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by Johann Strauss the Younger

Libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée

Based on Das Gefängnis (The Prison) by Julius Roderich Benedix, and
Le Réveillon, by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy


Johann Strauss II

The Cast

Rosalinda von Eisenstein, a Viennese ladySoprano
Gabriel von Eisenstein, her husbandTenor
Adele, a chambermaidSoprano
Alfred, an Italian opera singerTenor
Dr. Falke, Eisenstein’s friendBaritone
Dr. Blind, a lawyerTenor
Frank, a prison wardenBaritone
Orlofsky, a Russian princeMezzo-Soprano
Frosch, a jailerSpeaking part
Sally, Adele’s sisterSoprano
Ivan, Orlofsky’s majordomoSpeaking part

Party guests, servants, dancers, entertainers.

The Story

Die Fledermaus is set in Vienna in the late 19th Century.

Act I

Gabriel and Rosalinda Eisenstein’s parlor

The impetuous tenor, Alfred, is heard serenading his old flame, Rosalinda (“Turtledove who flew aloft”). The chambermaid Adele enters reading a letter from her sister Sally, a dancer in the Opera Ballet. The letter urges Adele to make up a story so she can get the night off and come to the ball being held at the villa of Prince Orlofsky, a wealthy, decadent young Russian nobleman. Adele laments her status as a chambermaid, but resolves to go. She realizes that Alfred is a secret admirer of her mistress, and runs after him to see if she can discover his identity. Rosalinda appears, amazed that Alfred has returned. Adele returns and tries to get the night off by telling her mistress that her “poor old aunt” is deathly ill. However, Rosalinda refuses to let her go, because tonight Gabriel must start his five-day jail term for dueling (“I am sorry for your aunt”). Adele exits weeping.

Alfred appears and begins to woo Rosalinda. She manages to get him to leave by promising to see him later that night after her husband has left for jail. Before she can catch her breath, Gabriel arrives, fighting with his lawyer, Dr. Blind (“When these lawyers don’t deliver”). Gabriel’s jail term has been extended to eight days because of Blind’s incompetence. Blind promises to appeal, but Gabriel throws him out.

Gabriel’s crony, Dr. Falke, comes to visit. He convinces Gabriel to postpone reporting to jail until the next morning and instead come to the ball at Prince Orlofsky’s (“Come along to the ball”). After Dr. Falke leaves, Rosalinda tells Adele that she has changed her mind, and that Adele may have the night off to visit her “poor sick aunt.” Gabriel re-enters and bids Rosalinda and Adele a sorrowful goodbye — but each is secretly delighted at the turn of events (“To part is such sweet sorrow”). Gabriel and Adele dance out of the room.

Rosalinda, left alone, doubts the wisdom of receiving Alfred, who soon appears. He is well on the way to removing her doubts (“Drink my darling, drink to me”) when they hear voices in the hallway. Herr Frank, the director of the prison where Gabriel is to spend his jail term, arrives to personally escort “Herr Von Eisenstein” to his “cozy little prison.” Alfred starts to tell Frank that he is not Gabriel, when Rosalinda takes him aside and begs him to say that he that is, to avert a scandal (“Dear sir, are you accusing me”). Alfred agrees and leaves with Frank to take Gabriel’s place in prison (“My lovely, lively pigeon house is nice as it can be”).

Act II

The Ballroom of Prince Orlofsky

Everyone is having a wonderful time at the ball (“What a joy to be here on this wonderful occasion”). Sally is surprised to see her sister Adele, and denies having written the letter telling her to come the ball. However, since Adele is already there, Sally decides to introduce her as an actress and gives her the stage name “Olga.” Falke enters with the Prince, who is lamenting his terminal boredom. Falke assures him that tonight he will laugh, as Falke has planned a little comedy, entitled “The Revenge of the Bat,” to amuse him. Sally introduces “Olga” to the Prince, who gives the two girls his purse to take to the gaming room, as wagering for himself is too fatiguing. The girls excitedly rush off to gamble.

