Only a few operettas from the huge number of works in this genre has kept their special attractivity – Die Fledermaus (The Bat) is definitely one of them. The way to this masterly demonstration of Strauss' dramatic art, however, was more prosaic. At its beginning there was a vaudeville, in fact a simple comic play with songs having a title Le Réveillon. Its authors were Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy - masters librettists, Offenbach's favourite co-workers, but also the authors of the libretto for Bizet's Carmen. Vienna The comedy was translated for Vienna by Carl Haffner, but only as a spoken farce, without songs.
Troubles came with the name and therefore the setting where the play takes place. Let us say that Le Révellion is a name for a typically French (and Portuguese) habit of a long dinner connected with a celebration, which lasts at least until midnight, but usually even longer. This idea was probably hardly understandable for the Viennese audience, and therefore it was decided to move the whole plot to a typically Viennese event in the version for Vienna – a ball. Along with this change, also an originally "ordinary" play changed into a musical theatre - a libretto was offered to Strauss, who did not hesitate a single moment.
Well-experienced French librettists created a story with sparkling humour, which exactly matched Strauss' vision. Without exaggeration, one can say that Die Fliedermaus is his best work and a real cornerstone of the operetta genre.
Die Fledermaus is connected with two customary quips, let´s say anecdotes, only a part of which, however, is truthful. The first says that Strauss wrote the whole operetta in 42 nights and the second, that the operetta was taken off the repertoire after sixteen performances. It is true that Strauss sketched Die Fledermaus in its essentials in six weeks, but from the beginning of the composing to the premiere there passed six months, during which the composer still was still working on the completion of his operetta. Die Fledermaus was then really taken off the repertoire after sixteen stagings, but only because the Theater an der Wien had already contracted a series of performances of a touring operetta company. When it had played its pieces, the successful Fledermaus returned to the scene again. More interesting is perhaps the fact that one of the first performances of Die Fledermaus out of Vienna was conducted in Hamburg by Gustav Mahler, the head of the local opera in that time.