With unforgettable characters and a plot steeped equally in dramatic revenge and comedic timing, it's not surprising that Johann Strauss II's operetta has withstood the test of time. In fact, Strauss' Die Fledermaus was itself an adaptation of the early 19th-century farce The Prison by Benedix and the French vaudville play, Le révillon by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Die Fledermaus premiered in Vienna in the spring of 1874 and has since transcended genres, time-period settings and languages to entertain audiences for almost 140 years.
Here is a mere sampling of the many versions of Die Fledermaus over the years:
W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan) fashioned his play after the same source material for Fledermaus, Le réveillon. "On Bail" was a revised version from Gilbert’s first take with the material, named "Committed for Trial." In a performance review from The Times, the critic commented, "The story of Le réveillon is in itself so amusing in its very absurdity that it would be almost impossible for a writer of any experience and capacity to make a dull piece out of it, even in English." Read the full review here!
The first Broadway production of the material at New York City’s Casino Theatre.
A charming silent movie directed and written by Ernst Lubitsch (Shop Around the Corner).
The second adaptation of Die Fledermaus to hit Broadway, A Wonderful Night performed 125 times at the Majestic Theatre, which included a revolving stage and a criticized performance of young British actor Archie Leach as leading man Max Grunewald (Eisenstein in the operetta). Mr. Leach would go on to wow American audiences as the dashing Cary Grant.
The third Broadway production, directed by Monty Woolley with lyrics by Robert A. Simon.
Based on the music, lyrics and dialogue of Die Fledermaus, this Broadway musical was an incredible ‘who’s who’ of the arts community with an impressive run of over 600 performances. Produced by Max Reinhardt and Erich Korngold (also the Conductor), the production was also choreographed by George Balanchine and starred Gene Barry as Falke and José Limón as a lead dancer.
This German-language film favors the story’s drama and only uses Strauss’ lilting waltzes as background noise.
This cinematic operetta was brought to life by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film’s score is performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.