In the last quarter of the 19th Century Vienna was captivated by the operetta’s of French composer, Offenbach. At the time the ‘home-grown‘ Johann Strauss II was already enjoying consirable fame with his shorter dances, but he’d never embarked on an operetta until Offenbach himself remarked, “You ought to write operettas, Herr Strauss.”
Die Fledermaus (The Bat) was the result, and it was premièred – with Strauss on the podium – in April 1874. Its madcap, frivolous, farcical storyline full of firtation, mistaken identity, a masked gala ball, humourous plot-twists and lots of champagne was the perfect tonic for a city in the grips of economic distress following the crash of the Vienna Stock Exchange in 1873.
The operetta was a huge hit and has remained a well-loved part of the regular repertoire. The overture is also an enduring concert hall favourite in its own right. Dubbed a “pièce de resistance” of the operetta by one Viennese critic, the overture presents a sumptuous and tantalising pot pourri of the many wonderful waltzes and polkas to come. A better ‘trailer‘ is hard to imagine!