Bienen Ensembles

Strauss’s Die Fledermaus

Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 7:30pm

Cahn Auditorium

Joachim Schamberger, director; John Baril, conductor; Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra

Mistaken identities, disguises, and romantic escapades abound in Johann Strauss’s high-spirited operetta. Everyone is going to Prince Orlofsky’s ball, but they don’t want their nearest and dearest to know. Gabriel von Eisenstein evades jail for a night to attend; his wife follows him in disguise, to find out whether he will misbehave. Adele, their maid, claims to be visiting her aunt, but she, too, goes to the ball. Frivolity, festivities, and a practical joke gone awry make for a sparkling cocktail of a performance! Music performed in German with supertitles; dialogue performed in English.

Tickets are $18 for the general public and $8 for students with valid ID.

Sold Out



Thursday/Saturday Cast    

Friday/Sunday Cast    

Gabriel von Eisenstein

Jeffrey Goldberg

Daniel Fleming

Rosalinde, his wife

Kelsey Sandefur

Carla Fuster

Adele, their chambermaid

Olivia Prendergast

Megan Fleischmann

Ida, Adele's sister

Loucine Tapouzian

Stephanie Chee

Alfred, opera singer

Ryan Lustgarten

Andrew Morstein

Dr. Falke, known as Dr. Fledermaus                

Elio Bucky

Walter Aldrich

Dr. Blind, lawyer

Kaleb Drawbaugh

Morgan Mastrangelo

Frank, prison warden

Nick Lin

Andrew Payne

Prince Orlovsky

Madison Rice (Thu)
Ilana Starr (Sat)

Aryssa Burrs (Fri)
Lucy Evans (Sun)

Silvia Varescu, a famous opera diva

Emma Rothfield

Alex Wiebe

Hanna Hunyani, another famous opera diva  

Kira Neary

Marin Tack

Frosch, jailor

Tim Ellis

Tim Ellis


Paul Albright, Brittany Brewer, Paige Dirkes Jacks,  Tim Ellis, Grace Fisher, Miya Higashiyama, Mason Hooley, Penelope Hough, Eugene Hwang, Lyra Johnson, Olivia Knutsen, Lucy London, Mark May, Dylan Olster, Analiese Pappas, Kevin Park, Ben Perri, Lauren Randolph, Ranna Shahbazi, David Garcia Suarez, Anne Teeling, McKenna Troy, Avery Winick

Graham Remple (Eisenstein)
Valeria Rodriguez (Rosalinda)
Loucine Tapouzian (Adele)
Aaron Walker (Alfred)
Ben Perri (Blind)
Benedict Hensley (Falke)
Miya Higashiyama (Orlovsky)


Show More


Vienna, Late Nineteenth Century

A while back, Gabriel von Eisenstein played a practical joke on his friend, Dr. Falke. After a costume ball, Eisenstein left Dr. Falke drunk and asleep on a park bench wearing not much more than a bat-mask. The next morning, Dr. Falke awoke to find himself being laughed at by a crowd of onlookers. He was soon to be known as Dr. Fledermaus (Dr. Bat). 

Now the moment has come for “Die Rache der Fledermaus,” or “The revenge of the Bat.”


Act I: A drawing room in Gabriel von Eisenstein’s house

Alfred is serenading Rosalinda in front of her house. Long before Rosalinda got married to Eisenstein, she and Alfred had an affair while attending a music conservatory. Adele, chambermaid in Eisenstein’s house, receives a letter from her sister, Ida, who invites her to come to a party hosted by Prince Orlovsky that night. To get out of work, she pretends her old aunt is sick. Rosalinda doesn’t believe her story and insists that she stay and work.

Rosalinda is having a hard time resisting Alfred’s advances and his beautiful tenor voice. He suddenly needs to hide when Eisenstein comes home accompanied by his lawyer, Dr. Blind. Eisenstein has been sentenced to eight days in jail for insulting a police officer. After blaming each other for the unfortunate jail sentence, Eisenstein kicks out Dr. Blind.

Dr. Falke arrives and encourages Eisenstein to postpone the start of his prison sentence in order to secretly come to Prince Orlovsky’s party.  Falke convinces him to bring his “lady-bait” (a charming little watch) to seduce the women, and party like the good old days.

Before Dr. Falke leaves, he secretly gives Rosalinda a letter telling her about Eisenstein’s plans, and also invites her to attend Prince Orlovsky’s party in disguise.