Gabriel enters, and Falke introduces him to the Prince as the Marquis de Renard, a French nobleman. Falke then takes the Prince aside and asks him to distract Gabriel while Falke writes a note to Rosalinda informing her where her husband is and what he is doing. Orlofsky agrees and insists that Gabriel drink with him while Orlofsky expounds his philosophy of life (“Chacun à son goût”). Adele and Sally return from the gaming room, having lost all their money. Gabriel is flabbergasted to see his chambermaid at the ball. Adele is equally horrified to see her master, but continues to insist that she is the actress Olga (“My dear Marquis”). A new guest arrives, the Chevalier Chagrin — actually, the prison director, Frank. Sally asks when dinner will be served, and Falke replies that they are waiting for another guest, a mysterious Hungarian countess who will have to remain masked to protect her identity. The guests decide to stroll in the garden while awaiting the arrival of the mystery lady, leaving Falke alone in the ballroom.

Rosalinda enters, masked, and asks Falke if what he had written to her is true. He shows her Gabriel in the garden flirting with Adele, and she swears vengeance. The men re-enter, and Gabriel is immediately taken with the beauty of the “Hungarian countess.” He tells Frank and Falke to leave him alone with her and immediately takes out his famous chiming watch. This ploy — promising a lady his watch but never delivering, even when she does — has always worked for him. But Rosalinda turns the tables on him and steals the watch (Watch Duet). The guests come back in from the garden and insist that the Hungarian countess unmask. Orlofsky defends her, telling them that in his house a lady may cover or uncover as much as she wishes. To prove that she is Hungarian, Rosalinda sings a stirring Csárdás. Sally then asks Dr. Falke to tell them the story of the bat, as he had promised. Gabriel protests that he should tell the story, as it was his joke on Falke. He then tells the guests how three years before, he and Falke had gone to a costume ball dressed, respectively, as a butterfly and a bat. On the way home, Gabriel got Falke drunk and left him asleep in the park in his bat costume. The next day Falke had to walk home in his costume, and ever since, everyone in town has called him the Batty Doctor.

Orlofsky calls for champagne. After a rousing toast, everyone is in the mood for romance and a waltz (Finale: “Champagne’s delicious bubbles”). But the clock is striking six, and Gabriel and Frank are due at jail. They rush off drunkenly as the waltz continues.


The Prison

Frosch, the jailer, enters. His pleasant state of intoxication is interrupted by Alfred singing in his prison cell. Frosch exits just as Frank enters, still inebriated from the evening’s revelries (Melodrama). Adele and Sally arrive. They think Frank (or Chevalier Chagrin, as they know him) can help Adele break into show business (“Ever since I was a baby”). The bell rings. Frank goes to the window, and to his horror, sees his friend of last night, the Marquis de Renard. Quickly, he tells Frosch to put the girls somewhere, but the only room free is cell number 13, so Frank tells him to take Sally and Adele there.

Gabriel enters, and asks the “Chevalier” if he has been arrested too. Frank confesses that he is no chevalier, but the director of the prison. Gabriel then confesses that he is no marquis, but Herr von Eisenstein, who has come to serve his eight-day jail term. Frank refuses to believe him, as he himself arrested Herr von Eisenstein the evening before, while he was at home, dining with his wife. This revelation sobers Gabriel completely. Frosch enters to tell Frank that there is another lady at the door. Frank exits to see who this mystery lady is and the bell rings again. Frosch comes back in with Dr. Blind, whom the imposter Eisenstein, Alfred, has sent for. Frosch tells Blind he will bring Gabriel from his cell. Blind is understandably confused as he can see Gabriel already there. Gabriel robs Blind of his wig, spectacles, and robe, and pushes him off.

Frosch brings in Alfred, who is annoyed to see no one there. Rosalinda enters, distraught. Alfred tells her that perhaps the lawyer he has sent for can help them. Gabriel returns disguised as Blind. He questions the pair about their intimate dinner and then reveals himself (“To judge his expression”). Rosalinda counters his accusation by producing his watch. Falke appears with Prince Orlofsky and all the party guests. The whole situation was a joke: the Revenge of the Bat. Everyone confesses that they were in on the joke, even if they weren’t! (As Alfred says, “Why should we start confusion and end his fond illusion?”) All is forgiven, and the opera ends with champagne and revelry.

Synopsis by Linda Lehr and Linda Cantoni