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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, April 5

Strauss goes batty?

Synopsis

Johann Strauss, Jr. dominated the dance hall scene in Vienna in the first quarter century of his musical career, but the "waltz king" was 45 years old before he tried his hand at writing an operetta. He was urged on by the management of Vienna's premiere light opera venue, the Theater an der Wien, which was anxious to replace the extremely popular French operettas by Jacques Offenbach with some new works by Vienna's own and equally famous purveyor of light music.

Even so, for Strauss's third operetta, the cagey theater managers hedged their bets by acquiring the rights to a French farce entitled "Le Réveillon," which just happened to be written by the librettists for several of Offenbach's biggest hits.

"Le Réveillon" was considered a little too French and a little too racy as it stood, so some substantial changes were made before Strauss set to work. The end result, re-titled "Die Fledermaus" (or "The Bat",) opened in Vienna on today's date in 1874.

Now, there is an oft-repeated myth that "Fledermaus" was initially a flop and that it closed after only sixteen performances. But blame that on the famous American soprano, Adelina Patti, who had booked the Theater an der Wien for a run of Italian opera performances shortly after "Fledermaus" was scheduled to open. When Patti and her troupe left Vienna, "Fledermaus" returned for more performances, and has rarely been absent from Viennese stages from that day to this.

Music Played in Today's Program

Johann Strauss II (1825 – 1899) Die Fledermaus Overture Vienna Symphony; Robert Stolz, cond. BMG 72916

Additional Information

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