The Bat, Operetta by J. Strauss
Although Johann Strauss the Younger was already the talk of the town in Vienna - a city where if you walked past a party or a dance, it would probably be Strauss’ joyful music that you would hear - it was not until he wrote his superb comic operetta, Die Fledermaus, that he made his breakthrough into the world of theatre.
Disguise and mistaken identity abound in Die Fledermaus. Dr Falke has been humiliated by his friend, Eisenstein: Abandoned by Eisenstein, after a drunken party, he has to make his way home, dressed as a bat, in full daylight. Eisenstein should be spending a spell in jail for breaching the peace, but Falke, giving the impression that he has forgiven him, persuades Eisenstein to go out partying again before he turns himself in. A masked ball gives Falke the perfect opportunity to exact revenge: Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinde fail to recognise each other and end up flirting, both thinking they are taking a new lover.
Just about every other character pretends to be someone else too, with hilarious consequences, until they all descend upon the jail where Rosalinde’s real lover, Alfred, has been locked up after being mistaken for her husband. As the characters reveal their true selves, the question is whether Eisenstein and Rosalinde will come to blows or eat humble pie.
Premiered at the Theater an der Wien on 5 April 1874 - of all days, an Easter Sunday - one can imagine, given the operetta’s irreverence, the sense of guilty pleasure felt by the audience. Thanks to the Vienna State Opera, it is a wonderful farce that can now be enjoyed once more in a city famed for its association with the composer.