Rosalinda gives Adele the night off and Eisenstein says good-bye to his wife.  In a heart-wrenching farewell, all three have a hard time hiding their excitement for the upcoming events.  After Eisenstein and Adele have left, Alfred comes back for a romantic tête-à-tête with Rosalinda.  They are interrupted when the prison warden, Frank, and his ward, Frosch, come to escort Mr. Eisenstein to jail.  To uphold Rosalinda’s reputation, Alfred pretends to be her husband and is taken to prison in Eisenstein’s place.


Act II: At the Grand Tower Ball Room

Dr. Falke is finishing up final preparations for the party. He is instructing all guests one more time to play their role well in his practical joke. “Prince Orlovsky,” Adele’s sister Ida, and the two famous Hungarian opera divas Sylvia Varescu and Hanna Hunyani await the arrival of the victim.

Eisenstein arrives and is announced as “Marquis Renard.” Prince Orlovsky immediately encourages him to partake in some Russian national customs. 

In a contest to decide who is the world’s best soprano, Sylvia Varescu performs “Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiß” (My lips, they kiss so hot).

When Adele shows up she soon finds out that her sister Ida is not the one who invited her but that somebody must be playing a joke on her. Ida convinces Adele to pretend to be the diva Sylvia Varescu and take her place.

The second contestant Hanna Hunyani now sings the “Vilja” song.

When Rosalinda arrives, Falke convinces her to pretend to be Hanna Hunyani and take her place.

In the meantime Eisenstein is introduced to Sylvia Varescu (Adele in disguise). When he remarks that she looks strangely familiar, she convincingly proves that she could never be a chambermaid.

Prison warden Frank arrives and is announced as “Chevalier Chagrin.” He is introduced to “Marquis Renard” and the two “Frenchmen” quickly become friends.

Eisenstein can’t wait to use his “lady-bait” to seduce Hanna Hunyani (who is non other than his own wife, Rosalinda). He not only fails to convince her to remove her mask but also loses his “lady-bait” watch while trying.

Adele and Eisenstein question whether “Hanna Hunyani” is truly Hungarian. Rosalinda dissolves all doubts by singing the “music from her fatherland.”

After a grand champagne toast, Dr. Falke suggests that all guests pledge eternal brotherhood. When the clock strikes six in the morning, Eisenstein must leave in order to start his jail sentence. Dancing out arm in arm, neither “Marquis Renard” (Eisenstein) nor “Chevalier Chagrin” (prison warden Frank) realize they will soon meet again at the jailhouse.


Act III: The local jail

Alfred, still locked up in Eisenstein’s jail-cell, has annoyed the jail-ward Frosch all night by singing opera.

Prison warden Frank arrives, still drunk from the party. Just as he begins to take a nap, Frosch announces that two ladies would like to see him. Ida and Adele enter and confess to Frank that, although Adele is really Eisenstein’s chambermaid, she wishes to be an opera diva. Thinking that he is Chevalier Chagrin, they ask for his help in furthering Adele’s career.

Eisenstein arrives and is delighted to learn that his friend Chevalier Chagrin is none other than Frank the prison warden. Frank is confused and doubtful that his friend Marquis Renard is actually Eisenstein, since “Eisenstein” was already arrested last night before the ball!

Rosalinda arrives to try to get Alfred out of jail. When the lawyer that Alfred had requested enters, they have no idea it is not Dr. Blind but Eisenstein in disguise, having snatched the legal robe and wig earlier. As Rosalinda and Alfred confide their flirtation, Eisenstein removes his disguise and angrily accuses his wife of infidelity.

Rosalinda shows Eisenstein the “lady-bait.” Shocked and humiliated, he realizes that the Hungarian opera diva he had been trying to seduce was in fact his own wife. Dr. Falke arrives with Prince Orlovsky, the real divas, and the party guests and reveals that this entire charade was all his idea. Eisenstein receives his wife’s forgiveness and Dr. Falke enjoys “The revenge of the Bat.”

