Der Rosenkavalier was Richard Strauss’s first original collaboration with the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, following quickly on the heels of Strauss’s adaption of Hofmannsthal’s play Elektra. It marked the start of one of opera’s most important artistic partnerships: in his libretto for Der Rosenkavalier, as with their later collaborations, Hofmannsthal produced a text of astonishing beauty and sophistication. The opera’s Dresden premiere in 1911 was a triumph. Der Rosenkavalier has since become a core part of the international repertory, its opulent grandeur, nuanced wit and remarkable characterization enchanting audiences the world over.
Strauss and Hofmannsthal had originally concentrated on the young couple Octavian and Sophie when starting the opera – but as they developed the story the character of the Marschallin increasingly attracted their interest. She emerges in the finished opera as one of the great soprano roles in the repertory. Robert Carsen (Falstaff, Dialogues des Carmélites) directs this new production for The Royal Opera. He sets the opera contemporary with its creators, in Vienna just before the outbreak of World War I – a time of instability and transition, as the world of the old Empire is challenged and begins to crumble.