by Richard Strauss
, with libretto
by Hugo von Hofmansthal
, first performed at Dresden
on 26 January 1911. It is the best of his sparkling Mozartian
operas, and contains some of Strauss's most exquisite
It is the story of the Marschallin, an older lady (early thirties!), and her young lover Octavian. Her cousin is the boorish Baron Ochs, who is seeking a young wife of good family, Sophie. He wants an aristocratic go-between to act as the Rosenkavalier, the cavalier of the rose, to present the traditional offering of a silver rose to his intended. The Marschallin proposes Octavian for the role.
Octavian and Sophie meet, and of course fall in love. The Marschallin has already sadly resigned herself to losing Octavian; knowing that it has to happen at some time. Sophie is repulsed at the Baron, and defies her father Faninal.
Octavian plans a trap for Baron Ochs. In the first act, when he had spent the night with the Marschallin and the Baron arrived, he had disguised himself as a maid Mariandl, and the Baron had flirted outrageously with him. Now "Mariandl" arranges an assignation, and when they are having supper at an inn, he is confronted by a wife and children who claim he has abandoned them. Faninal and Sophie arrive to see him disgraced.
The Marschallin releases Octavian to Sophie.