ACT I. Vienna, 1740s. As morning sunlight streams into her boudoir, the Marschallin — Marie Therese, Princess von Werdenberg — is embraced by her young lover, Octavian (Count Rofrano), who hides when a little page, Mohammed, brings breakfast, then again when loud voices are heard in the antechamber. The unexpected visitor is the Marschallin's country cousin Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, who has come to discuss his pending marriage to Sophie von Faninal, daughter of a wealthy bourgeois. When he asks the Marschallin what cavalier could present Sophie with the silver engagement rose, she suggests Octavian, who at the moment, disguised as the chambermaid "Mariandel" to avoid discovery, is lusted after by Ochs. As the room fills with retainers, petitioners and even an Italian tenor (whose aria is cut short by the baron's wrangling with a lawyer over Sophie's dowry), "Mariandel" escapes; Ochs enlists a pair of Italian intriguers, Annina and Valzacchi, to locate the shy servant girl. When the room is cleared, the Marschallin muses sadly on her waning youth. Returning, Octavian is stunned to find her mood totally changed, and when she suggests that one day he will tire of her, he leaves without a kiss. Starting up out of her reverie, the Marschallin tries to call him back but is too late. Summoning Mohammed, she sends Octavian the silver rose.
ACT II. Heralded by much excitement and a retinue of lackeys, Octavian enters the Faninals' ornate foyer and presents the silver rose to Sophie. The girl's duenna, Marianne, chaperones a conversation between the young people, during which they are attracted to each other. Now Ochs bursts in, shocking Sophie with his crudity before going off to discuss technicalities with her father. Octavian embraces her, but the two are caught by Annina and Valzacchi, who summon Ochs. When the outraged Octavian grazes the baron's arm with his sword, Ochs sends up a melodramatic yelp; in the ensuing confusion, Sophie tells her father she never will marry the baron, while Octavian hires Annina and Valzacchi for an intrigue he is hatching. When Ochs is alone, nursing his wound with wine, Annina, sent by Octavian, comes in with a letter from "Mariandel" asking for a rendezvous. Intoxicated with his own charm, Ochs is delighted at the prospect of a tête-à-tête. But when he refuses to tip Annina, she determines to get even.
ACT III. At Octavian's instigation, the intriguers help prepare a room in a dingy inn. Before long, Ochs and "Mariandel" arrive for a private supper. As the counterfeit chambermaid coyly leads her suitor on, grotesque heads pop out of trapdoors and secret panels, terrifying the guilty baron. Disguised, Annina runs in, shrieking that Ochs is the father of her many children. The police arrive, followed by Faninal, who summons Sophie to disclaim Ochs' wild assertion that "Mariandel" is his legitimate fiancée. The Marschallin, summoned by one of Ochs' servants, sweeps in, forces the baron to renounce Sophie and smooths over the scandal, then turns to Octavian. Lamenting that she must relinquish her young lover so soon, she nevertheless accepts the truth and gives the bewildered young man to Sophie. Alone, the lovers marvel at their dream come true. After they leave, Mohammed is sent in to retrieve Sophie's handkerchief.
-- courtesy of Opera News