Die Fledermaus
Words: Phil Park
Music: Johann Strauss
Written in: Authored Date:
Synopsis:

Act One (The Home of Gabriel von Eisenstein)

Whilst Gabriel von Eisenstein is in court being sentenced to eight days in jail for prodding a policeman with his walking stick, his wife, Rosalinda, is being serenaded by Alfred, an old flame, who only promises to leave if she allows him to return once Gabriel is locked up. The court allows Gabriel an hour to return home and bid farewell to his wife. Dr Falke arrives and persuades him to attend a party that evening instead of going to prison. Gabriel decides to go dressed as a French Marquis so he will not be recognised. Gabriel and Rosalinda both pretend devastation that they are to be parted, watched over in amusement by Adele, the house maid. Falke plans to use the evening as revenge for a practical joke Gabriel played on him after he pushed Falke into a fountain on their way home from a fancy dress ball (Falke was dressed as a bat - Die Fledermaus). Orlofsky’s party is the talk of the town. Adele also gets an invitation to the party from her sister Ida, and under Dr Falke’s instigation is to pretend to be a famous actress. Once Gabriel has gone, Alfred reappears and is just about to take Rosalinda in his arms when Frank, the Prison Governor, suddenly arrives in order to escort Gabriel away. To save Rosalinda’s reputation, Alfred pretends to be her husband and is thus taken away to be locked up.

Act Two (The Palace of Prince Orlofsky)

The Russian Prince Orlofsky is giving a magnificent ball, but he appears to be the only one not enjoying himself - everything and everyone bores him. He tells the crowd that at his parties there is only one rule, that each does according to his own taste, chacun à son goût. Dr Falke promises to relieve his boredom with an amusing comedy. In turn, the players in the game arrive - Adele (pretending to be Olga, of the dramatic academy), Gabriel (as the Marquis de Renard) and Frank (who has been persuaded by Dr Falke to assume the guise of a French Chevalier). Much flirtation ensures between Ida and Frank, Adele and Gabriel, and is only interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious masked countess. Gabriel, who cannot resist a challenge, is immediately attracted to this stranger and turns his charms in her direction. Unfortunately for him, she is none other than his wife, Rosalinda. During the flirtation that ensues, Gabriel tries in vain to get the lady to unmask, but to no avail. Rosalinda, whilst playing along with him, is furious as she discovers her husband’s true character. Finally, as the clock strikes six in the morning, Frank and Gabriel, now firm friends (and still not knowing each other’s true identity), suddenly remember that they must be elsewhere, and stagger drunkenly off to jail by two different routes.

Act Three (The Prison Governor’s Office)

In a sorry state, Frank arrives back at the prison. Frosch, the tipsy jailer, is trying to keep things quiet whilst doing his duties, but the prisoner in cell number 12 (Alfred) insists on singing opera excerpts. Adele enters and tells him that she is not really a glamorous actress, but she thinks she has the talent for it. She hopes that Frank can sponsor her debut. Gabriel at last reports to the jail and is delighted to find that his new friend is the governor, but Frank is confused. Apparently there is already a Gabriel von Eisenstein behind bars! However, the mutual recognition brings out the full facts of the night before. It also becomes obvious that Alfred has been mistakenly arrested. On finding out that Alfred and Rosalinda were together, it is now Gabriel’s turn to play the outraged husband, and threatens Rosalinda with divorce, until she proves that it was she with whom he was flirting the night before. Finally, Dr Falke and Prince Orlofsky arrive to sort out the mess. Adele persuades Frank to suspend the prison sentence, and then chooses to become the protégé of Orlofsky. The scene concludes with everybody full of forgiveness and singing the praises of His Majesty - King Champagne!

Notes:

Background

Johann Strauss the Younger, the most famous and enduringly successful of nineteenth-century light-music composers, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. His father, Johann Strauss the Elder, was by that time well on his way to becoming Europe’s uncrowned king of dance music; indeed, it was only with Strauss senior’s untimely death in 1849 that the younger man could advance his own musical standing in his native Vienna.

Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his father and Joseph Lanner, Johann II (along with his brothers Josef and Eduard) developed the classical Viennese Waltz to the point where it became as much a feature of the concert hall as the dance floor. With his abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches, Johann II captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America for more than half a century.

The thrice-married ‘Waltz King’ was persuaded to compose operetta, not by Offenbach (as often stated), but by his first wife, the singer Jetty Treffz. Strauss completed sixteen stage works, of which Die Fledermaus (his third operetta, written in 1874) and The Gypsy Baron (1885) remain the most popular, besides more than five hundred orchestral compositions - including the most famous of all waltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Strauss died in Vienna on 3 June 1899.

The 1870s saw a period of considerable moral permissiveness, in Vienna as elsewhere, even though the rules of conduct were outwardly strict. Pleasure, as represented by escape from the family setting, was mainly a masculine preserve, although masks covered so wide a multitude of sins that with their help, some outwardly respectable ladies might hope for a little discreet adventure on their own account! Prince Orlofsky’s party captures this side of the culture perfectly.

If I had been the younger Johann Strauss,
Would I have called this work Die Fledermaus?
This name - The Bat - appropriately groovy
For Grand Guignol, or Hammer Horror Movie,
Hardly suggests a schmaltzy sort of jolly
Without a trace of guilt or melancholy.


The central action is a sort of ball,
To which the Prince Orlofsky welcomes all.
The naughty Rosalinda wants to go,
So does her naughty maid, Adele, and so
Does Rosalinda's husband, who's in Stir-


Or that is how the matter seems to her.
In fact Alfredo, Rosalinda's flame,
Goes off to prison in her husband's name.
The Prison Governor, to crown it all,
Turns up disguised at Prince Orlofsky's ball.


And what a ball! So many in disguise
Are singing, dancing, fluttering their eyes;
An aria from Adele brings down the house,
And Rosalinda's wooed by her own spouse.
Bemused with waltzing and with fizzy wine,
They all sing 'Brother Mine and Sister Mine'.


Last act is in the prison, a gloomy spot,
But not for long, as all pursue the plot.
Though each with wine is variously awash,
No one's as sozzled as the jailor, Frosch.
The Prison Governor's foxed, because he houses
Two men who say they're Rosalinda's spouses.


What does it matter? In Vienna, life
Does not concern itself with man and wife.
This is a prison, not a hermitage;
Adele, the maid, will go upon the stage,
And till next time, it's living and let-living,
Laughing and dancing, singing and forgiving.


I have not told you why it's called The Bat.
It's not too easy to remember that.
A character called Falke's at the ball,
Nicknamed The Bat; he's engineered it all.
From Strauss - Vienna - 1874 -
That's all the logic you can bargain for.

© PAUL GRIFFIN 1989 Above poem taken from 'How to be Tremendously Tuned in to Opera' Edited by E.O. Parrott, Published by Penguin Books.

Extras:
Original Libretto by H Meilhac and L Halevy
Die Fledermaus, July 2005, Nuffield Theatre
Die Fledermaus, April 1993, Mayflower Theatre
Die Fledermaus, March 1985, The Guildhall

 

                     CIN18 poster1

Cinderella

16 - 20 January 2018, NST Campus (Nuffield Theatre), Southampton

Performances 7:30pm. (Sat Mat 2:30pm)  Tickets: From £10

Family and group discounts available

Box Office: 023 8067 1771 or purchase online

 

Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

An amateur production by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe