“It tickles the ear and trickles through the blood all the way to the legs, and even the most sluggish person in the auditorium cannot help but nod his head, rock his body and shake his feet. One can now be afflicted by the most pleasant sea-sickness in a box at the Theater an der Wien, such is the swaying movement in the stalls on account of the enchanting sounds that Johann Strauss extracts from the orchestra with his baton.” This description of Strauss’s mixture of waltzes and galops appeared in the Morgenpost following the triumphant premiere of Die Fledermaus on Easter Sunday, 5th April, 1874 at the Theater an der Wien.
Rosalinde falls for the dulcet tones of Alfred’s tenor voice, while her husband, Gabriel von Eisenstein, covets the ballet pupils, Adele the maid dreams of a career as a diva, the prison governor Frank turns himself into a French chevalier, his assistant Frosch drowns his last vestige of sense in slivovitz, Prince Orlofsky hopes to be entertained and Dr. Falke takes delight in wreaking vengeance – in a single night, they all surrender to these sensual temptations. In a maelstrom of betting, flirting, drinking and dancing, inhibitions are cast aside to the extent that the night rings to the sound of avowals of eternal friendship: “For all eternity, just as today, if we think about it tomorrow!” Ah yes, tomorrow: that is when the truth is revealed, and what a sobering effect it has! But who is to blame? The champagne, of course!
Strauss found the cryptic joke underlying this story so appealing that he finished the score in only 42 days. The sensational international success that followed made Die Fledermaus the ultimate in Viennese operetta. At the Theater an der Wien the work was performed 49 times in the first 65 days following the premiere alone. To date, the number of performances totals a remarkable 445. In the summer of 2009 the eternally fresh, night-loving Fledermaus returns to the Theater an der Wien, the place it was performed for the first time.