Johann Strauss II was primarily known for his sublime waltzes, chiefly An der schönen blauen Donau (The Blue Danube) and from 1871 for his operettas too. Following two successful titles (Indigo und die vierzig Räuber, and Der Karneval in Rom), in 1874 he composed the operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat), which alongside Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gipsy Baron, 1885) is the most celebrated operetta there is. The source for Die Fledermaus was Henri Meilhac and Ludevic Halévy’s French vaudeville play La réveillon, dating from 1872. The libretto was written by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée.
The premiere took place at the Theater an der Wien on 5 April 1874 with Strauss himself conducting. A winning mixture of Viennese charm, humour and invincible joie de vivre are the virtues of the operetta that has established a firm position on stages worldwide, including opera houses, owing in large part to Gustav Mahler in 1894 in Hamburg and shortly afterwards also at the Hofoper in Vienna, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Strauss’s artistic activities. Since that time, Die Fledermaus has been a cornerstone of every large opera house’s repertoire.