Rosenkavalier, Der (The Knight of the Rose)
  • Richard Strauss. Komödie für Musik in three acts. 1910.
  • Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
  • First performance at the Königliches Opernhaus, Dresden, on 26th January 1911.
CHARACTERS

Die Marschallin, Princess Werdenberg

soprano

Octavian, Count Rofrano (Quinquin)

soprano or mezzo-soprano

Baron Ochs of Lerchenau

bass

Herr von Faninal, a rich merchant

baritone

Sophie, his daughter

soprano

Marianne Leitmetzerin, her duenna

soprano

Valzacchi, an intriguer

tenor

Annina, his niece and companion

contralto

A Notary

bass

An Italian Singer

tenor

Three Noble Orphans

soprano, mezzo-soprano & contralto

A Milliner

soprano

An Animal Vendor

tenor

Faninal’s Major-Domo

tenor

The Marschallin’s Major-Domo

tenor

Four Footmen of the Marschallin

two tenors & two basses

Four Waiters

tenor & three basses

A Police Commissioner

tenor

An Innkeeper

tenor

A Flautist

silent role

A Hairdresser

silent role

A Scholar

silent role

A Noble Widow

silent role

Mohammed, the Marschallin’s black page

silent role

The first act opens in the bedroom of the Marschallin where the young Octavian is kneeling by the Marschallin’s bed, from which she has not yet risen. Octavian, taking advantage of the absence of the Field-Marshal hunting, would like to prolong the moment, but must hide as a servant brings breakfast for the Princess. They hear the sound of someone approaching, and Octavian hides behind a screen. Instead of the Field-Marshal, whose return they had feared, it is Baron Ochs von Lerchenau, the Marschallin’s cousin, who eventually bursts in, while Octavian disguises himself as a maid, but is unable to escape the attentions of the Baron. The Baron seeks the Marschallin’s help in finding a Knight of the Rose to take the traditional token of intended marriage to Sophie von Faninal on his behalf. She proposes her cousin Octavian, Count Rofrano, as an emissary. There follows the Marschallin’s levée, attended by various people who attempt to enlist her support. When they have gone, she recalls her own early marriage and realises that Octavian will soon turn his attention to a younger woman. Octavian goes, and the Marschallin sends after him, then despatching her page to him with the silver rose, which he will know what to do with. The second act opens in the Grand Hall of Herr von Faninal’s house. Sophie
awaits the arrival of the Knight of the Rose and is immediately attracted to Octavian, while repelled by the boorish manners of the Baron, who follows. Sophie’s aversion and her feelings for Octavian lead her to refuse marriage with the Baron, who is slightly hurt in an immediate duel with Octavian. The intriguers Valzacchi and Annina, employed by the Baron but annoyed at his meanness, now offer their services to Octavian, who sends Annina with a note to the Baron making an assignation with Mariandel, the identity he had assumed to escape from the Marschallin’s bedroom. In the third act, set in an inn near Vienna, the assignation takes place, with the Baron now confronted by a series of staged apparitions, culminating in the appearance of Annina disguised as his abandoned wife. The Baron summons the police and matters reach a degree of complication that is solved only by the intervention of the Marschallin, who now unselfishly encourages the love of Sophie and Octavian.

Der Rosenkavalier evokes a past Vienna in music of great poignancy and beauty, with Strauss, like Brahms, able to encompass moods of autumnal sadness, epitomised in the love and self-sacrifice of the 32-year-old Marschallin for the 17-year-old Octavian. Baron Ochs, who has a penchant for memorable waltzes, is a splendid comic figure, uncouth in manner and to be pitied, nevertheless, in his final discomfiture. The work is scored for a large orchestra and waltz sequences from the second and third acts are popular in the concert hall. Possible vocal excerpts include the Italian singer’s Di rigori armato (Sternly armed), rudely interrupted at the Marschallin’s levée by the Baron, the Marschallin’s poignant memories of her own earlier life and her arranged marriage, Da geht er hin (So there he goes), and her parting with Octavian at the end of the first act, Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding (Time is a thing of its own). The presentation of the silver rose in the second act brings a particularly moving moment, with Octavian’s hesitant Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren (To me has been given the honour). The young lovers are left together as the third act comes to a close, with Sophie wondering if love is a dream, Ist ein Traum, kann nicht wirklich sein (It is a dream, it cannot really be true).