolfgang Brendel (Falke), Benno Kusche (Frank)

Personalities | Johann Strauss II | High Romantic | Opera


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