A comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
The story was loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.
The opera was premiered at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911, under the direction of Max Reinhardt. Until the premiere the working title was Ochs von Lerchenau. (The choice of the name Ochs is not accidental, for in German Ochs means ox, which depicts the character of the Baron throughout the opera.)
The opera has four main characters: the aristocratic Marschallin, her very young lover Count Octavian Rofrano, her coarse cousin Baron Ochs and Ochs’ prospective fiancée Sophie von Faninal, daughter of a rich bourgeois. At the Marschallin’s suggestion Ochs gets Octavian to act as his Rosenkavalier and present the ceremonial silver rose to Sophie. But when Octavian meets Sophie they fall in love at first sight. By a comic intrigue they get rid of Ochs with the help of the Marschallin, who then yields Octavian to the younger woman.
Although a comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier also operates at a deeper level. Conscious of the difference in age between herself and Octavian, the Marschallin muses in bittersweet fashion over the passing of time, growing old and the inconstancy of men.