Die Fledermaus was Strauss’s third operetta for Vienna’s Theatre an der Wien. The piece was based on a popular French vaudeville comedy, its action tidied up for the supposedly more-elevated tastes of Viennese audiences. At its premiere, critics still found it scandalous, in part because its story of a practical joke spinning out of control seemed ill-suited for performance on what happened to be Easter Sunday. Audiences, however, immediately loved it.
Musically, Die Fledermaus is thoroughly high-spirited, with numerous waltz and polka themes. Leading lady Rosalinde is given a faux-Hungarian aria; the maid Adele has her own aria aptly called the “Laughing Song.” The entire work has only one really quiet scene: a chorus in praise of brotherhood and love. Young Prince Orlofsky is played by a mezzo-soprano in masculine garb, as would have been the case in the time of Mozart. In all, Die Fledermaus continued to be an audience pleaser into even into the 21st century.