Synopsis: Die Fledermaus
Act I – July 31, 1900; Vienna
The conservatory in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Eisenstein
Adele, a chambermaid, discovers a letter from her sister, Ida, inviting her to a ball that night at the palace of Prince Orlofsky. Rosalinde, the mistress of the house is horrified to discover that the man serenading her from the street is her former flame, Alfred – a tenor who was her lover before she was married. Adele tries to convince Rosalinde that she needs the night off to tend to a sick aunt (“My sister Ida writes to me”), but Rosalinde is having none of it. Her husband, Gabriel, is sentenced to go to jail that night to serve a short sentence for bank fraud. Gabriel arrives arguing with his lawyer, Dr. Blind, who has bungled his defense and managed to increase his sentence. The Eisensteins get rid of the lawyer and moments later Dr. Falke arrives. Falke is an old friend of Eisenstein’s still smarting from a practical joke Eisenstein played on him where they attended a costume ball and Eisenstein deposited Falke in the town square, drunk and asleep and wearing the costume of a bat. Falke convinces Eisenstein to put off checking into jail until the morning and to attend Prince Orlofsky’s party that night pretending to be a “Marquis Renard.” (Duet: “Come with me to the souper”) Eisenstein figures he can dally with the beauties at the ball and his wife will be none the wiser (Terzett: “Oh dear, oh dear, how sorry I am”). The couple and the maid all bid a sad farewell while trying to conceal their delight at their secret plans for fun and romance. Alfred arrives to make love to Rosalinde (“Dove that has escaped”), but the police chief, Herr Frank, interrupts their tryst. He has arrived to escort Eisenstein to jail. Rosalinde, not wanting to be caught in an affair, convinces Frank that Alfred is Eisenstein and the lover is taken off to jail in the husband’s stead. (Finale, drinking song: “Happy is he who forgets” followed by Rosalinde’s defence when Frank arrives: “In tête-à-tête with me so late,” and Frank’s invitation: “My beautiful, large bird-cage.”)
Act II – The palace of Prince Orlofsky
Later that night
The party is in full swing when Eisenstein arrives (Chorus: “A souper is upon us”). Falke introduces him to the Prince, an eccentric young man who will do anything to escape boredom (“I love to invite my friends”). Eisenstein is surprised to find his maid at the party dressed in one of his wife’s gowns, but when he calls her out, Adele insists she is a famous actress (“Adele’s Laughing Song”). Frank, the chief of Police, also shows up at the party under the name of Chevalier Chagrin having been invited by Falke. He is introduced to Eisenstein, still posing under the name of the Marquis Renard, and the two become immediate friends not realizing the one was supposed to arrest the other. A masked Hungarian countess arrives at the party. It is Rosalinde in disguise, tipped off by Falke that her husband would be there (Csárdás: “Sounds from home”). Not recognizing her, Eisenstein attempts to seduce her with the jeweled pocket watch that he used on Rosalinde when they first met (Watch duet: “My eyes will soon be dim”). The “Countess” is prevailed upon to sing a Hungarian song to prove her lineage, which Rosalinde pulls off brilliantly (The Drinking song: “In the fire stream of the grape”; followed by the canon: “Brothers, brothers and sisters”; the polka “Unter Donner und Blitz”, and the waltz finale, “Ha, what joy, what a night of delight”). The Prince calls for a toast of champagne and soon everyone is in a pleasantly drunken state. But the clock strikes seven a.m. and Eisenstein knows that he must leave the ball immediately to start serving his jail sentence.
Act III – The Vienna City Jail
The next morning
Frosch, the Deputy Warden of the Vienna City jail is having a dream where he addresses the Society of Viennese Psychologists, but is awoken by Police Chief Frank returning from Prince Orlofsky’s party in an inebriated state. A moment later Adele and her sister Ida arrive, still believing that Frank is a Chevalier who can bankroll Adele’s acting career (“If I play the innocent peasant maid”). The two women are ushered into a jail cell when Eisenstein arrives to fulfill his jail sentence. He is surprised to hear that a man – discovered by Frank with Eisenstein’s wife – has been arrested and is already serving time. Eisenstein disguises himself as his lawyer, Dr. Blind in order to “represent” his wife’s lover, and thus expose her affair. Incriminations fly, and Rosalinde reveals to her husband that she was the masked Hungarian countess that he flirted with at the party. Prince Orlofsky and the party guests arrive in the jail (“A strange adventure”) and all is forgiven and blamed on the champagne (Finale, “Oh bat, oh bat, at last let thy victim escape”).