Die Fledermaus, Operetta by J. Strauss
A lavish masked ball, a group of life-loving, frivolous friends, and layer upon layer of light deception – is that not the ultimate plot for an operetta? Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss the Son hits all the marks and has memorable melodies to spare. The premiere took place on 5 April 1874 at Theater an der Wien in Vienna, a venue where many musical comedies started life. This season, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence welcomes the Strauss classic Die Fledermaus on its own storied stage.
The operetta, the title of which translates to “The Bat”, traces its origins to the 1851 farcical play The Prison by Julius Roderich Benedix. French playwrights Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy turned it into the wildly successful vaudeville Le Réveillon, referring to the traditional French New Year’s dinner celebration. From there, Karl Haffner and Richard Genée produced a German version that would become Die Fledermaus proper. The plot revolves around a group of friends with a history of partying and romantic liaisons who all end up at the costume ball of Prince Orlofsky. An old practical joke prompts a revenge plan that is bound to go awry. A series of delightful misunderstandings and confrontations ensure the operetta’s pace remains rapid and convoluted, to the delight of each avid listener.
Aside from an intriguing and delightfully convoluted plot, Die Fledermaus stands out with its rich musical tapestry. Strauss played to his strengths with many waltz numbers, but he also experimented with a number of international motifs from polka, csardas, and the Italian operatic tradition. Against the backdrop of a Viennese ball, Strauss crafts a meticulously designed soundscape and infuses it with some of his most memorable arias and duets. At Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, keep your ears open for “The Champagne Song” or the playful “Mein Herr Marquis”. This season, the bat shall spread his wings again in Florence!