Show More

Notes on "Die Fledermaus"

Operetta as a distinct theatrical genre took shape in Second Empire (1850s-'60s) Paris. Under the leadership of Jacques Offenbach, whose most well-known works include Orphée aux enfers, La belle Hélène, La vie parisienne, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, and La Périchole, French operetta won popularity through a characteristic mix of silliness, social satire, political barbs, and infectious, dance-inspired music. In the 1870s, however, the genre saw a shift of gravity away from Paris to Vienna (and also, thanks to Gilbert and Sullivan, London), inaugurated by the immense success of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss the Younger. This success was counter-intuitive insofar as Strauss’s earlier theatrical attempts had only limited success, while his reputation had long securely rested on non-theatrical foundations: he was the foremost figure of a dynasty of musicians who supplied Vienna with music for ballroom dancing over a period of many years. Strauss, his father (Johann Strauss the Elder), and his brothers Josef and Eduard, have been colloquially dubbed “The Waltz Kings” on account of their extraordinary fecundity in creating waltzes, but they also excelled in a variety of other forms, including quadrilles, gallops, polkas, and marches, of which the Radetzky March by Strauss the Elder is the most celebrated example. Such “non-waltzes” —including the Czardas sung by Rosalinda in her disguise as a Hungarian countess—play a conspicuous role in the score of Die Fledermaus. As for the polka, it falls only slightly behind the waltz as a musical presence in Strauss’s score, appearing as it does at numerous points, beginning with Adele’s reading aloud of a letter from her “sister” in the first scene. 

The storyline of Die Fledermaus, simple in its basic outline (the victim of a practical joke vindicates himself by playing a practical joke on the original jokester) but elaborated through a series of comic embellishments, disguises, and mistaken identities, is difficult to attribute to a particular source. While credit for the libretto is officially assigned to Karl Haffner and Richard Genée, their work was essentially an adaptation of La Réveillon (1872), a play by Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac, the librettists for several of Offenbach’s most successful operettas, and who were soon to provide the libretto for Bizet’s Carmen. But neither was the plot was original to Halévy and Meilhac, since they adapted it from an 1851 German play by Roderich Benedix, Das Gefängnis. W. S. Gilbert, for his part, had prepared his own English-language adaptation of La Réveillon under the title Committed for Trial. There are numerous minor differences in characters, setting, and plot among these works, all of which were plays, while it was the 1874 musical version by Strauss which was destined to take the world by storm. This musical reworking, however, required further alterations to the story in order to avoid copyright infraction. In view of the tortuous history of the plot as handled by multiple authors for more than twenty years, to insist on adherence to an “original text” seems futile. The current Northwestern production, in common with many other stagings over the past century or more, takes certain liberties, such as the use of modern English for the spoken parts and the insertion of various musical numbers not found in Strauss’s score (including two beloved arias by Franz Lehár, the chief Viennese operetta composer of the succeeding generation, in the party scene, where they fit in just fine). For the rest, it remains faithful to the conventions of operetta, with spoken dialogues alternating with sung solo numbers, duets, ensembles, and choruses. 

Die Fledermaus presents, on the one hand, irresistibly appealing music, and on the other, a good-natured acceptance of human weakness based on a recognition of its universality as well as its comic possibilities. The peculiar moral universe created by the union of these elements is perhaps best exemplified in the Act I trio for husband, wife, and servant, who pretend to be grief-stricken in the minor-key strophes, only to give voice to their true feelings in an aside expressed as a brisk, major-mode refrain. Deceit is thus raised to a level of musical form, even before the entrance onstage of Dr. Falke, ready to further his own mega-deception. By the end, everyone has both deceived and been deceived, and redemption is easily granted to everyone concerned, in three-quarter time.

“Glücklich macht uns Illusion,” sings Alfred to Rosalinda in their first-act duet: illusion makes us happy. That sentiment sounds the keynote of the entire spectacle. That this hymn to sensual delight, fueled by champagne (itself invoked several times in the work) and Tokai, and rung through all the changes of dalliance and dancing, was the most popular theatrical entertainment of Habsburg Europe in the years before the first World War, adds a sharp poignancy to the experience of hearing it. Die Fledermaus was premiered within a year of the onset of a financial crisis that triggered an economic depression spreading out from Vienna and eventually reaching North America. This has led some commentators to characterize Strauss’s work as escapist entertainment. But Die Fledermaus is much more than a way to whistle past the looming end of the Habsburg Empire, or to avoid engagement with troubling times. It reminds us that the capacity for delight is an important part of what makes us human, and thus what is at stake at our present historical juncture.  

—Jesse Rosenberg

Show More

Cahn Auditorium


600 Emerson Street
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

View address on Google Maps


Cahn Auditorium is the largest performance space on campus, with more than 1,000 seats and an orchestra pit. The venue offers main floor and balcony seating. Larger Bienen School opera productions are held here.